Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to spend the day as a professional footballer? Even if the flashy car, massive pay cheque and glamorous wife weren’t thrown in as part of the deal writes Adam Thompson.
Wolves have had me on their books before. But that time it was playing FIFA on the Xbox – and I ended up getting sold.
But this time would be different. I was sure of it. Of course, as fans, we’ve all given out a fair share of opinion to the players on the pitch. And as a Wolves fan standing on the South Bank, there’s been many a time the ability and commitment of some of those on the hallowed Molineux turf has come into question.
For most supporters, their efforts on the training ground mean nothing if they can’t produce it on the pitch come Saturday.
Of course, the players themselves wouldn’t see it like that, after hours of blood, sweat and tears during the week in the build up to kick-off.
So what does really go on behind the scenes?
Now it was my moment in the spotlight. I joined two Wolves heroes for a training day.
The event was organised as part of Wolves star Jody Craddock’s testimonial year, giving super fans the opportunity to train with club legends and get a glimpse where us mere mortals are never usually allowed.
Arriving at the multi-million pound Compton training ground, 20-odd fans were given an introduction by Matt Murray into the ‘Wolves way’ and life playing for Wolverhampton Wanderers.
And it’s a good thing the amateurs turned up on time yesterday – as Murray revealed a system of penalties on players’ wallets for being late.
Reminiscing about his time playing under former Wolves manager Mick McCarthy, he said: “If you were late by one second for training, it was a £50 fine. If you were late out on the pitch it was a £50 fine.
“If you left any of your kit out on the pitches you were fined. Mick would use the money collected by the fines and pay for a night out for all the staff. The rest was given to charity,” he told us.
It was an insight into the regime that was at the club with Murray re-iterating it was all part of the ‘discipline’ and ‘dressing room banter’ that kept potentially multi-million pound footballers in check.
The walls of the Compton training ground are lined with pictures celebrating the success stories of the Wolves Academy – Robbie Keane, Joleon Lescott, Danny Batth and David Davis to name a few.
And its bosses are keen to make sure their footballers nurture their brains as well as their ball skills, running an education programme alongside football training and insisting all of its young players greet everyone they meet with ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’ to instill discipline.
Before getting down to business it was breakfast time.
Believing the option of scrambled eggs on toast was the healthy one, the group flocked to the hot food counter – only for the professionals to flood in and head straight for the cereal bowls.
Maybe that’s why we’ve never been signed up?
Food devoured, it was finally time to embrace the task ahead. Now was our chance to show Wolves what they had been missing all those years – or so we thought.
Murray gave the orders to get changed and it was on to the dressing room. Passing Kevin Doyle and George Elokobi on the way I was secretly confident that my football skills would get me noticed. But within minutes of stepping on to the pitch it was clear the Ronaldo-like performance I’d dreamt about the previous night – and that left foot the commentators had been screaming about – was indeed just a dream.
“There’s footballs going everywhere” yelled a frustrated Murray.
And it got even worse, as Murray and Craddock taught us a ‘simple’ passing exercise. Well, there was nothing simple about it as far as us wannabes were concerned, leading ex-Wolves keeper Murray to shout: “You were in the demonstration for this, how can you get it wrong?”
I wished I could run back in to the South Bank.
But, as Steven Gerrard had written in his autobiography, “On the football field there is no hiding place” and this was our chance – even if only for a few hours – to be a professional football player.
‘Time to man-up Adam’ I thought as I put aside my failure at the complexities of passing a ball and running to the right cone.
We were separated into three teams and someone thought it’d be a good idea to shove me up front. I wasn’t going to say no.
I had to prove I had some ability, if only to myself.
My chance was to come, collecting a pass from the left, one touch for control, before lamping the ball in the bottom corner.
The shout of ‘clinical’ bellowed from the sidelines...or at least that’s what I thought I heard.
I even threatened another goal when I danced (or possible hokey-cokeyed) around several players only for my shot to trickle tamely into the goalkeeper’s hands.
I’m afraid to say my performance didn’t get any better – and after three hours of being put through the mill I was panting like an over excited Labrador and walking like the tin-man.
Kenny Jackett hasn’t yet called but that hasn’t calmed the little boy inside who still thinks he can dazzle the Nou Camp, never mind Molineux.
That little kid with dreams of football fame is now hyperactive.
So, come on, who’s gonna sign me then?
The training day was part of the launch of events to mark the testimonial year of Jody Craddock. The popular defender was awarded a testimonial following more than 500 career appearances and 10 years at Wolves. For more information on upcoming events visit www.jc6.co.uk