NLP Column w/e 16th September 2017
Growing up as a young football-going boy you get used to certain ways of life that you can only learn at football grounds.
It’s much better to smell onions than the cut them is something that can be learnt by watching the food bar manager wipe away the tears streaming down their cheeks.
Whether it’s the start of the season in August or conclusion of the season in May, always take a jacket – this is Britain after all.
You quickly learn which swear words are light-hearted and which are blacklisted depending on a spectator’s humour or vitriol at a match incident.
Now in to my mid-twenties, I’ve learnt something which never occurred to me as a child despite it starring me plumb in the face: baldness.
Look around at any football ground and you will see many examples of a man’s will battling against genetics and aging; I am currently at the stage where I have developed a surprisingly spherical penalty spot at towards the back of my head as if crafted by the ground staff at Wembley.
I am sure we would all like to look like Carlos Valderrama rather than Zinedine Zidane, but vanity in football wilts under ‘wow’ moments, heart, and a player’s humility.
Take a look at Barry Hayles now in the Hellenic Premier Division with Windsor, still going strong at 46 and at his seventh Non-League club this decade.
In my work on The NLP’s website any story centered on Hayles is received with more interest and admiration than most others, because of his commitment and the impression he makes.
Oxford City fans will remember striker Lee Steele, a poacher number 10 who would stick the ball in the back of the net from no further out than eight yards.
I remember him as one of the heroes of Leyton Orient’s promotion season of 2005/06 who bagged a 90th-minute winner which guaranteed the first promotion since I was 2.
I also remember him for the reasons behind him being sacked by City in 2012 when he posted a homophobic tweet on Twitter.
An incident not in his nature as echoed by then-manager Mike Ford, but nonetheless an inexcusable error made in poor taste that left his employers with no other alternative.
Often, if you’re unable to learn from other people you have to learn the hard way yourself and football provides one environment that defines right from wrong.
Football is an environment which in the short term values the detriment of wrong over hero status, and there are consequences. You can’t exactly say the same for athletics or cycling.
Steele has since been able to get back into football to work as a fitness coach where his hair has regrown and a stern lesson in conduct learned.
Mistakes are often as serious as the results they cause, that’s why I let someone else chop the onions.
By Adam Ellis