Rehab – a familiar journey

Friday was a tough day. A right bastard of a day!

I’ve spent two years trying to build my knee and its surroundings back up. Sadly for me I’ve not been doing that great at it so I decided to do something about it. Two years have went to waste.

I booked myself into a medical clinic, one that was going to point me in the right direction and help me out. I needed someone who was going to tell me right from wrong but more importantly to tell and show me how to better myself. How to recover.

My physios great, I walked in the room broken, no confidence and no hope. I longed for a future of walking properly or maybe even breaking into a run. Was it too early to dream of making a comeback on the green carpet? 

For two years I’ve been on the throne which sits atop the scrap heap, walking is difficult, cycling is a nuisance and running isn’t an option. My legs at times don’t function, something blocks them from connecting with my brain, which in turn forces them to stop doing things. Not great if I’m being totally honest with you.

He gave me a few tips, some pointers on how to activate my brain, something which can be very hard at times. There are many who would vouch for me. We done some light exercises, he had a rummage about the old knee and off I went. I walked out there like a new man, confidence instilled.

I spent a good 10 minutes dodging people in central, literally dropping the shoulder and moving past them. Friday morning I wouldn’t have done that, I would’ve been one of they awkward folk you see who stop dead in front of you, not entertaining your invitation to two step round each other. I couldn’t help it, my brain and leg wouldn’t let me go left. It was odd and an ongoing problem for about a year. A few littles words and movements opened up that door of uncertainty. 

Now I’ll drop the shoulder and get past you, my heads up again. I’m not walking round with my head counting the stones on the pavement. I will see you and the chances are I’ll be past you before you know I’m there. Now I’m not going to do this everytime – every now and then my brain will decide against what I want it to do. That’s fine but in time the goal is to make that movement to the left automatic again. No thought needed. 

I spent yesterday in the hydro pool. Fuck that’s a bloody shift. Pyramid exercises, you ever heard of them? No! Me neither. I’ll tell you right now I might just be an expert after yesterday – work up to 80% then back down. Half way through my legs were screaming, cramping up at the thought of moving another inch. If it wwasnt for the floatation belt I was going under. 

No problem, the phys sorted that right out, a few cycling motions a few stretches and I was back at it. Confident again, feeling encouraged and hanging onto his every word (and the edge of the pool).

Afterwords I felt a million dollars, cloud 9 the works. As the afternoon went on I felt horrendous. My body wasn’t used to being battered, it wasn’t used to working. For two years it done nothing, now it’s on the go again. It’s going to be tough but I know it will be worth it in the long run. 
A few words from my physio helped me get back on the right path. Now it’s up to me not to be daft, I need to listen to him. I’m 28 years old and I have the body of a war veteran. I was stupid, I played through injuries – pretended most wernt even there. It was great at the time but look at me now. Can hardly walk, can’t run. Not the athlete I used to be – not even a shadow of him. 

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The Brave & Broken Hearted!

Wednesday 10th June 1998

What were you doing on the day above? I know exactly what I was doing. My little brother had just turned 4 a few days prior. After the birthday cake had been devoured & balloons deflated (or burst) it was time to look forward to the World Cup.

This would be my first, the first one I could recollect game by game. The first I would know exactly what was happening. I knew the players, the teams & the stadiums. Attracted by the kits, boots & balls. All now retro novelties worth a small fortune! I was obsessed by it all, caught up – all starry eyed & full of hope!

USA 94, was a vague memory – diluted by misty waters at the back of my head. I was 6 years old at the time – the stand out being Brazil winning on penalties as Italy’s Roberto Baggio launched his penalty towards the clear blue sky.

Euro 96 I will always remember, more so for Gazza’s genius against who else – Scotland! Then came Super Ally’s wonder strike with the outside of the boot into the top corner v Switzerland! Two stick out moments for me in that tournament.

So back to Wednesday 10th June, I was eagerly anticipating the first game of the World Cup. So much so that I think I may have bolted out the class room in excitement before the bell finally rang. In my mind I was like the Flash, leaving a wake of paper in a whirlwind as I took towards the door. Racing out the gates I dodged a few parents, dogs, cars & walls. A lung bursting run across the road, I knew the hill was coming but I took it in my stride. Head down I darted across the park, no time to hang about today lads – the game is on!

Past the shops I burst through the front door like a mad man, bag dumped at my arse, jacket in a heap – I reached for my football top & trackies. I was ready, in the melee of dancing through people I forgot about my mate, he wasn’t blessed with the pace & dancing feet that I had. He was a bit of a juggernaut so I imagine he left a few people on their bum on the way down the road. Finally – peering in anticipation he appeared.

All red faced & wide eyed he gave me the shout, again I wasn’t hanging about – I met him at the bottom of the stairs. We had approximately two minutes to make a decision on where we would watch the game. His house or mine, no pubs back then – we were 10 years of age.

Usually we would be seen strutting about on the field, kitted out for the kick about ahead but that could come later. We were about to watch the Mighty Scotland v the Boys from Brazil. We quickly decided on his, I grabbed some munchies & juice – there was no time to waste. I perched my derriere on the couch talking to his mum as I waited on him getting changed. The opening ceremony had just started, both of us shouting on him as he wrestled with his jumper. It’s bloody gorgeous outside and he’s wearing a jumper – still red faced from his 200 yard dash home from school.

For the next hour and a half we sat in silence – only cheering when John Collin’s, vintage predators and all stroked that ball into the bottom corner. We got beat 2-1, Tom Boyd scored an OG. I was fuming! 10 years old & fuming that Boyd scored that OG. For weeks I couldn’t understand why we came home early – a draw with Norway & defeat to Morocco. Heartbroken & fuming! It’s no secret I took it to heart.

The rest of my mates decided that they would support other teams, France, Holland & of course Brazil. I took to supporting the individuals – Ronaldo, Zidane, Del Piero, Denilson, De Boer, Veron, Ortega. I could go on forever.

I think it might have been round about this time I gave up the ghost with International Football, 10 years old & I had lost the romance that Scotland had to offer. Now more than ever I would support my club, Rangers.

For years I have stuck by my guns & shut out International football. It was too slow for me, no entertainment what so ever. Don’t get me wrong as I said above, I kept an eye on the Individuals & the Beautiful Argentina. The colours of the kit, the class they possessed as individuals & the man-like GOD that is Riquelme.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that I switched on Sky Sports last Sunday & actually watched Scotland. Fearful when we conceded – I’m not going to lie about that but we done better second half & walked away from a potential banana skin with a 5-1 victory. Good start – well done lads.

The best things about the night was the return & performance from Robert Snodgrass. I was delighted for him. What a bloody tough time of it he’s had these last few season’s with injury. Great hunger, desire & let’s not forget he’s a talented lad. The boy from the East End of Glasgow was the shinning light, he gave me a bit of hope – he persuaded me not to reach for the remote to change the channel. Before his injury I enjoyed watching him and in some way missed him when he wasn’t playing. A real character.

We don’t have a World Class player to grab our nation or a game by the scruff of the neck & carry us through qualifications & tournaments, but we don’t need one. Some of our neighbours can vouch for that. I truly believe that if we were to keep Snoddy fit we are in with a fighting chance. Of course he can’t do it all by himself & if we get the right mix in the squad then we might just do it.

As I said I’m delighted he’s back in the game. Robert Snodgrass you beautiful hairy bastard!

So here’s to you big fella for giving this 28 year old a bit of hope. I’m not saying I’m going to jump on the bandwagon when things are going well & then take a nose dive straight off again when it hits the fan but you know what? I’m going to get behind the team & support them but lads – just don’t break my heart again!

 

 

 

 

 

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Life

It is days like Saturday that can give life a little nudge and put it all into perspective. 

After a podcast I tend not to dwell on them or write about them. Don’t get me wrong there has been a split second after every recording that I want to jot down some words and fire them out through this blog but I never do it. In the end I don’t think there’s a need to, it’s there for everyone to hear.

After that stop button has been hit I will edit the podcast, upload it and appreciate the moment for what it was. I say this time and time again but there is something special about bringing out people’s stories, stories they had forgotten all about, stories that they haven’t told in a while and appreciate you asking – their eyes tell most of the story I just happily sit and listen. 

Saturday’s podcast hit a nerve with me, Amy was very open, very honest and spoke about the problems and issues that arose for her after she lost both her grandparents. I too was in that position as a player and didn’t think too much about it at the time, youth and naivety played their part there. As a coach I had never experienced anything like I have over the last year. I lost my Aunty, Uncle and Gran in the matter of months. It’s not something I’ve spoken about but there was an emptiness inside me as my loved ones departed the show that we call life.

I can remember it clear as day, it was the Saturday afternoon we beat Aberdeen to secure our place in the Semi Final of the Scottish Cup. The sun was splitting the sky, the smell of burning Astro filled the air as we made our way from Toryglen with a good performance and victory under our belt. My gran was in the Victoria infirmary just over the hill so I popped in to see her, she was doing okay but after a long time talking she managed to convince me to go get her an ice cold bottle of Irn Bru. She clung on to that bottle with all that she had, eventually dosing off dreaming about it. That gave me a giggle. 

We spoke about everything and anything that day but the last thing we spoke about was my team and how we were getting on. She was chuffed with takes of the League cup triumoh in June, delighted when I told her we would win the league in our next game and shared my excitement at the chance to win the Scottish Cup. My gran watched me grow up out in front of her house playing football so she knew how much I loved the game and how much it would mean to not only me but the players to win the Cup. 

I could sit and talk about them for hours, I could talk about football for days but she was getting tired. Just before I left we made the agreement I would win the cup for her. Still holding onto her bottle of Irn Bru she took a sip then decided it was time for a rest. All the talking drained her, not to mention the heat in her room. 

As I was walking out the door she reminded me that I was to win the cup, accompanied by her cheeky smile and a chuckle she dozed off. Goodbyes and loves were said before I went to catch the bus. I was going to win that cup for her, the team would have no issues in winning it at Toryglen. 

Sadly that would be the last conversation I had with her, days later she passed away. I spent my nights occupying myself with football, football and more football among other things.

That day of the final at toryglen there were no nerves or feelings towards the game. Maybe confidence in the players I had worked with over the last three years but that was about it. It was to be my last game with my ever talented squad of players. I don’t feel I took in the occasion with them until they lifted the trophy. That’s when it all hit home. When I held it I could only think of one person, we did it gran – we won the cup.

Ps. I’m not known for showing emotions, stone heart some call me but my eyes didn’t half fill up writing this – what a woman, what a team and what an achievement. 

Oh and my gran left us all with her own little mischief as she always done, telling everyone who would listen that I  would win the cup for her and I’d retire from football because I had made enough money. What a character! I am still wondering where all that money is.

Have a good day!

Bye now!

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A New Direction 

It’s not often you get to sit down with football people and talk passionionatly about it, not uninterrupted anyway. Well there is always the waiter or waitress who caters to your every need but they aren’t interested in what your talking about or at least they pretend not to be.

This podcast has been a breath of fresh air and somewhat a new direction for myself. So far I’ve been privileged to watch people relive their stories through their eyes, I can physically see them go back and pluck those memories one by one as they tell their story. What an amazing feeling that is, it’s a bit special.

With 2 episodes in the bag we move our attention to the future and some fresh blood. New stories and words spoken by guests equally as passionate about the game as the first two. Episode 1 & 2 were great but like anything we aim for improvement we aim to make things better for the 6 8 or 10 brand (Merchandise coming soon). The first guests have set the benchmark in which others need to surpass, I hope they succeed in doing so, I’m sure they will. 

Excitement is something I don’t show too often (some people would maybe expand on that to emotions haha) but when it comes to my podcast I ooze it. I can’t help but get excited at the prospect of talking to people about the beautiful game and their experiences in it. The prep going into a recording is similar to that of the build up to a game, pre match nerves and all.

The plan is to record a few more episodes to conclude season 1. Does anyone really know the definition of a few? No!? I didn’t think so.

The guests have a big part to play after all it is about them. We have some crackers coming up:- a full Scottish international, an Irish international, a youth international and someone new to the international set up, albeit they have experience on a certain European stage. We then have a novice coach who could easily still play, youth is on their side but they prefer to coach and to be honest aren’t doing a bad job at all. An ex referee, we all know my thoughts on referees, he’s a good mate of mine that should be interesting. An ex international who’s career was cut short by injury and someone who has played at the top level in Scotland for years.

I’ll leave it at that I don’t want to give too much away, I’m sure you’ll be able to guess a few.

I look forward to talking to each and everyone of them otherwise I wouldn’t have invited them on. It’s my new thing and will probably keep me busy now I’m not coaching. The itchy feet hasn’t quite set in and I plan on keeping it that way! Everyone who has a bet on me being back involved soon keep your money in your pocket. 

On that note I can’t thank everyone enough that I’ve worked with over the last three seasons, the parents, the players and the staff. Good luck to them all.

I’m also working on some merchandise for 6 8 or 10. The logo has been designed by Geo Chierchia and the music provided by the Blue Lenas, both local. Check them out you may just be interested in some of their work.

With that being said I’m going to love and leave you all. The next podcast is being recorder early next week, it should hopefully be out soon after. 

Thanks for reading and thanks for listening. 

Craig 

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Let Me Tell You Something…Hats, Scarves & Shed Ends

When is the last time you bought a hat, scarf or a flag at a game?

The famous chants of the weekend warriors who sell them will never leave me. 

I still have the same scarf from my pre adolescent years, it’s a bit small now but it does the job none the less. I’m not into the whole hat thing, programmes can be overpriced adverts but a pin badge could do the trick. I do like a good badge. 

This brings me to my next question, what is it that people don’t like about the lower leagues?

Most folk only look at them when they are sticking a coupon on at the weekend.

They don’t entertain them, I can only hazard a guess that it might have something to do with the glamour. The money that can’t be thrown at overpriced potential from around the world. I may be wrong but thats only my opinion.

Have you ever been to a lower league game?

Go along, you might be surprised and save yourself a few quid.

I enjoy my football, I’m a lover of the game if you haven’t worked that out already. It would be wrong to say I watch every game, you can’t be in two places at once and I certainly wouldn’t say I enjoy every game either, some can be boring. Like games of chess, keeping the ball with no end product, low shots on goal, no excitement, no action.

Over the last few seasons I’ve managed to take in my fair share of games, European, Top Flight, Amateur, Irish League, Junior, Women’s and Youths. I’ve had more enjoyment watching teams outwith the top flight. Teams who like to promote their youth and give them a chance. Some might argue that they have no other option to play youth. It’s something I’m massive on, why have a youth system and develop youngsters if you aren’t going to prepare them for life in the first team?

This is something fans buy into, teams develop new philosophy’s over time and their youth slot right into this. Some get the ball down and move it around, with a purpose of course. Don’t get me wrong most have an second option, the target man. Then you will see the box overdosed on crosses, hoping the striker can get on the end of it or maybe lay one off to their supporting cast.

Defend to attack can be most teams way of playing and I don’t mind that one bit. What’s wrong with a quick counter to put you opponents under pressure? Absolutely nothing, we seen Manchester City do this against Spurs on Saturday – a long way away from lower league aspirations but it can be implemented in your youth system if coached properly. Teams like to close the back door before opening the front one, a solid way of working if everyone pulls together and works as a unit.

Now I’d be lying if I was to say I wasn’t fond of a team who just attack, wave after wave. Teams who dominate the ball but actually have a purpose behind doing so. I’m not into keeping the ball for the sake of it to get your pass count up. At the end of the game will it be your passes that are displayed on the score board ?

I like teams who keep the ball, drag opponents around before finding that killer ball to hit the net. It’s pleasing on the eye. The other side of this is the ugly work they do off the ball, hunting you down as a unit to retrieve possession.

If you were to ask me my philosophy it would be somewhere along the lines of the above. I aim to work on the defending side of the game as well, pressing high is great, if you win the ball fantastic but what do you do when they breach you? What do you do if they get in behind? They are the areas I’d like my team to be solid in as well – always learning, developing and improving. Coaches and players. 

No matter the level of football you watch always look for the positives in games. Look for the build up instead of the finish. Take in the atmosphere, embrace the experience. 

With that being said I’m off to Ibrox on Saturday, not a bad stadium for a championship outfit. The real game is one Sunday though, no doubt I’ll let you know how it goes.

Take Care 

CJ 

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Sweetness

Many people may not know who or what I am talking about when I say sweetness, in fact I don’t expect any of you to but keep reading, let your eyes wander over the pages and expand your knowledge in sports. Don’t stick to what you know.

I’m a lover of Football, occasionally I flirt with other sports – looking, not touching…you know what I mean.

Basketball, Boxing, Snooker & American Football – my vices if you will. I like to learn from other sports, I like to find things in other sports and see how they relate to my sport and how I can use them to my advantage and more importantly can I incorporate any of it into my team and training sessions? More often than not it is possible, try it sometimes it may surprise you.

I love to read, difficult at times but a good read is always welcome. I’ve just finished reading Never Die Easy – this is the name of Walter Payton’s  (Chicago Bears – Running Back) Autobiography. I’m captivated when I read about someone else’s life, if the book is written properly then I tend to feel like I know the person, I can visualize them and what they have went through. I feel part of their journey.

I’m sure you can relate?

Walter Payton is a legend in the world of Football, American Football. Legend is a word that is extremely overused in terms of athletes, people, anyone these days but this man had it all. A record breaker in his own right. Idolized well before the glitz, glamour and overnight riches that surround the game of today.

In many fans eyes he was the best ever running back in the game, I still find it incredible that he only missed one game in nearly 14 years due to injury. This surprises me, he wasn’t the tallest, quickest or strongest but you combine his heart, desire and willingness to win and you’ve got a different animal right there. Weighing in at 202 lbs, standing tall at 5ft 10inches he wore his heart on his sleeve. I got the impression he was Chicago’s second son to Michael Jordan at first but the more I read the more I held him on par with Jordan. Adored by the people of Chicago, his workman like qualities appealed to the public, it appealed to the fans, it appealed to me. He never refused an autograph or time to talk to his fans, now that might seem a bit far fetched but how many “celebrities” do you know who would stand outside in the cold signing autographs for 4 hours, I don’t think your list would fill an A4 page.

Humble and not at home with the superstar status that was handed to him by his talent and ability. Walter Payton was a man of the people, page after page tales of his work he done for charity had me gripped. He wanted to help and help he did. He helped the kids of America, helped by ensuring they didn’t wake up to nothing on Christmas day. Again, how many people would do that?

I would have loved to have the opportunity to meet this man, even speak to him to see what made him tick in real time. I would have loved to have spoken to him about his battles when he finished in football, his career would be the main topic of conversation but what happens after your career is over? That intrigues me and it’s touched on in the pages of his book.

During the time of writing his book Walter sadly passed away, the writer Don Yaeger does a fantastic job in capturing the kind words of others towards Walter. The stories are beautiful and leave me to wonder what if on many occasion. If you are into autobiographies then I recommend it. If not then I am glad you have taken the time to read this post.

If only the world had more Walter Paytons, it would be a better place.

His motto was Never Die Easy (on the field and in life) and he never, he fought right up until his last day, right up until his last breath.

Sleep easy Walter.

CJ

walter-payton-jump-detroit

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