• Stuck together like glue...

    The only thing keeping me together... 
    The injury bench. It's become my least favourite seating arrangement of the last sixteen months. I've experienced them all, from bruised ligaments, to muscular strains, to now, lacerated tendons. It's a far cry from the robust player I used to be.

    It all started at six years old. My local village team had try outs, it was a cold August afternoon (it is England), and my first ever coach was a proud Mancunian. His football ideology could fill the stereotype void left by Bernard Manning on the best of days. Short, round and not particularly the fittest, his first words were "you're Italian. You can be a defender".

    Training was a mixture of kicking a ball as hard as I could from the goal line, and sliding in the mud. Structure, if there was any, was more about whose dad could take a group of kids to matches every week. This was the 80's, there was no need for a CRB check back then, no one had SUV's or range rovers. Estate owning parents were the favourites, three kids could fit in the boot, and fit we did.

    Whilst I had moved even further back into goalie position due to shortages, it was not for me. I was to stay there for several years, to the detriment of every team I played for. I was no Zenga, nor did I want to be.

    It was to be a summer holiday in Italy where my football position started to take shape. Roccarainola had a bevy of players that all wanted to be like their Argentine football idol, Diego Armando Maradona. They would imitate his movement, mimic his gestures and attempt close range free kicks like the one he performed against Juventus; many a child went home with black eyes and bruised chests. I was not stupid enough to stand in the wall.

    My idol was a completely different player, a man who wore the red and black, il capitano Franco Baresi. And whilst admitting to liking any team other than Napoli (in Naples) in the early 90's was tantamount to public flogging, I would have to learn the art of saying nothing; although the coach, "Mister" knew full well where my allegiances stood.

    When "il Mister" called me to play, it would take as little time to decide my position in Italy as it did in England. "You're the lad from England, you're a midfielder". It was to be an awakening. Drilled daily on position, tackling and passing, it was a far cry from the kick and run tactic that had been usurped so frequently in England.

    Mister knew my Dad. For every club fine I received for speaking English, answering back or blasting silly shots from 40 yards, fines would be paid at the local bar, like most dad's they avoided the village in the evenings of training, knowing each son would have carried some heavy fine for something completely stupid.

    And so we come to today. A makeshift centre back when well, a midfielder when lacking, a sweeper by the 50th minute and a poacher when, I have no patience to sit at the back any more. I find myself asking, should footballers really have positions? What if Lionel Messi could have been the greatest goalkeeper the world could have seen, or if Ronaldo were to be a centre back of colossal proportions?

    The idea has become far fetched, but experience has taught me, if you're good enough to play one position, you can be decent in others at pretty much any level. It's perhaps a question that should be answered by the professionals really; but until they come to some unanimous answer, I will continue to sit on the treatment table until I'm ready for yet another comeback, hopefully not injured or requiring glue. 

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