One single tear ran down the side of my face, as if time stood still. Inside, I was more distraught than the single tear that slowly slid down my cheek displayed to the crowds that I solemnly walked through. Today had been the day that was supposed to be my day. The whole family had travelled – my mum from Australia. My grandparents had made the arduous trip from the north of Scotland just to see this moment. The moment that was supposed to be the beginning. But, it was the end.
Contract renewal day was always a day of emotion. Many boys fiercely competed for the precious spots on the next level; the challenge each year greater as the quality grew as my fellow teammates and competitors grew in height, stature and ego.
I was just hoping I wouldn’t see any of my friends – I was too old to be seen gripping my father’s hands like I was about to be washed away by a wave. But, today was an exception. I was meant to have the limelight; Mr. Jennings were to tell me that I was staying on. But he didn’t.
“I’m sorry, David”, he sympathetically said as I broke down and hid into my mother’s lap. “We just can’t keep you on.”
My mother just let me sob before she pulled me up and consoled me as we left the room. We left the stadium, dad and I walked in front with the rest of the family tailing behind, watching on. As I walked past the Jackson statue, I clung onto my father’s hand, my head drooping low, while Michael stood tall, basking in and representing all the success my club had had in the past.
And it was my aspiration to play a part of that success on the pitch. Run the flanks, play that final cross that would get the winning goal to win us a trophy – as I had done so many times at youth level. But at senior level it was not meant to be.
My father was telling me to keep my head up, as he was sure there would be other opportunities. As a younger player; I had many chances to move to some of the world’s biggest clubs. The likes of Manchester United, Celtic, Arsenal and Chelsea had all tried to persuade me to leave my club. But each time, my interest was not even drawn – the spending power; the facilities – they had not turned my head once – I wanted to make it at my club. The club I had grown up supporting and playing for. Football is a brutal sport.
And telling my friends was also certainly going to be brutal. Some will be supportive; like my best mate Jake – he has always been there for me; he will understand my situation. We met in the under-eights team and had remained friends ever since. Unfortunately, the club let him go very early on – but he’s been in the same situation as me, which is reassuring. However, others won’t be so kind. They will taunt me, tell me I’m not good enough – even though they can’t kick a ball to save their lives. But do you know what I will tell them?
“I will have a statue here one day.”