Stepping over that white line made me feel shielded from the rest of the world.
A 90-minute reprieve from my troubles, problems, and worries, just doing the thing I loved.
A mixed bag of lads from assorted backgrounds, bonded by the badge proudly worn on their shirts… proud to wear the uniform of ‘the beautiful game’, and more than ready to defend and fight for team and turf!
It was an escape from reality. The love of the game. The freedom of football, regardless of the score.
Football has always played a big part of family life, my dad played for Coventry city and represented Ireland at a young age.
And my brother and me both represented Coventry school boys.
My own football career began at the tender age of 6, playing for my local Sunday league team.
I played through my primary and secondary school years, and I even got to kick a ball on the hallowed turf of premiership stadiums… meeting players who made it to ‘pro’ level.
Every spare moment found me with a ball at my feet!
Before and after school, break times, weekends, and school holidays.
And if I wasn’t playing it, I’d be watching it of course!
It didn’t matter a jot what game, team or league was on, if there was football to be played… I’d be watching!
Saturday afternoons would find me eagerly watching Football Focus before heading out to watch in person. When I wasn’t watching the football I would have soccer Saturday on.
My Saturday night date would be with Gary Lineker on Match of the Day, then straight after it would be the Football League Show.
But one viewing was never enough of course! I’d be in front of the gogglebox the following morning for a rewatch.
From the age of 11, right the way through to my mid-20’s, I held a season ticket for Coventry, loyally following them both home and away.
I became a member of the JSB (Junior Sky Blues), which meant I could football train in the morning, watch the game in the afternoon and meet the players as I watched them prepare for the forthcoming match.
A boy with an obsession for football.
The most important thing in my life. The only thing worth living for.
But another obsession came along, a bigger one, a more powerful one.
An obsession that took hold and took over.
The beautiful game was no match for something so ugly.
But that football-mad boy is still inside me. He’s still here.
Recovering gambling addict