As a young player joining the Club football environment fairly late on, especially compared to todays opportunities, I was lucky to have one man in particular to stand up for me and give me a chance.
Back in my first season when I had to try out to get into the St.Pauls FC U14 squad, a group of players were already established. The head coach at the time, as I found out later, did not want to sign me due to my technical skill not being at the level they would have liked.
However, luckily for me, a member of the coaching team convinced the head coachto sign me. This supporter of me he recognized that I had vision, a good passing ability and a good understanding of the game, even if my technical and positional ability was still a bit raw.
For me, I recognise this as the defining point in my football journey.
If I was not signed on, I expect I would have turned my back on the game and continued down the Martial Arts pathway. A lot of what I have accomplished in my football pathway as a player, and as a coach, is down the faith that one man showed in me as a 13 year kid.
That man was Alan ‘Micky’ Porter.
That season as it turns out was Micky’s first as a coach in Jersey after coming to the island from Manchester.
Micky’s passion and enthusiasm for the game is amazing. He is dedication to producing young players who can play with confidence, composure and commitment is second to no one.
Playing wise, my first ever season I hardly got a look in. Always a substitute, always given the last few minutes of half of a game depending on how well the team was doing, (by that I mean how much of a winning margin they had opened up) and although I was happy to be signed on, the game time I received was a reflection of the lack of faith the head coach showed in me.
I received limited opportunities to play; limited game time; and very little encouragement from him.
Micky was more of an assistant coach at this point, and he always spoke with me about the games we played, games on tv, and discussed and educated me in tactics.
Micky explained to me how he wants his team to play, and the training methods he uses were based on possession play and one and two touch football – “give & go, give & go!”
So when I turned 14 and Micky asked me to train an extra night with the U18 squad that he managed I couldn’t say no!
I loved it! But it was damn hard work! Playing in a small gym at Maufant Youth Club with players 3&4 years older than me was difficult. With that said, my speed of thought, control and one and two touch football came on immensely. No doubt as I didn’t want an 18 year old smashing me with a tackle!
The following season when I was due to move into the U16 division, I was only one of a hand full of players to move up an age group. Therefore, I was leaving the majority of the squad who were a year younger than me behind in the U14 Division.
It was announced then that Micky Porter would be the new U16 Manager.
Micky approached me straight away and asked me to sign for him. Something I did without a second thought. Micky’s personality and love of the game is infectious. You cannot help but learn from the man.
That season, we had a brand new squad, with players who had very little experience, and it showed in some of our performances and results. We took some drubbings, some in double figures.
Personally however, I played almost every minute of every game. I trained once with the U16, once with the U18, and then when I turned 15 in the November, I was invited to train with the seniors twice a week too.
Within months I then began to play for three teams, Sunday mornings the U16 and U18 (alternate weeks) and Saturday afternoon for the Senior Reserve Team, and began to learn what it felt like to win. It was a great time in my life.
Micky had the foresight to convert me from a right winger, to a forward player who drops deep and links play up with midfield. My touch and link play thrived creating plenty of goal scoring chances for my teammates and also during the next four years, finished top scored for my team in three of those. When I was 17, I moved up into the U18 division and played under a new manager, questions were being asked if I would get into the Island side and represent Jersey.
These questions would have never been raised if I didn’t progress as rapidly as I did through receiving constant quality coaching and having good habits instilled into me by Micky during my first three years as a player.
Representing the Island was something I always had a glimmer of hope for, but unfortunately, it was a dream that would not be realized.
At this point, although playing under a new manager in the U18 Division, Micky asked if I would be interested in joining him to coach the U14 team that he would be taking that season. Friday night practice sessions at Grainville from 5-6pm… what a great way to finish the week!
Once again, with any doubt, I took Micky up on his offer and began my coaching pathway under a man who is now, one of the biggest influences in Junior Football in Jersey.
Micky took me under his wing, and learning his methods of coaching; the way he worked with players on and off the pitch; his tactics; and the way his morals and ethics always shone through was a wonderful footballing education for me.
It was at this point I was mature enough to witness first hand his approach to protecting his players in the face of adversity, and giving the underdog a chance. It was only now, some three years later I realized how he gave young people a chance in the game when others refused too.
It was, and still is, inspiring.
After spending the next seven years working, studying and learning from the great man, I took on my own team as a Manager.
Micky is a gentle, humble and generous man, without whom my own coaching journey of the past 15 years wouldn’t have got started. Words cannot express how much thanks I have for him and how much I appreciate his faith in me.
Micky and I have become dear friends, he supported me through the difficult time when my father passed away; we’ve attended each other’s Weddings to our better halves (also known as Footballing Widows) and other family events and functions.
We meet up for dinner or a cup of tea whenever we can, and we always bump into each other around the island watching junior matches or in fact, having our teams play against each other!
So without any shadow of a doubt, my first positive influence was from the legend that is Micky Porter!