Publication Date: 2 September 2021
As essential guide for all young football stars in the making written by the author of Ultimate Football Heroes and a former professional footballer.
From Matt Oldfield, the author of Ultimate Football Heroes, and former professional footballer, Seth Burkett, comes an exciting new book for young football stars in the making. In bite-size chapters, learn the secrets of over 20 footballing legends, including how to dribble like Messi, overcome adversity like Harry Kane and set and score goals like Vivianne Miedema. With top tips on how to train, play, think and live smart, as well as challenges for the reader, this inspiring and interactive guide will inspire football-mad kids to play just like their heroes.
I am delighted to welcome Seth and Matt to my blog today with a fabulous guest post all about…
Our childhood memories of football and what the game means to us
30 June 1998. A young Seth Burkett sits with mouth open wide as the England number 20 receives the ball. His name is Michael Owen and he is already Liverpool’s first choice striker, even though he has only just left school. The pass arrives and with his first touch he caresses the ball with the outside of his boot. The touch is so perfect that he’s already past the first defender, Jose Chamot. Chamot desperately attempts to get back to the ball but Owen is too fast and too strong. One, two, three touches and all of a sudden he’s at the edge of the Argentina box.
The Argentinian number 2, Roberto Ayala, stands in his way.
Owen feints to go left, shimmies right. Ayala follows the feint, but not the shimmy. Now Michael Owen is in the penalty area with just the goalkeeper to beat. He doesn’t even need to look at where the goal is. He just knows. Owen draws his right boot back and sends a thunderbolt of a shot past the goalkeeper to put England 2-1 in the lead.
It was the most beautiful goal that I had ever seen.
Especially because it gave England the lead in the Round of 16 of the first World Cup that I’d ever watched.
The joy that spread across my face would not last. Javier Zanetti equalised for the Argentinians on 45 minutes. Then, just minutes into the second half, came the hammer blow. David Beckham flicked up his boot at Diego Simeone and was sent off. The ten players of England held on courageously but lost the match on penalties and were eliminated.
It had been a rollercoaster of emotions that I couldn’t wait to experience again. I had to see more football. Had to play more football.
Soon enough my life became football and football became my life.
I got a season ticket at my local team, Peterborough United, with my dad. It wasn’t quite the same standard as England but it was good enough to have me hooked. My bedroom became plastered with Peterborough United and England memorabilia. I wore my Peterborough and England kits up the school field while kicking a ball about with my mates. On that school field I could be David Beckham, Michael Owen, or even Peterborough United legend Giuliano Grazioli.
Playing alongside my friends was more fun than anything I’d ever done. We began to play proper matches for our school team, and soon enough I was offered the chance to play for the Peterborough United academy.
Suddenly football wasn’t just something that I did for fun. It was something that I could do for the rest of my life as a job. Playing football in an academy not only allowed me to play against the best players my age in the country, but also taught me the importance of training smart, living smart, playing smart and thinking smart. We had talks from nutritionists, psychologists and fitness coaches. It was an education on and off the football pitch.
I want other young footballers to have the opportunities that I’ve been fortunate to have. That’s why I wrote Play Like Your Football Heroes alongside the brilliant author Matt Oldfield. It’s packed full of tips from top pros that’ll help anybody to up their game. You’ll learn training secrets from superstars such as Lionel Messi and Vivianne Miedema and understand how you can take yourself to the next level.
19 May 2001. After 103 years at ‘The Dell’, Southampton FC were moving on to a bigger and (supposedly) better stadium on the other side of the city. But first, one last farewell – a home game against Thierry Henry’s Arsenal.
I was 12 years old at the time and I loved The Dell like no other. Almost all of my football memories stemmed from that small, atmospheric stadium with the cramped pitch that visiting teams really hated playing on. Southampton 6 Manchester United 3 – forget the grey shirts fiasco; The Dell and the fans that filled it were the main inspiration for that famous victory.
So, could The Saints pull off one final underdog victory at The Dell as a suitable goodbye? My brother Tom and I certainly hoped so as we took our seats in the sell-out crowd. Usually, we went to games with our dad and grandad, but for some reason, it was just us that day, which made the whole event all the more exciting.
Thankfully, the match itself lived up to everyone’s expectations, even mine. Arsenal took the lead twice, but Southampton’s Moroccan magician Hassan Kachloul hit back both times. 2-2 with 20 minutes to go – so far, so fun. But then came the moment us Saints supporters were waiting for – off came Kevin Davies, and on came ‘Le God’.
Local heroes don’t come much greater than Matt Le Tissier. In fact, footballers don’t come much greater than Matt Le Tissier. If you don’t believe me, watch his many moments of genius on YouTube. But despite offers from bigger clubs, he had decided to spend his whole career at Southampton, starring at The Dell.
Le Tissier’s most glorious days were now over and he was looking more than a little chubby, but could he come up with one last moment of genius at The Dell? Yes, he could! In the 89th minute, a long ball bounced enticingly just inside the penalty area and ‘Le God’ swivelled to smash a sweet left-footed half-volley into the top corner. 3-2 to Southampton!
What a goal, what a moment! The home crowd went absolutely wild and Tom and I were in the middle of it all, loving every second. Talk about a party atmosphere! When the final whistle blew a few minutes later, we Saints fans hopped over the barriers and spilled out onto the pitch to celebrate another famous underdog victory, but most importantly, to say thank you to The Dell for all the amazing memories (oh and to take a bit of the turf home with us).
In the years since, I’ve written a lot of books about football – some fiction, some non-fiction – but there’s no way I’ll ever come up with a better story than the last game at The Dell, or a more unbelievable ending than Le God’s late winner. That right there is why I fell in love with the beautiful game. That right there is football magic.
Fancy a sneak peek inside the book? Head over to Walker Books for a look inside.
Huge thanks to Seth and Matt for that fabulous guest post. Do make sure you check out their other posts on teh blog tour.