I Battled my soul for most of my life until a point 7 years ago I surrendered. Beaten finally I accepted that the only option left is to turn up day at a time and just give of my best. You see I hear all the time” where are the players with an edge” I always smile and don’t tend to respond. I have an edge. I’m comfortable today in understanding that. Its taken so so much to get to that understanding. What is the edge? Well, all I can offer is that I have voices inside which are ferocious, the kind of voice after seeing a player thud to the floor as I towered above him from another aerial challenge and with an unbreakable desire to win the ball at ALL costs I would sometimes head his head to win the ball. The voice would whisper… ” leave him, he won’t get up from that and if he does next one you will see him off”.
I can share that with ease today, comfortable with my shadow side, that inner warrior that when honed and managed was often unplayable. I could never manage it consistently, so my life was one spent packing my bags and moving to a new employer who was excited that they might bring that beast out. Today I can manage myself a day at a time as its always revving up inside. I know it as my soul, Me. I have a few souls who get me at those deep levels, some are 15 years younger some 30 years older. I am blessed to share insights with some talented humans trying to understand their gifts, their burdens. Most of the time the advice is… stand still. it is here, nothing to find, there never will be, ignore all the “advisors” and “experts” you have the answers. If your soul screams” get that ball back” then go… just go and go through whatever’s in your way. If you don’t get it back and as the shout comes from the touchline… ignore it, smile and if it feels right to your soul do the same thing again.
Identification is key if you want to manage those with edge. I felt ashamed about who I was, this perceived lunacy inside me, I was always so different. I see today that I can use my understanding and wisdom to help those with edge manage theirs. Or at least try!
Below is an extract from my book due out in the summer.
And Then What… what it takes to survive the road to your dreams.
I flew to Zermatt, Switzerland with my friend and personal trainer at the time, George. it was June 1st, 2003 I had a brutal 4 weeks ahead. Every year I would have 3 weeks rest then lock myself away in a remote location as the next season would be “the one” and this is where I will find it, I will punish myself and hurt myself till there is nothing left, train 3 times a day, 1 day off a week, isolation is the key I thought.
One day I was 2900m above sea level at the foot of the Matterhorn mountain. I’d just had my third session of the day and it was 6pm. I’d done three sets of 10 200m runs. 30 runs at altitude are extremely tough.
‘No one will break me.’ I said to myself, ‘no one will touch me. You can’t break me.’ My internal dialogue was rampant and positive.
I packed up my rucksack and had a swig of my drink. I started to make my way back to the cable car to make my descent back into Zermatt town.
There was an elderly man taking a break from a hike. ‘Impressive stuff.’ He said in his broken European accent.
‘Tough.’ I replied.
‘I’m sure! What are you training for?’
‘I play football.’
Then, the line that I will never forget, that made me reassess and soul search for weeks; ‘Does Steven Gerrard do this?’
Time froze. My legs went to jelly. ‘Erm, erm…’ I paused.
He looked at me, genuinely inquisitive into the life of a footballer.
‘I’m not sure. I would think so.’ I eventually replied.
My soul laughed at me, it saw straight through my lies. Like a pack of cackling hyenas circling me waiting to devour this pathetic excuse for a human.
‘Who do you play for?’ He asked.
BANG another punch slammed into my ribcage I know he was waiting for Manchester United, Liverpool fc, Chelsea, AC Milan….
‘Oh, cool,’ he said, with that, I have no idea what you are talking about sound to his voice ‘Good luck with it all.’ And off he walked.
I stumbled off, dazed, my head spinning, sick with shame… my soul was laughing at me, the shame was unbearable, it was confirmed I was a joke, a farce.
‘Who do you think you are? Who are you kidding? Southend United?’ It was laughing at me. ‘You’ve spent for weeks up here whilst Steven Gerrard, who is 10 times the player you are, is laying on a beach.’
The shaming voice, the Ying to my Yang, the shadow to my light.
I sit here 15 years on and still I shudder, I was so lost, I had no idea how to manage this wonderful gift of character and desire. That humiliation, like on so many more occasions will never leave me.
What was I doing up there? Sure, to train and get fit but it was extreme, obsessive and the line between obsession and passion is so fine it is barely visible. I did it every summer for twelve years. Every season that followed was the same; inconsistent; highs and lows, loaned out to another club, with the search continuing.
Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. I was insane as I did this tragically for 12 years spending tens of thousands of pounds trying to find out who the hell I was high up in mountain ranges.
That search and that needing to find the edge on that mountain, was me, searching for myself.