Right now, there are more than 1500 football books ahead of my own effort, Suited and Booted, on Amazon.
I don’t push my book on people, writing it was cathartic for me, it helped me put some things on paper that I had struggled with for a long time. It allowed me to make people laugh a little bit, and hopefully see that whenever you’re in a dark tunnel, there’s a way out. Once it was written and the excitement died down, I felt like I’d closed a chapter; there was no need to push the book anymore because it was about a journey I’d already taken. I didn’t write it with making money in mind, which is why you don’t see me going ‘buy my book’ all that much.
I was briefly excited last year when I met a scriptwriter who had read my book and was keen to get my input on a story he was working on not unlike mine, but sadly it seems to have come to nothing right now. I did feel there might be a good script in my book, but again, it felt like a finished story, a journey I’d completed and moved on from. Even when I met the writer last year over dinner, it felt like I was talking about something I once wrote, not something I had recently written, if that makes sense. It felt like something from my past, which is why I didn’t push it too hard in my present.
As it turns out, the story was not fully written, and two events in the space of three weeks have served as a delicious epilogue for the book. If you’ve read it, you’ll understand the next few paragraphs, but if you haven’t, they might whet your appetite and make you head to Amazon and buy a book that I’m seemingly still writing (not literally, but note the deliberate adoption of the present tense). It seems my writing off the story as told was premature. I know this is a little indulgent, but in the early days of the site one of the things some connected with was the human element; it’s never been just a news site, and I feel I just want to talk about these two super-important things that act as an epilogue to my book.
Firstly, something I haven’t mentioned here was an award given to me by the Red Imps Community Trust a couple of weeks ago. I was presented with the Supporter of the Year Award, something handed out to a fan who has been nominated by others and then chosen by the Trust. Last year, the very deserving winner was Chris Wray, and this year I was lucky to be nominated and chosen. I was taken by surprise at the live podcast we did with Mark Kennedy, being given the award before we began recording with no prior knowledge at all. It’s strange, I didn’t feel all that nervous when thinking about interviewing Mark live on stage, but the fifteen seconds or so between realising Rob was handing me the award, and me going to get it, made me utterly terrified. I really appreciate the award, and whilst it is labelled ‘Supporter of the Year’, I see it not as a status but as recognition for some of the work that I try to do keeping you lot entertained, and encouraging young writers, which I understand some of my nominations touched upon.
This really does play into the themes from the book; if you’ve read it you’ll know I lost my way as Poacher through feeling under-appreciated. I mention a couple of times how worthy winners of the Volunteer of the Year Award got their moment at the end of a season, and it never came for me. Looking back, it feels conceited to imagine I thought like that, but I always poured my heart into being the mascot, perhaps at a time when the club had more important things to worry about than how I felt. It was just nice that after 16 years of volunteering at the club, and now almost seven years of writing content, doing interviews and other stuff, I’ve been recognised. Ok, it’s perhaps self-indulgent and I can think of plenty of other people equally as deserving, but it is still a wonderful personal moment that I shall cherish forever.
I may not have mentioned the award at all on here, I know that sort of thing can draw criticism from some and I’m trying to avoid as much negativity as I can, but then today something occurred that also plays into the themes of my book. As those who have read it will know, I went to Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Horncastle, where I didn’t excel. I wasn’t a complete failure, I got all my GCSEs at C and above, and I went into the sixth form, but that was the end. I left after a petulant argument with a teacher whose lessons I stopped attending, which was the beginning of the end. My final day was February 14th 1996, and for 26 years, that has haunted me. It sounds melodramatic, but I’ve often thought about what might have been; where would I be if I’d gone to Uni? What opportunities did I miss by not staying on and doing upper sixth? I blamed the teacher in question (still do), I blamed the school and yet I never blamed myself out loud. I did inwardly, but not at the time; I was just full of reckless abandon thinking girls (which I never got) and cars (which always broke down) were a better choice. Some of my work with The Priory Federation of Academies, and with Lincoln College, was built around that experience of fighting back, getting into media and beating my regrets, but I never actually did; I never made peace with myself for leaving school and throwing away a chance others don’t get.
Today, I was invited back by Tim Randman, Head of Sixth Form at QEGS. They were doing a business conference, where lower sixth students attended workshops with people from different professionals and backgrounds to talk to them about what they do, and to complete a task or workshop. A lot has changed at the school, it’s far better equipped than in my day and there are more pupils, but just as writing my book was cathartic, so was my visit there. I have often dreamed about my school days, maybe once a month, and it’s always as it used to be; I could remember the corridors, rooms and features as if I’d stepped out of them yesterday. That ghost which has lived in me for 26 years was banished today, because not only did I see what the place looks like now, but I was welcomed back as an achiever. I was presented as someone who had a story to tell that benefits some of the keenest young minds in the area, and that felt like an honour. Of course, when I go to the Priory I feel the same privilege of being viewed as a role model, but for my own sake doing it at my old school was a barrier I had to break down.
It sounds so melodramatic the way I’ve spoken about it, but I guess only I know the scale to which leaving as I did affected me. Our family was working class, nobody had gone to a Grammar School before and I wore that like a chip on my shoulder throughout, which I shouldn’t have done. For 26 years I’ve felt, subconsciously at least, that I didn’t quite measure up, that I’d let myself down. Sure, I blamed a teacher (who was still awful to me), I blamed the school and eventually, secretly, I did blame myself. Once I’d done that, I lived with it. Some nights I’d lay in bed and imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t left, and I did that as recently as three or four weeks ago. I’ve carried that, even though my life now is great and given a choice between seeing what might change, and changing nothing, I’d always pick the latter. Odd, isn’t it, how the human brain works? I love my life and have no regrets, except for this huge great big regret I’ve held for so long, that given a chance to correct I’d make again for fear of changing where I am.
I guess I don’t need to hold on to that anymore. The school has moved on and now I am someone it sees as having value, which feels like a door finally being closed in my head, validation of sorts. I know some of my friends will ask why it matters, and I get it sounds a bit crazy, but it does matter to me, it always has. Now, finally, I can lay that ghost to rest.
The session itself went well, the pupils were really engaged and once I’d got over my nerves, it wasn’t like I was banishing a demon, but just that I was doing what benefitted those I’d been brought in to chat to. So, thank you to Tim and Sarah for inviting me back, and if you feel I added value then brilliant. However, I know whatever value I delivered today, I got just as much back.
I do apologise for this rather self-indulgent piece, but once again all of this has come from the site you’re reading now. Everything has come from this; my current job, finishing my book, my work with the Priory, everything. This site is hard work, and yet it delivers rewards like nothing I’ve ever done. It would be nothing without you; without readers, I’d be shouting into the abyss, I’d be a man with loads to say but with nobody reading. Talking of reading, have you read my book yet? It’s not all sentimental, heart-on-sleeve mush like this article, there’s some funny stuff too! If you haven’t, please do pick it up on this link.