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My time at..Leeds United.Part 3 A Yorkshire derby and stitches.

October 19, 2010 1 comment

 

Obviously now I realise that making your debut was the ‘easy’ bit. Staying there is the difficult part. One thing that has stuck in my mind from my debut game against Notts Forest was the following day. The players who had played were given the day off. I was in training with the ‘fringe’ players, the ones who perhaps were selected to be a part of the squad but didn’t make it in to the 13 players selected for that match.We were just warming up with a simple little passing drill. I remember thinking ‘well Jamie, you are now a Premier League player so you obviously know how to pass a ball 10 yards’. Hence my attitude was not what it should have been. I have learned since that when a young lad works his way up to first team level managers and coaches look out for signs of this nature. They want to see the player wanting to improve and push on. Although my new-found attitude probably wasn’t so apparent  to others it was something that may have cost me more matches at the highest level. To be honest though my good form in the youth team and reserves was not affected in a negative way and I didn’t have too long to wait until my full debut in the Premier League. I came in one Tuesday morning for a normal days training maybe hoping to be in the travelling squad for first team game at Sheffield United. Anyway I soon found out that I was in the starting line-up that night against the Blades at Bramwall Lane. Talk about straight in at the deep end. Relegation fight and a Yorkshire derby all at the same time. Mark Tinkler also got the nod for his full debut so we were in the same boat together which helped. I quickly rang my Dad from the payphone in the dressing room area. Yes, I said payphone. We were still in the ‘ not every body has a mobile’ days. Some of the ‘big hitters’ had them and they were the size of a shoe box in those days but sure enough both my Mum and Dad made it across to Sheffield for the match that night. In the hotel that afternoon during lunch the topic of discussion between the other players was about when they made their debuts. I was sat next to Gordon Strachan who spoke of when he made his debut. I can’t remember the exact date but it seemed like a million years ago to me. When you are 18 years old a 37-year-old can seem like a really old man, even the legendary Gordon Strachan. When I was a senior pro and the boot was on the other foot I was so mindful when speaking about my younger days to players that I didn’t want to come across as an old fart.

Lee Chapman was dropped for that match as I recall. Frank Strandly was prefered to Chapman while Rod Wallace was left out to allow me to play up front. Although this was a really big match I think that Howard Wilkinson had become fed up with a lot of performances of some of the older pro’s. We lost the match 2-1. I didn’t really affect the game much although the atmosphere was something I will never forget. This left us in real danger of relegation with a very difficult home match on the Saturday against Blackburn Rovers who were beating everyone at that time. Strandly had scored against Sheffield United so I didn’t expect to keep my place. Surprisingly he was left out for Lee Chapman to return and Rod Wallace was put right midfield with Gordon Strachan playing left midfield. Somehow I had kept my place. Development at that time was taking place at Elland Road but the attendance was still nearly 40,000. It really was a must win game. Colin Hendry was up against me that day. I remember that it was Colin Hendry because he elbowed me in the head after about 15 minutes of the match causing me to leave the pitch to receive stitches in a head wound. He didn’t want some young kid scampering round him all afternoon so he tried to take me out. It was touch and go whether I would return or not. The doctor seemed to be taking ages putting the stitches in and Howard Wilkinson was close to making a sub. Luckily I was bandaged up in time and as I ran back on the pitch from the tunnel I remember receiving a loud roar of applause. Fans do love it when a player comes on all bandaged up. It looks like he really wants it. To be honest I did want it. This was my big opportunity and I wasn’t going to let a few stitches get in the way. From that moment the Leeds United fans took to me. We ended up winning quite convincingly 5-2 with the master Gordon Strachan scoring a hat-trick. Although I didn’t get on the score sheet I had a good game. I was subbed with a couple of minutes to go to a standing ovation. After the game in the dressing room Howard Wilkinson made a point of mentioning that I was now ‘ready’. I was buzzing.

That night I was out in town. You don’t think I was going to sit in all night and pat myself on the back do you? Not a chance. I ended up getting patted on the back by what seemed to be half of Leeds. I also had the war wounds (about 6 stitches) which made me look like a real warrior.

Are you Jamie Forrester?

Are you Jamie Forrester?

 Are you Jamie Forrester?

I got it all night and loved every minute of it. What a life I thought, I’ve made it. I was even asked to sign a pair of knickers from some young lady. That didn’t seem to happen when I played for the youth team!

Now I do realise that this was a special time in my life. But when I look back I really do wish that I could have kept my feet a little closer to the ground.

So there followed a period of a few weeks when I played continuously in the first team. I was being recognised in Leeds all the time. People were telling me how good I was and how good I could become. My dad was the proudest man in the world. He couldn’t  hide it though. I was living his dream too. He loved the game and wanted it so bad for me. He did get a bit carried away at times filling my head with things that didn’t need to be in there and I was still only 18. I tended to listen to everything he had to say. In all honesty I would never have made it as a professional if it wasn’t for him. He was at every match when I was a kid, rain or shine. And then there was the endless hours of playing in the park. All he used to do was cross balls in to me to finish into an open net. His service was spot on every time. In the end I had to admit that I didn’t quite have enough to be a top player. That admission didn’t come until quite a few years later though.

I would like to say thank you to the sponsors of this blog: JJB SPORTS who have a 3 for 2 offer.

 

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