My youth was consumed with a passion for football. Street corners, parks or gardens it was always me and a ball. My dream was to become a professional footballer nothing else mattered in fact football was my god. Playing senior Amateur football at 16 whilst still at school, offers from all the London clubs, an England and Great Britain international player I was on my way to becoming a professional.
As a professional player I had no real need to consider God. Everything in life seemed to be as good as it could be. I had a dream and I was living it. I had a little bit of fame, some money, nice house, I’d travelled the world doing the thing that I loved, why would I need to think about God and what’s more there was no one in my circle of football friends who ever spoke about God or religion. It was definitely a subject to be avoided in the dressing room. Over time the veneer of achievement and excitement at playing football for a living began to become somewhat tarnished. The pressure of performing well, the uncertainty and insecurity of contracts and the fear of failure became more of the reality than the apparent glamour.
I suffered from the Peter Pan syndrome thinking that the dream would last forever but the bubble had to burst and it did – dramatically. A letter on the doormat from Portsmouth FC saying they no longer needed my services, a sudden realisation that what had filled my life to that point was over and a set of circumstances that were, to say the least challenging, rocked my world.
At that time a friend was having his daughter baptised and I was asked to be a Godparent. This meant attending a local church and it was then that I came into contact with Christians. They were loving and accepting, a far cry from the world that I had been in for so many years and it got me thinking. I joined a Christians basics course and heard the good news of Jesus. I discovered that God loved me, He sent Jesus to die in my place so I could be forgiven and that by inviting Him into my life I could have a relationship with God. I had a huge gap in my life, God wanted to fill it. It was a no brainer. I knew I had become a new person and that my sins had been forgiven. I knew that no longer was God distant and unknowable but a person who I could know personally and would always be present with me. The excitement of having this relationship with God gave me a new vision for my life. It not only filled the void that my football life had left but spurred me on to tell others about this amazing Good News. That desire to pass on His message of hope has never left me. My life changed and in simple terms I no longer live for myself but for Jesus. How important is He to me? Well He is my dream giver and my dream fulfiller, my very present friend who provides all my needs and daily fills me with purpose and hope. He has a good plan for me that He is leading me into day by day and He has a place reserved for me with Him in eternity. He is the Lord of my life who only intends good for me whatever life’s circumstances, He strengthens me to persevere when times are tough and is continually shaping me into the person He wants me to be as His representative.