Numero P

When I was a young, I played football. Unfortunately, I was never any good. I consistently used to make the team sheet but always as a sub. My Mum used to joke that I was the only person she knew who would come home every week with a clean kit.

When I hit 30 I decided the time was right for me to come out of retirement. I lived with a couple of mates who played Sunday league football for a local pub team. I envied their Sunday ritual, which largely involved dragging yourself out of bed on a Sunday morning, usually with a hangover, to play football and end back up in the pub two hours later watching the televised games.

The problem was, I knew that if I were to join my flat-mates’ football team there was a very high possibility that I would end up on the sidelines again – exactly where I was 20 years ago.

So to avoid the situation altogether I came to the simple conclusion that if I wanted to play football every week, I had to control to the team sheet. The only way I could do that was to set up my own football team. Which is exactly what I did. I set up my own County FA affiliated football team.

Finding players turned out to be a lot easier than I thought it would be. Most people my age had retired from football some years earlier but missed the occasional kick around with their mates. Most of them had either drifted away from the game, were married or had kids. The opportunity to dust off their boots and show they still had it proved quite tempting. I Soon had a squad of 30 odd players.

30 players was a large squad for a local side, but it meant that as injuries from ‘old age’ caught up with us, having more players at my disposal enabled me to rest players and give people a week off whilst still field a strong team each week. Rotation they call it these days. I’d like to think I was an early exponent. In our first season we finished second in the league.

You can achieve anything you put your mind to. Who says you can’t set up your own football team? I did. I’m crap at football yet we finished second in the league. A football team is no different to any other team. Surround yourself with people who are really good at what they do and anything is possible.

There will always be ‘doubters’ in your life. Try to ignore them and they will be at the back of your mind, niggling away at you subconsciously without you even realising it. Learn to embrace them. Use them to motivate you. I love the ‘doubters’. The ‘naysayers’. The people who love to put your down and who always manage to find the negative in every situation.

Have you ever noticed that when you say you are going to do something positive like give up smoking, there’s always that one person who’s the first to offer you a cigarette? Or you go on a diet, and they suddenly decide to order a takeaway as you’re struggling through January on nothing but rabbit food. That person. You know who they are.

That person never wants you to succeed. Why? Because they are jealous. They don’t want to see you succeed without them. They don’t want to be left behind. But lo and behold, if they ever decide to give up smoking or go on a diet, my God you will never hear the end of it. They go the gym for a month and it’s like they’ve become a personal trainer.

I’ve had these people my whole life. I’ve met loads of them, worked with lots of them and even dated them. Some have been friends, best friends even. Thankfully most of my friends today aren’t like that. The older I’ve got, the more I’ve learned to only have people in my life who add value. But there’s still the odd one that sneaks through the net. But I don’t mind that. They keep me on my toes and keep me motivated.

My flat mates at the time laughed at me when I told them I was going to set up a football team. In fact, all my mates at the time laughed at me. But my flat mates weren’t laughing when my football team beat their Sunday league team in a pre-season friendly. They weren’t laughing when we turned up with the best home or away kits in the league. The other teams in our league weren’t laughing when they turned up to matches, not knowing anything about us, only to lose.

As with boxing, I learned a lot from running my own football team. A squad of 30 players was the largest number of people I had ever managed. Granted it wasn’t in a business context, but I still had to manage 30 individual personalities and all that comes with the operational side of running a football team.

I knew very early on that I couldn’t do it alone and was very quick to put my hands up and reach out to other more experienced players in the team to help me choose the best team each week. I guess you could say the biggest lesson I learned is you cannot do everything by yourself and it’s ok to ask for help. In fact, people respect you more when you’re honest and ask them for help. No-one is invincible.

Copyright © Matthew Parkes 2020

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