Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Confessions of a failed sports fan

This is an edited version of my column in the Bath Chronicle of December 11

It struck me on Sunday night that if I could just change one tiny letter in a description of myself it would make my life so much more complete. All I would need to do is substitute the letter ‘m’ for the letter ‘f’ in the following sentence; Sam Holliday is a great sports fan.

The reason this thought hit me at the weekend was because I was invited to attend the fantastic BBC (at-its-best) Sports Personality of the Year Awards for the west area, held at the University of Bath. I shared the same room with Olympic medallists, great footballers, some of the biggest names in rugby and racing and many of our greatest Paralympians as we honoured what has been an incredible year of sporting achievement by local people.

And if ever you needed proof of just how highly our city is regarded in the sporting world, the commendable decision to host these prestigous awards at our brilliant TeamBath campus said it all.

But, rather like being asked to judge the final of the world’s sexiest man, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat inadequate in the presence of such masters of their art, and I did drive home thinking miserably about my own bumbling sporting ‘pedigree’.

OK, so I did manage to play for my school at rugby (I was one of those big guys desperately trying to hide from the action in the second row) but football was my true love and in this particular sporting field the word ‘Failure’ has been stamped very clearly on my life report. I would love to have been an accomplished footballer but only one small thing held me back – talent.

Despite the fact that in all truth my two left feet both had left feet, I was always desperate to play the game whenever I could, and I thought I had my big break at the age of just 21 when I was invited to be the player-manager of a struggling Sunday league outfit.

I was, at the time, the sports editor of my local paper and I think I was asked because some people fell for that old (and sadly misguided) idea that because you write about sport you might actually have an idea how to play it. (If you want further proof of this absolutely NOT being the case, you are welcome to visit our sports desk any day you wish!)

But, when offered a player- manager’s role I ignored the voice in my head that said ‘don’t’ and went for it. After all it worked for Dalglish, Gullit and Hoddle for a while, so why not me? Surely this was my chance to shine as a boss like my huge hero Brian Clough (pictured above)? The way I saw it, I could now pick myself for every game, I could play whatever position I wanted and my hitherto undiscovered ball skills would (finally) be realised and appreciated by the unsuspecting public.

The reality was being player-manager meant all I had to do was get all the hassle, pay everybody else’s subs and (worse of all), not even get a place in the staring X1 because my fellow players vetoed me out of it.I am as sick as a parrot to admit it was a total nightmare.

Of course, this doesn’t mean I won’t keep yearning for a change in my fortunes and unlike many famous footballers/rugby players (Josh Lewsey being the latest this week), I will never officially resign from international sport.

Just in case.

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