Live ,Sleep, Eat and Drink it we are told. What a myth. I did all of that and wrote about it daily too. As I sit and and draw on more extracts from my diaries for Chapter 10 of my book “And Then What?” it makes me sad, reflective and angry that no coach I ever had could see my gifts and guide me. Breaking Into the first team at Norwich City FC shortly after my eighteenth birthday, scoring away at Molineux against Wolves in the English Championship. A professional Contract sorted, A lucrative deal with Adidas, A place in the England U.20 squad for the World Cup in Malaysia with the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Michael Owen, Frank Lampard yet inside I was in turmoil. Doubt, Fear and uncertainty. I would vomit after games and suffered terrible cramps keeping me awake after games. A Physical symptom of a crippling confusion.
Perfectionism and Obsession aren’t positives. Sit with any Psychotherapist and ask them. They are rooted in a thousand forms of the lost self and over control through fear of the mind made version of who you are (EGO) dying. I was over controlling. IF I know I’ve eaten perfectly , IF I know I’ve trained to maximum, IF I know I’ve lifted those weights , IF,IF, IF…….
If honed and understood( which for about 50 of 700 matches it was) it was a very, very powerful gift. A relentless desire to win and never go under.
Below is an extract from the book I’m writing. Titled, “And Then What” It is an account of what it took daily to perform under pressure. Why I failed, why I succeeded and the lessons I learned.
Chapter 9 – The Edge, what is it and how to stay on it
The media sends messages that Women want it. I think immediately of sex in the city and 50 shades of grey and their huge popularity.
In terms of talent identification in sport, there’s a simple remit worldwide; ‘find the players with it.’ So many of the more creative souls in the history of the world spend their lives trying to figure out how to stay on it.
An edge is sharp. It can cut; cutting hurts. Physically it can hurt – to be cut open and to ooze blood. Emotionally, though, it can hurt, too. People with an edge can cut people with their ruthlessness and their internal drive. They can cut people simply by being who they are, by their passion and their calling.
‘Don’t get sent Off Big Man’ said the manager
‘Don’t get involved…’ the managers Number two shouts.
I would usually have smiled and nodded , but in my place of insecurity and self doubt came confusion. How could I not get involved?
Was there something I could do to make sure I didn’t get in trouble?
When I was in a strong place, I would smile and say nothing. I would know that I was going to compete with everything I am and that I would ‘walk the line’. In this strong place, I’d also challenge for the ball with everything I have. Sure, that’ll make people wince and cause issues but I will manage those issues. In short, I will walk on the edge.
One night I have my ‘edge’ cleverly taken away. Away from home, I arrived at the stadium two hours early. I was walking from the coach to the dressing room. At the time, this particular club was managed by a manager whom three years previously had managed me.
As I walked past his office, the door was wide open and he was sat with his assistant.
‘Big man, lovely to see you! Come in and say hello…’
I was four months from the end of my contract. I was scared and under pressure to play well. At the time, I was scrapping for my life. I’d played the week previously and had been somewhere near my best.
‘How’s it going?’ He asked.
I nodded and said I was fine.
‘Look,’ he continued, ‘I was at the game last week and I sat and said – shit, he’s still got it. Look, the owner is here tonight, the TV cameras. Frankly, our young defender won’t cope with you. Take it easy on him, yeah?’
I was sensing something.
‘When’s your contract up?’ He didn’t break for breath.
‘In the summer.’
‘Well, if you look after me tonight and don’t beat up our defence, then there will be a contract for you here in the summer. Closer to home, isn’t it?’
‘I can’t do that.’ I protested. ‘You know this business. Anyway,’ I began to back out of the room, ‘all the best.’
As I walked away, the voices in my mind were rampant; ’It hasn’t been a great season for you.’ ‘You have bills to pay.’ ‘It’s a good offer.’
My edge was becoming blunted.
I was substituted that night on 60 minutes. I didn’t play with the edge that I had inside me. I was judged by the edge and just couldn’t find it.
The fear of throwing away that contract offer cost me. I knew that I was at an age that made that a good offer and it played on my fear.