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A game of two halves

19 September 2017 by Rolawn

For as long as I can remember, I have been kicking a football. My baby photos show there was always a ball nearby and there are still faint reminders of the years of muddy knees in our living room, after having a kick about with friends.

Football is my passion, I dreamt for many years of becoming a professional footballer, or at least playing at a high standard. Most people know me as a mellow person, friendly, calm and laid back. Those who know me through football, however, know me as a hugely competitive, feisty player who constantly screams and shouts for the ball on the pitch, so I can have a shot at goal. As a striker, that is always my aim, every game I play… how can I score a goal? Personally, I don’t think there is a greater feeling.

It all started at my local club at the age of 3. I attended their Saturday morning club with boys up to the age of 5, which was junior football in its rawest state. The chaos of 20 young boys all chasing the same size 3 football around a 10 x 10m square pitch cannot have been easy for the coaches and looking back, I must take my hat off to the dads that were down every weekend watching.

The years that followed were my first insight into competitive football. My fondest memories are days spent at local tournaments, rocking up loaded with sun tan cream and an umbrella because at the end of the day, England is England, having barbeques between each match and begging our parents to let us get our hair sprayed a variety of neon colours for the day.

However, it’s not to say those early years were all bright skies and excitement. There are also several matches which are still ingrained into my mind as bordering on ‘near death experiences’. One particular morning, at Carlton High School jumps out as one of the worst. It was minus 5 degrees, 70 mph winds and hailstones that felt like golf balls at the time. It was tradition to always play 2 games, one competitive and one friendly, so all the kids got plenty of time to play. This day, needless to say the parents made it very clear that there was to be no second game and once they managed to regain the feeling in their legs, we all made our way back to the cars and off to the nearest fast food restaurant in an attempt to warm up! There were tears, red faces, numerous layers of clothing and possibly a hint of hypothermia. All in all, another great match, which I’m pretty sure we won!

Throughout my whole junior football career (career being used very loosely here), I always played an age group higher as there was no team for my age group. This rarely was an issue and looking back, it probably helped me to grow as a player. As you all know, boys at the age of 13/14 all start to become a little stronger, grow a bit taller and the shouting on the pitch tends to calm down in fear of a voice crack. For me, at the age of 11, this meant I spent my time bouncing off the bigger boys, normally ending up in a big heap looking around wondering what had happened. I decided my game had to change considerably, rather than relying on speed or the perfect pass, I had to learn how to find space and make runs, which meant I had clear space to move. The difficulties this caused me, I believe, was the perfect learning curve for what lay ahead in adult football.

At the age of 15 I moved clubs, to a slightly bigger, better, adult team. My older brother played there at the time and he said I should come down and would be more than good enough to play. I really enjoyed my first season at the club, playing for the second team and scoring goals. Needless to say, the evasive tactics I had learnt in junior football definitely came into play that year. After my first season, I was lucky enough to be asked to go down to a local Semi-Pro team to play for them. I couldn’t believe it, I had made it! No longer having to pay for football and better yet, getting paid to do so!

Dan aged 6 playing for Elvington Harriers    Dan aged 20 playing for Pocklington Town FC 1st team

Dan aged 6 playing for Elvington Harriers and aged 20 playing for Pocklington Town 1st team.

Over the next 2 years, I learnt a great deal from the players I lined up with. It shaped me into the player I am today and I am thankful I got the opportunity to play in that team. There were many ups and downs and one particular fallout led to a swift return to amateur football for me. At the time, it was very frustrating, but looking back it was the best thing that could have happened. The lessons I learned through football have made me into the man I am today. I am back playing with my friends, in a team constantly pushing for success.

As I sit writing this, I am currently in pre-season. On the back of a 46-goal season for the first team, which as a striker is a great achievement, but also a very daunting task for the year ahead. However, one thing I know is that football will continue to be my passion and I can’t wait to get back out on the pitch.

Dan O'Connor

Dan is Rolawn's Sales Executive, based in the Elvington Head Office and is responsible for customers in the north of England and Scotland. Dan joined Rolawn initially in the Customer Services Team and was promoted in 2016. Currently, Dan is playing for Pocklington Town FC, and combining his sporting passion with a desire to succeed in a commercial role.

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