At this level, a good lively dressing room can make the difference from winning the league to struggling around the relegation places. The good vibe can spread through the group and maximise the potential of the players. On the other hand, a few bad eggs will spread through the team like Lurpack and can really affect results.
I have been lucky enough to experience part time and full time football, although very briefly at full time level. I’m afraid to say speed and a half decent left foot will only get you so far when you’re built like a Pepperami, can’t tackle and have a right foot just for standing on. With this in mind, I don’t think I am qualified to discuss the full time dressing room but I think I have just enough experience to tackle some elements of the part time changing room.
The majority of us part time footballers tend to work fulltime jobs and by the time training comes you can be absolutely knackered. Sometimes you will even get the odd lad who will work Saturday pre game and makes it just in time for the warm up. My team mate’s jobs have varied from normal trades such as electricians and plumbers to the more unique jobs such as pest control. In the case of the latter, I have even seen this teammate bring in dead rodents and hide them in the young player’s trainers…
I am lucky enough to work Monday to Friday as a teacher where I routinely get ripped apart by 10 year olds. Unfortunately for me, this only continues into the dressing room. It’s a tough hunting ground where simply being a nice fella won’t really suffice. You have to be tough or at least thick skinned to thrive in this environment. Nothing is off limits, and I regularly get the piss taken out me – these blogs haven’t helped my case! If you can take it from a 10 year old you can take it from a big ugly footballer. I am patient and bide my time and like to wind up those who will chomp on anything. Football is full of madmen which I take no greater pleasure in prodding slowly until they lose the plot and throw a wobbly.
I have never known a dressing room that does not value the initiation tradition. You can really endear yourself to your teammates with a solid performance during your initiation. These usually centre round singing a song in front of the whole dressing room. Luckily I can sing, dance and act thanks to my mum forcing me to go to the after school drama club as a youth. My rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” goes down a treat but there are those who are truly awful (which get the best reception) and then there are those who cannot pluck up the courage at all – they end up having to put a sizeable donation into the Walter Mitty.
Whether the boys know it or not – there will be specific areas of the dressing room where you know you will find a certain team mate. Players can be very particular with where they sit and can be thrown off if you sit in their seat. I knew I would always find Iain (Yano) Campbell perched underneath the clubs only extra large jersey.
Then there are certain players you will always find lurking in the physio’s room. The budget at lower league clubs usually means that the poor physio will be overworked and have to work with very little resources. His job is made even harder by the same players who are super glued to the physio bed suffering from a terrible case of trainingitis. Strange condition that tends to clear up by 3pm on a Saturday afternoon but come Monday 7pm it’s reared its ugly head again. Traditionally these players are match winners, so I’m happy to let them off if they secure me a win bonus.
Showers are a strange place, everything is open and erm transparent. A real bonding experience with several pitfalls which can end up in a fine. No flip flops, no towel or no shower gel can make you £5 – £20 poorer depending on the harshness of the dreaded fine committee (fine system probably deserves its own blog). There have been many colleagues I will deliberately avoid and those will be the men that spend an awful long time in the shower… I will usually be found close by to my more modest team mates to help me feel a bit better about myself. One rule you must be aware of: Don’t come strolling into the shower with your boxers on – it will bring unwanted attention. We’re all friends here.
Although tough places, they are great places. The time spent with these guys brings you closer together and behind every good team there is usually a good dressing room. Of course there will usually be cliques (usually car school cliques) but the season spent with these guys will bring you closer together. If you doubt the bonds you are forming, ask yourself the following:
Would you rather spend a night out with your part time team mates or your full time work colleagues?
I think I know the answer.