HOW I CHANGED INTO MR HAPPY

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By John Wragg

THE flat screen TV in re­cep­tion at Wolves’ train­ing ground is on. It’s not the usual foot­ball news of the day, it’s the news from the war in Mo­sul and chill­ing sto­ries of 12- and 13-year-old boys plant­ing bombs.

Dave Ed­wards takes it all in. He runs a chil­dren’s nurs­ery and has also just set-up a char­ity for kids with dis­abil­i­ties.

“It’s sad. That 12-year-old hasn’t got a chance,” he says. “With chil­dren, they grow up to be the sum of their en­vi­ron­ment.

“It takes a very en­light­ened hu­man be­ing to come from a tough up­bring­ing, from a very con­trolled en­vi­ron­ment that is go­ing to play against them when they are older, to think ‘Oh no, I'm go­ing to change my be­liefs’.”

Ed­wards is com­ing to­wards the end of a Cham­pi­onship rel­e­ga­tion fight that Wolves look as if they are about to win.

He’s in the mid­dle of a dou­ble train­ing ses­sion, has had a bite to eat and faces a ses­sion with the physio. He’s re­minded about it with a knock on the dress­ing room door, where we’ve moved for the in­ter­view.

Prompt

Ed­wards’14-year foot­ball ca­reer has been spent in rooms like this, most no­tably at Wolves where he played and scored in the Premier League and was rel­e­gated down to League One.

His foot­ball de­but as a sub for Shrewsbury Town, in a 2-1 home de­feat by Scunthorpe, was the day his home town club went out the Foot­ball League.

Ed­wards’ ca­reer, like Boris Johnson’s hair, has been all over the place.

But it’s noth­ing com­pared to what was on TV just down the cor­ri­dor.

“I’ll be there in a minute,” says Ed­wards to the prompt about the physio. His mind is still on Mo­sul.

“You know when peo­ple look at you and think you are ex­actly like your mum and dad, the way you act, man­ner­isms, the way you think about things? It's the same for these chil­dren.”

Ed­wards, 31, is one of the busiest men in foot­ball.

On the pitch, he was the first in the Cham­pi­onship to make 100 tack­les this sea­son. He’s scored a ca­reer-best ten goals and the last time that was done by a Wolves mid­field player was the late Andy King 31 years ago.

Off the pitch, he runs his play cen­tre, Lit­tle Ras­cals, with his life­time friend Ben Woot­ton and has his foun­da­tion for chil­dren with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties.

“We pro­vide a ser­vice for hol­i­day clubs for chil­dren, to give the par­ents a bit of respite,” says Ed­wards.

“The first lit­tle boy we helped we bought him a spe­cialised travel cot. He had never been on hol­i­day since he was a baby. He needs a lot of space when he sleeps and he ob­vi­ously can’t just turn up for a nor­mal hol­i­day. They just wouldn’t be able to take him.

“He is seven years old, so we bought this cot and they are go­ing away for the first time since he was a baby, go­ing to Cen­ter Parcs.”

There was a launch even­ing for the char­ity last Satur­day af­ter Ed­wards had helped Wolves beat Cardiff.

Welsh man­ager Chris Cole­man went to the event at Shrewsbury’s ground, giv­ing it added pro­file, per­suad­ing peo­ple to dig a bit deeper into their pock­ets.

“The stand-out mo­ment of my ca­reer was that first game for Wales in the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships,” says Ed­wards.

“It was be­cause I started that game (against Slo­vakia). Ev­ery­one was fit and avail­able and, in my head, I hadn’t been 100 per cent sure if I was go­ing to even be in the fi­nal 23.

“You watch ma­jor tour­na­ments through your child­hood and there was some­thing spe­cial about me lin­ing up, singing the na­tional an­them, the first game at a ma­jor tour­na­ment.

“And to have my kids watch­ing on telly as well. Yes, spe­cial.”

Ed­wards says he has changed. Ma­tured is a bet­ter word.

“When I was younger I was very much ‘come in, train, go home’. Think about foot­ball, about why I might not be play­ing on Satur­day, why I might be play­ing. Think about it when I’m in bed. Wake up in the morn­ing foot­ball, foot­ball, foot­ball.

“The char­ity it does fill me with a sense of, what’s the words…? It’s al­most like a duty for foot­ballers. We are put on a pedestal, we get all these amaz- ing things.You are a role model for chil­dren and you’ve got to use it in the right way.

“I’m nowhere near the de­gree of David Beck­ham or Wayne Rooney and the amount of peo­ple they can reach, but I am very lucky.

Con­tact

“The amount of peo­ple we have fol­low­ing us via so­cial me­dia and the amount of time we get in putting our mes­sage across is more than most peo­ple. So, you have got to use it in the right way.

“I was brought up in a great en­vi­ron­ment in terms of my mum work­ing with adults with dis­abil­i­ties for a long time. I would go to the home where she worked. I was al­ways around and in con­tact with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties and Ben has got a real pas­sion in that area.

“There’s a young girl we are try­ing to help. She’s got cere­bral palsy and she needs an op­er­a­tion which isn’t funded on the NHS. She is hav­ing to raise 60 grand for the op­er­a­tion and an ex­tra £15,000 for the in­tense phys­io­ther­apy af­ter­wards.”

In­juries and Wolves’ plunge from Premier League to League One hit him hard.

“If I was down at foot­ball, which I was a lot when I was out in­jured, I’d say it was bor­der­line de­pres­sion,” re­veals Ed­wards.

“It had a big ef­fect on my home life, but I made that switch. I would make sure I was happy at home and then carry that into foot­ball.

“The dou­ble rel­e­ga­tion was hard for the club and I don’t think any­one suf­fered more than me. I was re­ally strug­gling.

“I had a pretty aw­ful re­la­tion­ship with the fans at that point. They would have wanted me out as quick as they could. My per­for­mances weren’t great and my body was giv­ing up on me.

“That’s the point where I went away from foot­ball and con­cen­trated on fam­ily life and be­ing happy – a lot more per­sonal devel­op­ment. I just made sure I had a com­plete hap­pi­ness away from the game and any­thing else is a bonus.

“I changed ev­ery­thing, from the way I eat to the way I sleep. I got up early ev­ery morn­ing be­fore the kids and spent time read­ing.

“Be­fore, it would have been foot­ball and watch­ing telly all the time. It has been an up­ward curve in terms of the amount of min­utes I have played on the pitch, the foot­ball I have been play­ing.

“There was a physio called Carl Howarth – he’s at Ever­ton now – who said he’d been lis­ten­ing to and read­ing the stuff I did with the press and on the web­site and ev­ery time I talked I was go­ing on about be­ing in­jured and get­ting fit.

“He said I was putting so much em­pha­sis on it that it was work­ing against me. He said to read this book on an out­look of life and see what I thought. It’s ba­si­cally what you think, you be­come.

“I am a very, very – my wife,

Emma, will say an­noy­ingly – happy per­son. She says I will find the good in ev­ery­thing.

“I’m ter­ri­ble with the kids be­cause I don’t like to tell them off. On my phone I will have a col­lage of pic­tures that make me happy. Me scor­ing a goal, my fam­ily, hol­i­days, things like that.

“Ev­ery time I feel a bad force com­ing into my mind I will click my phone on and have a look at the pic­tures. It has be­come au­to­matic.

“I am proud of the teams I’ve played for and how well I’ve done be­cause I was a late starter. When my chance came to go to Shrewsbury, to be bru­tally hon­est I was very pes­simistic, think­ing not too many make it.

Nerves

“That de­but, when they got rel­e­gated, if I’d never played a Foot­ball League game again it was huge.

“I’d never known nerves like it. I had to be at the ground for 1.30pm and it was only 15 min­utes from my fam­ily home, but I left at 12 so I wouldn’t be late.

“It felt like I was a kid again wait­ing for my mum to take me to foot­ball be­cause I couldn’t drive. I was out­side in my track­suit kick­ing the ball up against the wall wait­ing to go.

“I used to stand in the River Side Stand at the old Gay Meadow, the stand where you used to lose the ball in the river. We had this goal kick and the ball went up and the flood­lights were on and I saw the River Side.

“It was just like slow mo­tion, I was stood in the mid­dle of all this play­ing in front of a crowd.

“It’s been mile­stones right through to last sum­mer when I played in the Eu­ros. The roller­coast­ers, the ups and downs, have been part of the jour­ney.

“When you are young the thought of pro­fes­sional foot­ball is so far away, isn’t it? Go­ing up the lad­der, it’s like be­ing in a gi­gan­tic film, like Hol­ly­wood.”

ALLSMILES: Dave Ed­wards at the Lit­tle Ras­cals Foun­da­tion launch with pre­sen­ter Jac­qui Oat­ley

FAM­ILY MAN: Wales’ Ed­wards with his chil­dren Evie, 4, and Jack, 6

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

GLEE CLUB: Dave Ed­wards cel­e­brates a goal for Wolves and, inset right, with his wife Emma

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