The Ugly Side of The Beautiful Game
17th October 1996
Tyrone Henry’s school football team, Evelyn Grace Academy was up 2-0 after just 20 minutes of play against Lansdowne school. He was playing in a defensive midfield role and had assisted one of the goals with a threaded through pass to put the striker through one-on-one.
Evelyn Grace had a decent selection of young players in the Under-15s category, to say that a lot of the lads were lumped together by chance. It was a good reflection of the local environment, though. Children who went to Evelyn Grace were not as lucky, generally speaking, a lot of the kids only had sport as a get-out from the maliciousness on the streets that they grew up on.
Tyrone had certainly caught the eye of a few professional clubs, too. He had heard whispers of an Arsenal youth academy scout watching on today, not that that kind of stuff affected his performance - he never got ahead of himself, a trait hammered into him by his mother.
His discipline as an individual player stood out to a lot of bystanders. A lot of players his age would look to get forward whenever they had the chance, leaving a gap in behind if they were to lose the ball further up the pitch. However, Tyrone Henry had a dutiful personality on the pitch and his positioning, along with his physical presence and technical ability made him stand out among the rest who could score hat-tricks every game.
Tyrone received the ball at the edge of the center circle from the centre-back and his best friend at school, Matthew Pearce. Before he received the ball, his eyes caught the run of the right-winger getting in behind the full-back. Before he could play the ball, Tyrone was crunched by an opposition player who had seemingly come flying out of nowhere with his slide tackle.
“The fuck?” Tyrone shouted as he stood right back up after the challenge, staring down the player who had just taken him out.
“Language, please,” the referee said, looking at Tyrone following his comment.
As he picked up the ball, he saw the opposition player sniggering to his teammates before turning to look at Tyrone and laughing.
“What you saying?” Tyrone shouted, waving his arms out in his opponent’s direction.
“Nah, just wondering if you were looking for your dad before that tackle?” he retorted.
Tyrone’s normal calm temperament boiled over within milliseconds as soon as he heard the comment about his dad. He threw the ball on the ground and paced towards the player who had joked about it.
The player was a couple of inches smaller than Tyrone’s 5’9” frame, meaning that he was looking down at the player. “You wanna say that again, eh?” he said furiously.
The opposition player let silence hang as Tyrone glared at him from centimetres away. “Did you ever find your dad, mate?” he smirked.
Tyrone responded by headbutting the player, landing his forehead on his nose. Blood immediately oozed out onto his kit as he laid on the floor. Tyrone stood on his ankle as he hovered above him. “Say it again!” he demanded, angrily.
Evelyn Grace’s players surrounded the commotion as soon as the Lansdowne player went down. They were peeling Tyrone away from the scene as he kept grunting angrily at the player who was not going to get up for some time.
The referee had no option but to show Tyrone the red card. Even at youth level, a deliberate headbutt followed by threats and standing on the player was not tolerable.
As Tyrone was hauled off by his best friend Matthew Pearce, he saw a man in a tracksuit shake his head and make his way back to the school gates to exit the grounds. He knew that was the supposed Arsenal scout, and now he knew that there was no way he would be pulling on that red shirt at Highbury.
I would hope it takes a lot more to buy back the trust!
Something for Tyrone in his later years, I'm sure.