It was when I found myself on the substitutes bench for the bottom team in the Jewish North London 5th division that I finally accepted I was never going to play for Arsenal.
Originally a whippet fast striker with no touch and even worse finishing, the onset of my 30s saw me pile on a few (a lot) extra pounds. It soon dawned on me and the rest of my team that I couldn't buy a goal and they quickly relegated me to the least harmful position on the pitch - left back. Unfortunately, it became clear that I was actually the second best left back in the team and so my fat ar*e was soon collecting splinters.
But every dog has its day. And this mutt had a corker. Given the chance to play in a media tournament at the Emirates, I was without doubt already having the greatest day of my life (don’t tell the missus but my wedding day/birth of children don't come close). After getting kitted up in the swish changing rooms, I stepped out in glorious sunshine on to the hallowed pitch where Godlike geniuses Fabregas, Ljungberg and, erm, Nicklas Bendtner had passed before me.
Playing at my favoured fullback position I was determined to have the greatest game of my life. Pumped full of adrenaline I nevertheless proceeded to deliver my usual impression of a training bollard and we lost by a shedload, with most of the opposition's goals coming down my wing. I was promptly dropped for the second game which we also lost and by the time I was named as a substitute for the third game I resolved to simply enjoy the occasion.
At 1-0 down, one of our better players came off injured and I was asked to play on the wing. I can never really explain what happened to me in the subsequent 10 minutes. Who knows, perhaps some floating ions that once belonged to Thierry passed through me in the players' tunnel, but whatever caused it, I became inexplicably transformed.
With our best player on the ball, I made one of my usual headless chicken runs down the wing. The ball was delivered with perfect pace and rolled into the empty grass in front of me. With the goalkeeper hurting off the line to try and close the space, I out-paced one defender and ran on to the ball before striking it first time with a delicate pitching wedge of a shot. Usually, this would be the point where the ball would trickle off for a throw on but instead the orb arced perfectly off my boot and sailed over the (admittedly short-ar*ed) keeper’s straining fingertips and just beneath the crossbar. I watched with disbelief as I realised I had scored. But not just an goal. I had chipped the keeper. At The Emirates. In front of a cheering crowd.
Naturally, I did what any self-respecting Arsenal fan would do in this position. I went mental. Instinctively I hurtled toward the corner flag before dropping on to my knees for a double knee slide a la Dennis Bergkamp. Delirious with unfettered joy, I can remember actually being aware of my eyes rolling into the back of my head with narcotic euphoria. I then proceeded to unleash a lifetime’s worth of pent up goal celebrations. The Hug. The High Five. The Double Fist Pump. The Aeroplane. The Kiss Blow… I dropped them all - one after the other after the other.
Having finally come back somewhere approaching the earth's orbit, I returned to our half and the ref blew for the restart. Within a minute I had run on to another through ball and with a new found confidence that far outstripped my usual ability, slid the ball passed the keeper with my left foot to make it 2-1 to us. Unbelievable.
I had never scored a goal in my life before, and now I had bagged two. Including the winner. And to cap it all, I had it on film because I’d given my mate my phone to record it all. I have since uploaded those videos to YouTube which between me and my disbelieving dad have now racked up hundreds of views. Every now and again, whenever I’m feeling bored or fed up, I like to watch those goals and they never fail to cheer me up. It may be a sporting cliche that nothing is impossible but, seriously if I can score these two goals then the sky's the limit for most people.
This blog was inspired by the blind marathon runner Simon Wheatcroft who uses his smart phone to help him run. You can watch his incredibly video below.
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