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The Legacy

Started on 2 December 2017 by lufcok
Latest Reply on 2 December 2017 by lufcok
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While the other kids were inside playing on their Atari's, I was out working hard and improving.
While the other players were out in the clubs drinking and pulling women, I was in the gym working hard, getting better.
While the other elite players of my age were getting lucrative contracts in the Middle East and America, I was studying the coaching badges and shadowing the top bosses in training.

I've played at the top level. I started out cleaning the boots of footballers who liked their juice a bit too much and I was glad for the experience. Starting out in that early 90's era of bearpits, crowd trouble and roughness gave me the steel I needed to succeed throughout my career. I was lucky in that I came through football at the right time. While it was still somewhat close to the fans but while I could set myself up for life, unlike most of my predecessors.

There's a sadness in seeing a player who just can't decide when enough is enough and it's time for the curtain call. Truthfully, I knew that missing out on that training ground banter and the routine of the day-to-day career of a footballer would be too much. So I knew I had to take my coaching badges and keep that going as long as possible. I still remember vividly the day I knew I had to retire. At 36 years of age, Roberto Di Matteo had decided my time at West Brom was up. After contributing to the promotion that would go on his CV, he discarded me just like that.

I always knew that the increasing amount of money coming into the game meant loyalty and nostalgia went out of the window with it but as it was happening to me personally, it hurt. I'd played 24 games that season. Scored twice. It counted for nothing. That evening though, I went home and sat looking obsessively at my Wikipedia page. The memories came flooding back.

Starting out cleaning the captain's boots at Leeds as a fresh faced 17 year old. Leaving for the bright lights of London after 4 years as only a bit-part player. Roma signing me from Spurs in 99. Playing with Totti and Cafu, winning Serie A. The month-long celebrations in the Eternal City. Free-spending Leeds bringing me back. Valencia signing me due to the financial troubles at Leeds. Winning La Liga in my sole season in Spain. Re-joining Rafa at Liverpool and THAT famous final against Milan. Collapsing to my knees due to the sheer elation. The despair when Rafa said I was moving to West Brom. The joy at going out on a high as the Baggies went up. Even the little manner of 42 caps for England.

I'd had a successful career, that can't be denied. Yet deep down, I knew I wasn't ready to be a player that's mentioned in the odd nostalgic conversations down the pub or as another failed member of the 'Golden Generation'. That next morning, I embarked on my first coaching course.

You are reading "The Legacy".

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