PRISON WAS A DARK TIME, BUT I CAME OUT FAR STRONGER
Ex-hooligan Wells loses two stone in quest for new start
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.
“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.
“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.”