PRISON WAS A DARK TIME, BUT I CAME OUT FAR STRONGER

Ex-hooli­gan Wells loses two stone in quest for new start

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO - By Sam El­liott

THERE are play­ers who love their foot­ball – and then there are play­ers who LOVE their foot­ball.

Steve­nage’s Dean Wells, a school care­taker a few short months ago, has more than a soft spot for a game that’s in­grained in him.

It was only at the start of last sea­son that he called time on his other ca­reer. His Sun­day League ca­reer, that is.

De­spite be­ing one of the Con­fer­ence Premier’s most well-re­garded de­fend­ers, noth­ing could stop the Brain­tree Town player get­ting his boots on the next morn­ing after bat­tling the likes of Lu­ton Town, Grimsby and Wrex­ham only hours be­fore.

Well, one thing could – a con­tract. His first con­tract in fact, and one that meant no more West Mid­dle­sex League run-outs along­side the hun­gover masses on west London’s ‘rus­tic’ pitches.

But his pas­sion hasn’t al­ways been so well placed and partly ex­plains why this Brent­ford sup­porter had to wait un­til the age of 29 for his first pro con­tract.

Three years ago, Wells was re­leased from prison hav­ing served six months of a year’s sen­tence for his part in an ar­ranged brawl be­tween fans in May 2010 out­side Liver­pool Street sta­tion.

The ban­ning or­der placed on him and other mem­bers of the groups found guilty of the disor- der after ri­val Brent­ford and Ley­ton Ori­ent fans clashed barred them from go­ing within a mile of a sta­dium on match­days.

A tall or­der for a Con­fer­ence Premier player.

Wells said: “We ap­pealed be­cause I was a semi-pro foot­baller, and, thank­fully, the po­lice ac­cepted that and I was al­lowed in to grounds when I was play­ing. But if I was sus­pended or in­jured, I had to stay at home. I couldn’t go and watch.

“I’ve got a lot of love for foot­ball, and ev­ery­one that knows me un­der­stands I have a pas­sion for Brent­ford. Since I was four years old they’ve been in my heart, but one day a few years ago it went too far.

Weird

“We were out drink­ing and the beer gog­gles came out. Brent­ford were play­ing Hartle­pool and Ley­ton Ori­ent were at home to Colch­ester.

“We went into London for a drink, some­one saw some­thing on face­book, and be­fore we knew it, ar­range­ments were be­ing made for a meet up.

“Some­one came up with the bright idea of meet­ing them at Liver­pool Street sta­tion and things got se­ri­ously out of hand.

“I’m not go­ing to put the blame on any­one else. I was 25, I knew bet­ter.

“I spent the first five months in Bel­marsh and the last month in Holles­ley Bay, in Suf­folk. It changed me. In a weird way get­ting caught and go­ing down was the best thing that could have ever hap­pened.

“I would never glo­rify go­ing away – but this was a se­ri­ous re­al­ity check, I don’t want to say I needed it but I needed some­thing to slap me in the face quite hard. Six months inside al­lowed me to get my head right.

“When I came out of prison my whole fo­cus on life changed. I’ll be hon­est – sit­ting be­hind those bars think­ing of my three­year-old son and my fam­ily made me re­alise what a self­ish, ter­ri­ble per­son I had be­come. I’d rather go and have a drink than do fam­ily things.

“Now my life is dif­fer­ent – it’s about earn­ing money to support my kids and make them proud.”

Wells did get his head right. Gone was the drink and the anger, in was the gym and his only tip­ple was con­cen­tra­tion. Real fo­cus for the first time.

“I got my mind straight, I knew deep down that I had the abil­ity, but the ded­i­ca­tion to im­prov­ing my game had to get bet­ter,” added the cen­tre-back, who had pre­vi­ously played at Hamp­ton & Rich­mond and Staines Town.

“Since I went in, I have man­aged to lose two-and-a-half stone. I could ac­tu­ally move prop­erly on the pitch, so go­ing to prison has con­trib­uted to my foot­ball.

“I was nearly 16 stone be­fore that. Do you know how happy it makes me that they no longer scream ‘you fat ****’ from be­hind the goal!

“I al­ways en­joyed play­ing, but it was time to get se­ri­ous – I had an am­bi­tion, and that was to be­come a full-time pro­fes­sional, ide­ally in the Foot­ball League.

“I got that in the sum­mer. My form for Brain­tree caught a few club’s eyes and I was lucky enough that Gra­ham West­ley wanted me, Steve­nage put in a bid and I got my move. I was ec­static.

Faith

“I’ve loved ev­ery sec­ond of it this sea­son. I scored against Wim­ble­don last week­end and I think I am start­ing to show I can deal with this level of the game.

“The man­ager has put his faith in me, like a few peo­ple have done over the years. It’s about re­pay­ing it, en­joy­ing my foot­ball and hope­fully hav­ing a good sea­son.

“I have learned my les­son and it’s a dark pe­riod I don’t ever want to re­visit.You can come out of prison stronger.”

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