I was supposed to be a professional footballer

I played my first competitive, 11-a-side football match when I was seven years old. It was on a full-size pitch and my team needed special permission from the league, because the minimum age was eight. The age limit was there for my safety, but I didn’t care because I was big and tall and really good at football.

Two years later, I was playing competitively twice a weekend. On Saturdays, I played for one team, on Sundays another. A scout from Notts County, a professional football club here in England, came to watch one of our games. He asked 10 of us to attend trials the following week.

Aged nine, I went to the trials, where there were more than 1000 other children. After two days, there were just 24 of us left. I made the cut, abandoned my previous Sunday team and became part of Notts County’s first ever squad for under 10s.

Many kids have trials with professional clubs and some stay with the team for a couple of years. I played for Notts County until I was 16. I was team captain three out of the seven years I was there. I won trophies. I travelled the country. It was both a pre- and post-pubescent sporting career.

But something happened in that final year. When asked about it, I’ve sometimes said that the problem was that I’d become more interested, like most teenagers, in girls and underage drinking. But that was never the truth.

The real problem was that I was supposed to be a professional footballer, but being a professional footballer was not what I wanted to be.

After playing competitively throughout my childhood, sometimes four or five times a week, by the time I was 15, the magic had worn off. I didn’t want to do it any more. I didn’t care if it didn’t happen. Being a professional footballer.

And so, of course, things went wrong. I stopped putting the effort in and fell behind my teammates. They all wanted it far more than I did. It was still their dream.

Then, on one blustery Nottingham evening after training, I was taken to one side, along with my Dad, and told that, unfortunately, I wasn’t going to make it.

It was hard to hear. But also a blessed relief.

By no chance or coincidence, roughly a year before I left Notts County, I wrote my first batch of poetry. It was nothing special, and it was part of my regular schoolwork, but the feedback I received lit something inside me.

A new, entirely different dream began to emerge. I wanted to be a published author.

I wrote more poetry and soon persuaded my far-more-talented-than-me friends to let me join their band. I was the singer, of sorts. I did my best to write lyrics, hold a tune and avoid complete embarrassment.

But it wasn’t until I moved to sixth form college and studied English literature that the dream began to take shape. Most authors remember the book that made them want to write and I’m no different, although it may seem an odd choice.

It was Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye and I can still remember, not the reading of the book itself, but the way I read it. For the first time, I analysed every sentence like a writer. If a particular passage dazzled me, I wanted to know why. So I read it again and again until I thought I’d figured it out.

That change in mindset was profound. I stopped reading for pure enjoyment and started learning my craft. I wanted to one day write a book that other people would read and be moved by.

Because that, for me, is what writing is all about. It’s not about the thrills, spills and turning pages. It’s about creating a world, having something to say, and telling a story. It’s making people laugh. Making people cry.

And that’s all I’ve ever wanted. To move people by creating something that no one else has ever created and by putting words in an order that no one has or ever will again. That’s the crux of all of it.

The digital version of A is for Angelica is published tomorrow. I was supposed to be a footballer. But I’m not, I’m an author. That was and is my dream. Until a few hours time. When it comes true.

  1. A magnificent, powerful and personal piece of writing. Well done for tomorrow and everything!

  2. Nice piece, and most people wouldn’t been brave enough to give up a promising football career to maybe one day become a writer. You made the right career choice, I mean who would want to be rich, famous, adored by thousands and surrounded by Wags, lol…..much better to be a poor writer reads by thousands or more….now when’s the next one due out…haha….good luck with the ebook launch…

  3. Congratulations and good luck for achieving your dream. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I could put together a story in my head so probably around the 7 year mark. Nowadays I write plays (and for money too) but my dream is still to be a published novelist. Just got to keep on putting those words down. Thanks for sharing.

  4. First of all, huge congratulations on all your success so far – you truly deserve it for working so hard and believing so much in your book. There’s too many times when I’ve been completely enveloped in hopelessness concerning mine… need to break through!
    I found this article leafing through the older pages of your blog and thought of a question, if you don’t mind. You say a major turning point for you was when you first analysed a book as a writer, tried to figure out what made it tick. I also read a review by someone who read your book that said A is for Angelica is more emotional than mechanically plot driven – so my question is, as a writer, do you concentrate more on story mechanics and plot or the emotional development and world of your characters? Or are they equally essential to you?

    Thanks for the slice of wisdom! I think I was supposed to be an archaeologist once…

    1. Thank you!
      I think with Angelica, I built a world with these characters and a loose plot, and then had to go back and really work on the mechanics of what was happening at a later date. It seemed to work for this book, but I also think that this (somewhat unplanned) approach was partly why it took so long to write and edit. for novel two, I’m working more methodically and trying to plan a little more. It’s tough though. I think ultimately, you probably have to find your own way and see what works for you. I might write a full blog post on this actually. Good question!

  5. […] a writer. No two ways about it. I used to be a very good footballer, I’ve even sung in a band, but believe me, I’m very much a writer. That’s my thing. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Up Next:

A is for Angelica to be part of Amazon's 100 ebooks for £2.99 summer promotion

A is for Angelica to be part of Amazon's 100 ebooks for £2.99 summer promotion