If anyone has ever called you shit at football, I did it for you. If you were always last to be picked at school (you ended up with the fat kid and the slightly strange guy no-one liked...and they got picked first), I did it for you. If you can do less than ten keepie-ups, well, I did it for you too.
I am a bad footballer. You have to see me play to realise how awful I can be! Yet on Saturday 3rd August 2002, I ran onto the pitch at Vicarage Road. In the opposition was John Barnes. And Luther Blissett. Oh, and Gary Porter, Steve Terry and Steve Sherwood. Malcolm Allen was there, along with Trevor Putney and Martin Patching too. Not forgetting Nigel Gibbs, of course!
There were people watching and, yes, that was my name read out as I ran onto the pitch as a second half substitute. I'll tell you what, it felt bloody fantastic. Suddenly years of being told I was shit disappeared. I bet the people who used to call me rubbish at football have never done this. The people who picked me last have never marked John Barnes at a corner. The psycho PE teachers (aren't they always like that?) who have shouted over the years have never chased for a fifty-fifty ball with Luther Blissett. All the spoilt brats who I used to go to summer camp with and wouldn't let me play football have never been sold a dummy by Nigel Gibbs (a footballing feat I now share with Paolo Di Canio). I even had my chance at glory. If only Steve's pass had found me unmarked on the penalty spot....
On Saturday, I was running round that pitch, Watford's pitch, the one at Vicarage Road, having the time of my life. I'm not a vindictive person at all...but for a brief moment all I could think of was the people mentioned above and the words "F**k you" as a slight grin appeared on my face. Then as quickly as it came it went. I had to mark Luther for another bloody corner!