“When I’m not organising fun-runs to raise diabetes awareness, or updating my IMDB page, I offer free and impartial counseling to some of soccer’s brightest young stars,” boasts “Gary Mabbutt” (not, I’m sure, to be confused with former Spurs captain Gary Mabbutt), whose “Dear Abbey”-esque column is just one of the highlights to be found at The Gaffer.
Dear Uncle Gary,
Ever since I was a youngster I’ve always been told I should be a centre back because I am tall and naturally big-built. My dad was what you’d call an old-fashioned alpha centre back, and he wanted me to follow in his footsteps. However, I started to have strange feelings when I was about 15 or 16. I’d spend hours fantasising about kicking the ball towards the net rather than away from it, or imagine falling extravagantly to the ground when I came into contact with other players rather than standing my ground and making ‘he dived’ gestures with my hands.
A few weeks ago after I’d had a few too many Powerades with the lads, I got dragged to a late night five a side session “ one of those games where everyone plays any position they want, no questions asked. I volunteered to play out on the wing and despite lacking any pace or technique, I felt for the first time that I was really me. Ever since, I’ve felt like my whole life is a sham. I’m desperate to come out and tell everyone, but I’m worried my friends and teammates won’t accept the ‘new’ me. I know now that I’m a flamboyant winger trapped in an uncompromising centre back’s body. What should I do?
D. Wheater, Teeside
Mabbutt says: The first step is always the hardest “ admitting it to yourself, and you’ve done that. Now you have to start your new life and forget about the past. If your burly friends and defensively-minded teammates don’t accept you, then they’re not worth knowing. It won’t be long before similarly open players are flocking to meet the fabulous new you!
Believe it or not, a young Nick Barmby came to me as an apprentice at Spurs, crying his eyes out convinced that he was meant to be a goalkeeper. He didn’t have the bravery to open up to his peers, and look where he is now: dead. Stay strong, and remember, Uncle Gary’s always free for a chat (but please don’t call after 9, Brenda’ll kill me).