Re­grets?You could say that

LIFE­STYLE RU­INED MY CA­REER

The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE PLAY-OFF PREVIEW - Scott Davies

IT ALL started as a young 14-year-old where the dream of be­ing a foot­baller was al­most be­liev­able. I was ap­proached by Read­ing whilst play­ing for Wy­combe Wan­der­ers and was asked to go on trial. It was the long­est trial ever, but it was worth it. A few months later and com­pen­sa­tion was agreed be­tween the two clubs and I was on my way.

How­ever, it wasn’t all plain sail­ing. In­jury struck and re­cur­ring back prob­lems made it dif­fi­cult to earn a schol­ar­ship. I was the last one in my age group to find out whether I was to be re­warded with a con­tract, but luck­ily on March 8, 2004, the news was pos­i­tive and I was to start full-time in July.

My mind­set changed rapidly as I still had four months of school to fin­ish. Lazi­ness set in dur­ing my GCSE ex­ams and I did the min­i­mum re­quired af­ter be­ing schooled at Ayles­bury Gram­mar.

I thought to my­self that foot­ball was the be­gin­ning of some­thing that would last for­ever. But how wrong was I?

Fast for­ward to July 2004 when I at­tended my first pre­sea­son train­ing ses­sion with Read­ing; I was ready to show­case my abil­ity. I started like a true pro­fes­sional, show­ing a great at­ti­tude as to what was re­quired. Then slowly the slop­pi­ness crept in. I be­came ‘Jack the Lad’ and thought I knew best. I didn’t do the things that were stand­ing me in such good stead at the be­gin­ning.

A cou­ple of years on I had my jaw bro­ken, which ar­guably was the best thing that ever hap­pened to me. It was a real awak­ener when Steve Cop­pell, the first-team man­ager, pulled me into his of­fice to make it known that he didn’t want to see my face at the train­ing ground for the whole sea­son and that I was go­ing on loan to Alder­shot. This was a mas­sive dent to my ego.

I drove out of train­ing ab­so­lutely gut­ted that I was sign­ing for a Con­fer­ence Na­tional team when I had squad num­ber 44 in the Pre­mier League with Read­ing. This wasn’t fair, surely? But time passed and I ab­so­lutely loved be­ing a 19-year-old ply­ing his trade in the fifth tier of English foot­ball. I was scor­ing goals, 11 in 24. I felt ap­pre­ci­ated and we went on to win the league at a can­ter.

A new two-year deal was to be wait­ing for me at Read­ing and now I was earn­ing money that I had only dreamed of.

Ridicu­lous

Back on loan to Alder­shot I went for the fol­low­ing sea­son in League Two, where I was at it again. Scor­ing 14 in 32 from mid­field and mak­ing a name for my­self with rave re­views writ­ten by the likes of Steve Clar­idge and Paul Parker.

The money I had was be­ing spent, but not wisely. New cars were bought, clothes, watches and ridicu­lous amounts on nights out. Oh, and add gam­bling to that also. I loved a bet.

There was no bet­ter buzz than get­ting com­fort­able for a long jour­ney north with your team-mates whilst play­ing poker for hours stuck on the M6 in stand­still traf­fic. We played un­til the early hours of the morn­ing when we should have been pre­par­ing for our match the next day. But I wasn’t the one to tell the boys to call it a night.

With one year left on my con­tract at Read­ing I was for­tu­nate enough to be se­lected by Bren­dan Rodgers to be in the start­ing eleven against Not­ting- ham For­est on the open­ing day of the sea­son. We drew 0-0, but yet again I re­ceived pos­i­tive feed­back from the peo­ple that mat­tered. Four games on and I was sat in the stand at Barns­ley watch­ing my team-mates with no idea why I wasn’t in­volved any longer.

My at­ti­tude, that’s why. I was the last in to train­ing and I was the first out the gates. I thought that I could do the bare min­i­mum re­quired, but this wasn’t to be. A month or so later they tried ship­ping me back to Wy­combe for half the fee they paid for me at 14 years old. Where had it all gone wrong?

At the end of the sea­son I was out the door and on my way to Craw­ley Town to sign for them on a per­ma­nent ba­sis on a twoyear deal. As a team, we had a good sea­son, get­ting pro­moted to League One, but it was very stop-start for me.

Ar­gu­ments with the man­ager re­sulted in me go­ing out on loan as I was told I would never play for the club again dur­ing a pre-sea­son trip to Portugal. Dur­ing the team-talk the man­ager was con­stantly on at me, which I felt was un­jus­ti­fied. So I got up and walked out. The boys were in com­plete shock, but I wasn’t as I knew what I was ca­pa­ble of.

The next sea­son in League One was a fresh start for me with Sean O’Driscoll. Well, I saw it that way...

A mem­ber of staff at the club had a per­sonal is­sue with me and he made it clear to the man­age­ment staff that I was un­avail­able for se­lec­tion. This per­sonal is­sue was to be over a fe­male that worked at the club, how was my luck?! Ap­par­ently you aren’t al­lowed to be friendly these days. I had worked hard for my dream to be cut short by some money-driven busi­ness­man who wasn’t judg­ing me on my foot­balling abil­ity, but my in­ter­fer­ence be­tween him and some­one he ad­mired.

So onto the next club I went. Ox­ford United, where if I’m bru­tally hon­est, I didn’t per­form to the best I could. It lasted 18 months, but went very quickly – it all seems like a blur to me now. At the end of the 2013-14 sea­son I was let go and my pro­fes­sional days were over.

Ad­dic­tion

This hit me quite hard, but not as hard as the gam­bling ad­dic­tion I faced. Hav­ing bet on my own games for a num­ber of years and other games that I shouldn’t have, it was ev­i­dent that it had be­come a real prob­lem and one that I couldn’t just stop by choice. I sought help and went to ‘Sport­ing Chance’, a rehab clinic set up by Tony Adams to hope­fully help my ad­dic­tion. I took on board ev­ery word they said and to this day I am free from a bet since June 8, 2015. This is some­thing I am ex­tremely proud of as it was some­thing that not only ru­ined my life, but ru­ined the ca­reer I adored. I now give some­thing back to the sport by go­ing and talk­ing to the young pro­fes­sion­als and telling them my ex­pe­ri­ences of where I went wrong and how they can seek the nec­es­sary help if and when they get into trou­ble like I did.

I now sit here on May 2, 2017 as an out-con­tract player af­ter two sea­sons in the Na­tional League South with Weald­stone and Ox­ford City, un­sure of where I will be ply­ing my trade next year.

It makes me feel un­easy, and leaves an un­com­fort­able knot in my stom­ach.

Among the many out-of-con­tract play­ers in Non-League foot­ball, you still have the ones who be­lieve they can make a liv­ing in the pro­fes­sional game. The play­ers that live solely off their foot­ball money and don’t work dur­ing the week as they want to keep the tag of be­ing a ‘baller’ next to their name. Some would say that it’s time to wake up and get a re­al­ity check.

It’s not given to you, it’s a re­ward. A re­ward for the hard work and ded­i­ca­tion through­out the tough times to even­tu­ally get you to the good times.

But even then, it still may not hap­pen.

PICTURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

GOOD TIMES: Scott Davies in his Alder­shot days

CHANCE: Read­ing man­ager Bren­dan Rodgers, right

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