The boy looked around whilst holding his cone of chips. As he looked up toward the end of the street his dad said ‘Not that way son, turn this way and look toward to paradise’
The boy turned slightly to his left, and looked along Tannadice Street toward an ever growing croud of people
‘Tannadice. Home of the mighty United. You ready son?’ the dad asked, and they made their way to back of the line of people.
A little over an hour and a half later, the boy was hooked. 3 weeks shy of his 7th birthday he had just witnessed his first ever football match, a 1-0 home win for Dundee United over Motherwell. From that moment on, like so many young lads he thought about football morning, noon and night.
Untied finished 7th that season narrowly avoiding relegation. All through school the young boy watched, ate, breathed and slept football. He took it all in, Scottish leagues, English football, Italian football, French, Spanish the lot. He was not only a student of the game but a walking talking thesaurus of footballing knowledge. It would only be a matter of time before he got a job in the game, his friends and relatives thought.
Never that good on the pitch, off it he thrived. A natural left footer, he played 14 seasons at amateur level whilst doubling up as a physio & assistant manager at local side Broughty Athletic. Assistant manager is a bit generous, over those 14 years him and a guy called Joe, no one knew his last name, were volunteers there, taking the reigns during a training session once a week & matches twice week, Sunday & Wednesday usually.
But one fateful afternoon, away in Arbroath for a league game, disaster struck. He went in for a 50/50 ball that he, the defender and his opposite number in attack both went in for, in which he came out the worse off breaking his left shin in 2 places and shattering his ankle. The ref did send off the attacker for going in with both feet, that was a bit dubious, but for our guy his playing career was over.
30 years old and that was that. No emotional send off. No fan fare. The club don’t even have a twitter account, the 15 or so fans that turn up are usually relatives or friends of players.
So now what? He can’t go back to working in the factory for at least 6 months, well that’s when the sick note runs out and he’ll have to have another evaluation. So for 6 months he’s got to decide what to do, does he go back to working the graveyard shift in the plant or does he build up on the experience he’s gained at Broughty?
One afternoon he had a brainwave. I’ve 14 years experience coaching, that’s surely got to count for something, right? He thought to himself. After around 20 minutes later and a hastily written CV was put together, the application process began. But where to look for a job that’s realistic?
Northern Ireland? Nah, can’t stand the Irish. Wales? Sheep, no thanks. England then? Nah, too obvious. Okay, the MLS? Nope, not even the Yanks would give an out of work Sunday league rep manager a job with no experience. Spain, I hear their fourth division is playable now? Doubt it, even the lowest rep team there is 1 and a half stars. Latvia is also playable this time around? I couldn’t even tell you where Latvia is. Denmark, Sweden, Norway? Nah, loads of people go there all the time. Gibraltar, there’s bound to be a job there? No, the league isn’t released yet, maybe on the next career. Oh well I don’t know then, you’re on your own.
It took a few more days, 6 to be exact, before the phone rang, an unrecognised number but clearly a foreign one
There was a brief pause ‘Yes, you applied for a job here at my club? I’d very much like to speak to you’
Next chapter – Back to the journey, man – Prologue part ii