14th FEbruary 2023
Jordan Pickford. My account of being in the trenches with this brilliant young man 7 years ago.
Jordan Pickford, Harry Kane, countless others & the exposure to brutality.I sat like we all did on Tuesday and watched this England team .I’ve worked with many England lads over the last 9 years. Physically using my skill set to solve recurring issues. Emotionally with younger guys, helping them forget the nonsense , forget the 3 lions, forget the tactics and....BE THEMSELVES, COME WHAT MAY, HAVE THAT BALL, RUN TILL YOU CRAMP , IF YOU LOVE A TACKLE IN LEAGUE FOOTBALL KEEP DOING IT.RESPECT YOURSELF DONT LET ANYONE TAKE LIBERTIES YOUR DREAMS ARE ON THE LINE EVERY DAY. THEY WERENT THERE AT YOU BIRTH AND THEY WONT BE THERE AT YOUR DEATH.
I was 33. Retired , and 5 months from walking into Rehab. Emotionally battered, a punch drunk journeyman ,when Craig Liddle , a Darlington legend as a player and now manager called me.“Big man we are on our knees, in liquidation, the clubs fighting day by day, we have 13 games to go. We can't even field 5 subs. The staff had a meeting after Saturdays game and said we are doing well but we are too nice, we just need a big horrible bastard. Someone said we need a Drewe Broughton . So i'm calling you, what are you doing? ”I was sat in a service station on the M6 staring out of the window on a cold grey February Monday. I was on route to see a perspective client. A premier league player who had had recurring groin issues. I had packed up 7 months ago now. I was now building a business post playing. It had been a brutal 7 months, the sense of loss immense.
I was in a constant daze., Had I been diagnosed there is no doubt , I would have been clinically seriously depressed , my addictions had me in their grip as I sought to escape the pain. However, the old will was still hanging on, I am a fighter and although close to the end of this near twenty year battle I was still me.... never done." don't be weak, keep fighting " said the inner fighterThe shame was unbearable. I had been mentally ill now for years. 9 months previously I had been a big part of Lincoln City's relegation from the football league and was so ill during that season, so depressed, addiction was taking control. Having been the squads senior player and one of the big earners at that level I was shamed and shunned for my pitiful lack of form.... if only they knew. Men I respected like Chris Sutton and Ian Pearce, Steve Tilson thereafter I had let down hugely. I had the power to lift a dressing room but also pull it down.
Back to the phone call“Sitting in the car Craig currently"" you still playing??" he said " playing on a saturday locally for Arelsey Town, just supplenting my income whilst I build my new business"" Look, heres the script, 13 games left, no players, well about 14 but made of young lads with a few old heads. I cant sign players, there's a transfer embargo. I can only bring in lads who aren't contracted, but I have a pot of money from the administrators. We can stay up but we need fight, some leaders.
This club has been a big part of my life, I will do whatever to keep them afloat. "IF WE GO DOWN THE CLUB IS FINISHED AS WE KNOW IT. KICKED OUT THE STADIUM, EVERYONE REDUNDANT, I'TS BLEAK MATE" " I'm in " I said"Fantastic" said Lids" Get the train up on Wednesday we can put you up and give you £X per match, train thursday, friday every week, Its a great club this Drewe and we have some fantastic young lads, but they need some men to help them through"Not sure I was much of a man any more. Inside I was broken. But, I had been offered a lifeline, a respirator to a dying soul, a defibrilator to an old warhorse, the chance of a battle and glory maybe. I will take 100-1 against, done it all my life, Gambling wasnt my drug of choice but, I'm a gambler as much as any addicted gambler is, I've always gambled with knowing … IF THE TRUE ME TURNS UP.... didnt know how to get him out though.
So our goalkeeper was a young Jordan Pickford. In the picture above we were away at Telford, managed at that time by ex England winger Andy Sinton, member of the famed Italia 90 squad. We were really good that day. started full of running, got 2-1 up. myself and young Ryan Bowman, who was highly rated were running them ragged. Our midfielders were dominating, the back four marshalled by young Jordan were commanding. Three points that day would have been huge , huge. We had got a point with league leaders Luton Town three days prior. we knew going into this tough game that ,if we got three points we had a real chance of staying safe. Jordan made a mistake, as we all had hundreds of times in our careers, but, being a keeper must be brutally lonely. I kind of understand as a striker who many times was misfiring. I missed a 1v1 in the tenth minute, in that match ,shooting wide, but, if you concede one... as we all saw with Karius the Liverpool goalkeeper, there's no recovering.Writing this, it all floods back. Many of these memories I have buried deep. More trauma. After the game you could see he was devastated, we all knew what was on the line, we carried that pressure. The fact it hurt him that much shows it all.
What a brilliant exposure to the brutal pressure of the mens game. I remember a plucky young guy who was up standing tall, surrounded by scared youngsters, and battle scarred old dogs . Who when all the high fives and " all the bests" were flying around in that heady cocktail of fear and adrenaline, that moment once all the preparation is done, all team talks finished, before players leave the dressing room, he was up chest out shoulders back, not shirking, "come on boys .. clean sheet"What brilliant exposure for a young man. You see that was real. He was fighting to establish himself, some were fighting for their livliehoods , some were fighting , like me, for who we were. We were all fighting.I was the main header of the ball from defending set pieces and I remember him, getting us organised, no place for a boy when in swinging corners and elbows are flying, but he clearly had a toughness , a gift of drive. " win the ball, go and win the ball" he said.
In my role today I use All of my pain to help the next Jordan Pickfords. The exposure to brutal reality, real truth , my main weapon. Pull off the warmth of the protective duvet of a contract and a nice car and status ASAP.
My week is made of conversations, sitting in hotels , on facetime from my desk. It's this I feel needs to be done more But, Jordan clearly had1- good people around him2- enough natural self confidence, wasnt an over thinker.3- Not super sensitiveI see many players as good daily who are real thinkers , sensitive guys . NOT WEAK. and who havent got as much natural self value.
These guys who need exposure and to be guided through the exposure.PEOPLE WONT WAIT FOR YOU. THEY WONT RESPECT YOU BECAUSE, YOU ARE SUPPOSEDLY A GOOD PLAYER. WHATEVER THAT IS. THERE IS MANY COMPONENTS BUT WITHOUT THE FIRST ONE, YOU WILL NEVER SHOW YOUR GIFTS. YOU HAVE NO CHANCE IN THIS BEAR PIT.WHAT IS IT..??FIGHT.FOR YOUR DREAM, FOR YOUR LIFE, FOR YOUR CAREER.YOUR DESTINY. IM WITH YOU ( up to 1.30 pm, 6 pm for an evening game) THEN YOU MUST FOLLOW WHAT WEVE DISCUSSED, GO AGAIN AND AGAIN AND SMASH THAT PARROT ON YOUR SHOULDER EVERY TIME HE OPENS HIS BEAK TO TELL YOU ARENT GOING TO MAKE IT OR IT WONT HAPPEN , SMASH HIM.
To quote Jurgen Klopp- " Run with pain, tackle with pain, head with pain, pass with pain, everything top players do is with pain "