England* is about to go nuts this weekend (*some of Wales, somewhere, apparently). All 92 professional football clubs are back to chant mercilessly at rival players deemed to be shitter than George Weah’s cousin, chant at other fans' lack of home support and inferior stadium, eat overpriced and borderline illegal food, drink pints that are always referred to as ‘piss-water’ and cause havoc on public transport.
If, like me, you get excited at seeing G. Neville’s face while he says, 'Everyone’s back' whilst we see familiar faces – even Graeme Souness is smiling! – then you’ll probably already have your bets placed, replica shirt on underneath your shirt at work and pint - sorry, piss-water - in hand shouting, 'You’re shit and you know you are!' in the kitchen area at Gary from IT because he supports a team that isn’t your team. If you’re not doing that, then why aren’t you?!?
As the new season kicks off, I’m amongst the ever growing legion of people who firmly believe they could’ve made it. A then 53-year-old man (name removed, to make sure I don’t get sued or anything) was ‘Head of Youth Development’ at a club from the West Midlands in 2003 and he was the man who crushed my dreams, sending me off the pitch with the reddest of red cards. Let's call him Dave. Having played against the likes of Joleon Lescott, James Milner and Aaron Lennon and doing fairly well against them as an Academy prospect, I believed my stock was on the rise. But this was a false belief.
Puberty was in full swing. In came alcohol and house parties. Out went dedication to my craft. At the time, I couldn’t take the rejection and blamed Dave for not giving me more of a chance but in hindsight I was too small and I wasn’t good enough. Dave told me outright that I’d never make it. My height combined with my poor attitude – I once arrived to training drunk – were holding me back and he didn’t believe either hindrances would improve. Joke's on you though Dave, I grew 6 inches more and I’m a fully functioning drunk with a great attitude.
Maturity is a great thing but immaturity can also be great. 2013. A decade later from my rejection at the team from the West Midlands, I was unemployed and I was also very bored. After treating myself to Hayley McQueen’s face on Sky Sports News, naturally, maturity was about to be thrown out of the window. Manchester United were doing fairly well but I thought I’d give it one last try to be known as this generation's George Best and I even included my mate too (he was more of a Nicky Butt), and I emailed Manchester United. As you’ll see in the pictures, my evidence for belief that I’d get a trial was legitimate.
Step forward Shelly from customer services who was a lot kinder than Dave Halsall.
I was rejected but she was kind enough to encourage me to keep my dream alive. I didn’t bother emailing when Moyes had taken the reins although they probably could’ve done with my help. Pre-season is over now, I’ve laced my boots up ready to play for a Sunday League team (we’re only eight divisions below League Two!) so if – come Feb – LVG and his band of merry men are struggling, Shelly can expect another enquiry. If they aren’t, I’ll just keep giving Gary a lot of grief in the kitchen area.