Someone once told me that the term God-given talent is nonsense. That it didn’t exist.
It just so happens that it was Sky Sports Spanish journalist Guillem Balague who I had the upmost of respect for right up until that point.
He said it too as he was chatting about Lionel Messi of all people. There’s no such thing as God-given talent, he reckons, you have to work at it.
Now I’m not suggesting that Messi – the second best player in the world – hasn’t worked hard at what he has got but I’m definitely up for putting it out there that if me and Leo Messi had went through the exact same childhood, the same teams, the same sessions, education, playing football and training ourselves identically, I still think he’d be marginally better than me.
The only way to explain that is ability.
For God’s sake, I’m sure Wayne Rooney hasn’t done much extra than what Emile Heskey would have done throughout his career and developing through what must have been a mercurial underage career. The only difference is that when Rooney was out smashing footballs and dribbling past friends in his spare time, Heskey was out in his backyard backing off into imaginary defenders asking someone to hoist a ball towards him so he could guide it in.
On Tuesday night, I play indoor up at the Brandywell. I probably kick a ball more than most of them throughout the week and yet when it comes to the big showdown, the crunch five-on-five, I’m not the one that people are coming away thinking has a God-given talent.
One left-footed volley ends with the ball not moving as I smash it straight into the ground and trip up with a crippled ankle. I jump nets and eventually shake it off. When I finally get back out, I burst straight forward, I’m through on goal. I dilly, I dally, a tackle comes in from the right, I go straight over my right ankle and fall in a heap and this time I’m not coming back out of nets.
Peter Hutton’s first impressions of the Derry media mustn’t have been too impressive as he saw me hobbling towards him with two tennis balls for ankles not knowing which toe to limp on. I could just hear the thoughts now as walking looked like a big enough struggle for me, “That boy’s obviously never kicked a ball in his life.”
I’ve tried to at least, just ask my left ankle.
But it’s not even in football circles. There I was on Monday videoing a Sugababe… hang on… there I was on Monday doing a video interview with Jade Ewen who is doing a play in the Millennium Forum (that sounds less dodgy) and she’s dropping me hints everywhere – or so I’ve convinced myself anyway.
“I don’t know anyone in Derry, I’ve no one to take me out.” So there I was, the in I was looking for, a fantasy about to come real surely. Maybe Balague was right, maybe it was all about hard work and God only knows that I’ve had my share of knockbacks with girls. But I had persisted and, here I was, having worn down an English lingerie model, all I had to do was take the bait.
“I’m sure you’ll find someone, Jade,” I reply. “Right, see ye later.”
And they say there’s no such thing as ability.
My mammy reckons I’m too good for her anyway.
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