It’s been some time since I last produced a blog entry, and truth be told, I’m not entirely sure why. I suspect it’s not a coincidence however, that the theme of loss, so central to my last post, lies at the heart of this latest piece of reflection. What’s important however, is not only the sadness, confusion, and even anger engendered by loss, but the opportunity it offers for renewed focus on what’s most important.

Just about anyone with even a passing knowledge of me, will be aware of my love of football. Watching it, and indeed playing it. From Christmas Day, as a 6 year-old running around the field in front of our block of flats in my new England kit, to every Thursday evening in late 2023 playing 5 or 6 a-side, I hold on to the gift that the game, and those I share it with, give me time and time again.

The lads I play with, each with families and stories of their own, were all deeply saddened very recently by the sudden illness and death of Mark, the man who as well as playing every week, had taken on the role of organiser, doing what was needed to ensure we had the opportunity to play. Every death is a cause for sadness, and yet the loss of a husband and father at just 41 years old is a tragedy, hard to explain and even harder to understand. Some of the lads knew Mark beyond the Thursday nights when we all came together, and for them the loss is all the more powerful. For me, it led to a desire to say directly to the boys, what they and Mark represent to me. To put into words what, up until this point had remained, not unthought, but unsaid.

I wanted to communicate how important they, and the game we play, are to me. To help them to understand why this is so, and to thank them for the gift that, however unwittingly, they give me each and every time we meet.

What follows, is the message I subsequently sent. I share it with you in the hope that, not waiting for a moment of sadness or tragedy, you consider who there might be in your life to whom you perhaps have something important to say, something that’s thus far been unsaid. Saying it may make you feel vulnerable, and there can be no guarantee of how others will respond. At the same time however, the chances are that your honesty and openness will be received in the exact same spirit in which you share it.


Hi gents,

I just wanted to express how grateful I was to have been able to get back to playing football last night.

There are plenty of reasons for this, the need for exercise and a lifetime love of the game obviously being two of them. Even more important though is the opportunity to be with other people, to laugh and joke, and occasionally to reflect on things more deeply and honestly than I might in many other contexts.

When I’m working, leading training, engaged in therapy or helping someone expand and enrich their world through Coaching, I’m generally confident, lucid, and at times, maybe even inspiring. At the same time however, I’m really quite socially awkward. For me, small talk is difficult, and I generally find myself with little to say, with much of what I do say being banal at best.

And it’s for this reason that I owe Mark, and all those of you who at various times have taken responsibility for organising Thursday football, such a debt. You, and everyone who has ever taken part, have given me the opportunity to connect with kind, generous, and warm-hearted people. I can relax, knowing I’m accepted and valued, and feeling like I belong. You’ve also allowed me to continue to dream. No longer, perhaps, of scoring the winning goal for West Ham in the F.A. Cup Final, or for England at the World Cup, but still of rising like a salmon at the far post, thundering a header, Joe Jordan like, past the goalkeeper’s despairing dive!

So, thanks again, and long may it last!