Freshly laced up, I trekked onto the field. The breeze had subsided but the cold on the back of my neck maintained. I instantly recognised Ray Putterill and Josh Brizell from scouting trips with Arsenal. 'These guys aren't bad.' I thought to myself, 'but I am better. Well I was...'
"Daniel, this is Gavin McCann, the assistant manager" Tahir said as I greeted the man infront of me, arm outstretched. "Gav, this is Daniel Karbassiyoon."
"I know all about you Daniel, it's good to have you here." Said Gavin, although his tone concerned me. It was a tone of doubt. He was doubting me even more than I was.
"Right then lads, I'll let you guys get going, I expect feed-back Gav!" And with that Khan strode purposefully back towards the complex.
The awkward silence between Gavin and I was detectable even to the players warming up half a pitch away. I decided to break the ice.
"How have you guys managed to get such a good place to train?" I asked "I mean, it's not far off Arsenal's place, and Arsenal are streets ahead..."
"Look Dan, I know about the knee."
I stopped in a stunned silence. My heart punched into my chest and I was lost for words.
"Did you not think when Tahir explained you hadn't played football for 6 years I wasn't going to find out why?" Gavin added bluntly. "Look mate, we're going to give you a fair trial like everyone else, and I hope you still have it, because you were, and maybe still are a talent. But you have to promise me that, if even for a second, your knee starts twinging, that you'll end it there. Understand?"
"Crystal clear." I said, after a thoughtful delay.
I got through the warm-up, and the passing drill. I was partnered with Chris Sedgwick, another talented player playing well below himself. Soon we found ourselves doing a shooting drill.
"Right" Gav addressed the team. "Simple really, I'm going to feed the attacker a ball, you're going to run at the defender, beat him and score. Got it? Good. Dan you're up first. Kelvin, you defend."
I looked up and saw my nemesis for the next few seconds, Kelvin Lomax, a little over 6 foot, not particularly strong or quick, I smirked as I knew I had the immediate advantage.
Gavin fed me the ball, I sauntered towards Kelvin, feinting one way and flicking the ball the other to avoid his outstretched leg. Then I began to use my pace. Pace I had prided myself on in my youth. Kelvin was left in my wake as I set off towards goal, I began to steady myself as I saw Ashley Frith come out of his line. I pulled back my foot to find the near post.
Just as quickly as my foot had come back to shoot my body had hit the floor. The heat searing through my right knee was bringing a tear to my eye, as well as the shame. Kelvin and Ashley stood over me, awkwardly assessing the damage as I lay in a pathetic heap on the penalty spot.
The first person to speak to me was Gav, as he picked me up and assisted me towards the Reception. "You're a brave man." was all he could muster.
"What?" I said, a whimper in my voice which was noticeable to anyone.
"I know how bad your knee is, and I know how hard it must be for you to take that. But you still tried and you were still willing to put yourself through that barrier. Don't get me wrong mate, you're a complete idiot for doing this, but a brave one." He finished, before rubbing my hair and sending me through to see Tahir.