MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TALENT
Veteran goal king Jamie Cureton’s advice:
SELF-CONFESSED party animal Jamie Cureton credits the decision to hang up his dancing shoes a decade ago as the reason he is still scoring goals aged 39.
And now English football’s oldest outfield player is on a mission to ensure his young Dagenham & Redbridge teammates do not make the same mistakes he did.
Cureton openly admits the lifestyle choices he made amid rattling in goals for Bristol Rovers and Reading, after bursting onto the scene with Norwich, cost him the chance to play at a higher level for a longer period of time and now, each summer, he travels the breadth of the country bidding to win a contract.
The dressing room he currently finds himself in is bursting with young talent, desperate to make a name for themselves and move their career path upwards.
Among them, 18-year-old Alex Jakubiak, on loan from Watford, hopped on the District Line to get home from Dagenham’s Tuesday night win over Hartlepool, while Joss Labadie is another more accustomed to using an Oyster card than a credit card.
You will barely find a more down-to-earth bunch than at Victoria Road and Cureton hopes his pearls of wisdom are paying off.
“I talk to the boys all the time about not taking things for granted,” he said. “When I hit 35 I tried a few different things in order to keep playing. I had a diet change, I hadn’t really been going out since I was 30, but that stopped – the drinking, partying.
“I knew if I wanted to play for longer I would have to sacrifice more now than when I was a kid. I did and it’s paid off. I get banter from the younger boys, they say ‘Oh, he’s off again’. But I do try and tell them, because I started at the very top and I didn’t appreciate it. I didn’t do enough with the talent I had, then I ended up dropping down and having to work my way back up.
“Even the guys in their mid-20s, they’re here and I’m saying ‘This is your platform’. Try to play higher and look after yourself, because you will hit 30 and think ‘I wish I had done that’. I know I do, but luckily I did something about it. I didn’t play at the highest level again, but played for longer and I try and get them to do that.
“If one player out of the squad takes that on board, then hopefully I’ve done something good.”
Cureton hit the 250th league goal of his career in Dagenham’s 2-1 defeat at Mansfield last weekend and still charges around the field with the same enthusiasm he did as a teenager.
Though he turns 40 in August, retiring is not on the agenda – particularly with the Bristol-born ace fearing he may have missed the boat on a media career.
“If I’d have retired at the normal age, at 35, I would probably have had an in somewhere,” he added.
“It seems a lot of players are going down that route. They don’t want the pressure of management and it’s a nice job.
“Bigger stars are retiring like Thierry Henry, going straight into a job and I’m thinking I should have retired four years ago.
“I’ve been doing co-commentary for Radio Norfolk on Norwich games, and whoever I speak to I ask if there’s any work I can do, because I enjoy it and I think I have a vast amount of knowledge having played from the Championship right through the Football League. Hopefully that will be my in with someone.
“If not then it will be footballrelated, because I’ve literally done nothing else. I started my badges last year, but because I was trying to earn a contract I couldn’t do my final assessment.
“So I do think about the future, but at the same time I’m still trying to play. I know my wife Lisa and my family moan, but my priority is to play.
“It’s very hard to do that if I’m going coaching until midnight, driving around everywhere, so it’s trying to balance everything.
“But I’m trying to prepare because I know it will be a massive void in my life. If I can stay in the game that will make me feel a lot happier.”
DOING WHAT HE DOES BEST: Jamie Cureton scores for Dagenham & Redbridge against one of his old clubs, Exeter City
PLENTY TO SHOUT ABOUT: Celebrating for Reading and Queens Park Rangers
FLYING HIGH: Cureton started his career with Norwich and later returned