I have got some fantastic memories as a result of my time playing football, ranging from playing Sunday League as a youngster, my time at Watford and a brilliant three years at Wealdstone, but on Monday night my football career reached a new high.
As a young football fanatic growing up, it was always my dream to represent my country. To pull on the sacred white shirt with the three lions on, to walk out onto the pitch with thousands cheering my name and bellow out the National Anthem in front of a packed stadium. Well last night, this dream became a reality…. To an extent! The proud event in question was of course my English Universities debut against Wales Universities at Barri Town in Wales. I did pull on the shirt with the three lions on it to represent my country, I did bellow out the National Anthem, the only thing missing was the packed stadium! Despite this, it was still an extremely proud moment for me and something that I will remember and treasure for a very long time.
What also made it such a special experience was the company I was with. Much like me, the rest of the boys also combine their studies with playing football at semi-professional level so much of the Non-league comradely was evident. Despite playing against a couple of the lads before so recognising one or two faces, it was still extremely daunting on arrival at the team hotel in Bristol. However, team spirit is what makes any good team great and efforts to bring us together were made straight away. On arrival, the management announced to us all that we each had to stand up in front of everyone and sing a song of our choice, which as you can imagine was met with massive sighs and groans from all the boys. I have never been on X-factor, but I imagine how I felt as I walked to the front of the room I something how contestants would feel as they stood in front of Simon Cowell. The less said about my rendition of let me love you by Mario the better, but the ultimate goal had been achieved as a group of strangers had bonded and become a team over a mutual laugh at everyone’s awful voices!
From this moment on you would have never have guessed that we were a team formed just that day as the banter between everyone flowed effortlessly. I am certain that much of this was simply down to the fact that everyone was just so happy to be there. The hotel was amazing, our kit was prepared for us and the food was great. Perhaps the highlight of the week was the team Harlem Shake video we made one evening which can be seen at the bottom of the page. Do excuse the terrible dancing on show, but the video indicates the team spirit generated in uch a short space of time as a result of our Non-league background. Ultimately a group of semi-professional lads were experiencing a professional’s life style, and loving every second!
Despite the laughter, ultimately we were there to represent England and win a game of football for our country and this was continuously stressed to us. We were all aware that not many people can say they have played for England at any level so were desperate not to let ourselves down. On our plush coach on the way to the ground (slightly different to the one we have at Wealdstone!) there was a deathly silence between us all for the first time as everybody began to focus on the upcoming game. The warm-up came and went, the pre-match talk came and went and before I knew it I was standing in a line bellowing out ‘God save our Queen with a group of lad I had come to love. I couldn’t help but think of the many times as a youngster I had stood on my bed singing the same anthem dreaming of playing for England and now it was happening!
The game itself couldn’t have gone much better. We scored an early goal and imply didn’t look back eventually winning 4-0. The scenes at the end were a mixture of relief and joy as a combination of skill, hard work and also a fair bit of team spirit had meant that our first experience representing England had been a jolly successful one!
As we said our good buy’s to each other in the bar after the game, the joke was made that we should form a new Non-league side! Numbers were exchanged, Twitter accounts followed and Facebook profiles added as we all vowed to stay in touch. Unlike the professionals who moan about playing for England as they are tired or carrying a slight knock, for us young lads it had been an honour of a lifetime and an experience that we will share between us forever. It is this that is the key difference. Unlike the professionals we didn’t need or expect the fancy hotel or the brand new kit, it was simply the badge on the shirt that mattered and I believe this can be related to playing for a Non-League team. We don’t play for any other reason than the love of the game and for the enjoyment.
So if by any chance you are reading this Mr Hodgson and want a group of young, committed, passionate, and talented players who will give there absolute all for their Country, then be sure to give us a call!
Here is our Harlem Shake video, an indication of just how much we were all enjoying ourselves: