The story of how Jan joined our club is brilliant in two ways. The first is that we never would have met him without Twitter and it shows what a brilliant tool that is for grassroots clubs. The second is if you’re sitting thinking you’d love to get playing then it’s a real inspirational tale of why should take that first, hardest step. Jan found the team on Twitter and followed for a bit.
At the time the club was struggling. The team was poor and we constantly struggled to field a team. I even had to play a couple of times. It was that bad. Jan I think, was wanting to find something to do on a Saturday and asked about coming to training. He said he’d think about coming down but didn’t make any arrangements. A month or so later on a Friday with me and Mo short of players again we desperately needed anyone who could play Centre Back. We asked on Twitter if anyone was available for the next morning and Jan offered to play.
I think he nearly shat it to turn up but the next morning there he was introducing himself – this big, affable lad smoking a fag, joking away nervously. I remember me and Mo liking him right away. Jan played his first game and scored the first goal in a 5-2 victory and joining that exclusive and revered club of Tally players that have ‘scowered on their dayboo.’
Before the end of the season Jan had brought along his brother Ross and four or five other good players – all good boys. Through Jan we’ve signed players like Chrissy Reilly and Stephen Cunningham, Scott Keys, Andy McNab, Johnny Williams and the Neeson brothers. Jan was a good player for us who was really unlucky with injury. He knew the basics of the game and was keen to learn and develop. He revelled in the camaraderie that being part of a team brings and was brilliant on nights out. He’s made a lot of friends in the game over the last year and a half and I’m sure he’d agree that being involved with the team has brought a lot to his life.
Jan has gone from taking that first difficult step to turning up to a team where you don’t know anyone through being made Club Captain and then eventually being made manager with Marky Thompson assisting. I wonder what he would have said had someone told him that first day that in 18 months he would be managing the club and sat top of the league and in a cup semi-final – the first in the club’s history. Getting involved in grassroots football has helped him keep fit and active, to make new friends and get a sense of achievement that slaving away at your work will never give you. Tantallon is in Jan’s blood now and after I move away this year the lad who answered a desperate plea to help keep the club alive will take over a Chairmon and Secretary. There’s no-one better to do the job.
A lot of people are disillusioned with professional football. If you are still of an age to be kicking a ball about then there are leagues and team nationwide which would allow you to train and play at a level you are comfortable with. I promise you that just like big Jan, the feeling you get from a win with your own club where you’ve battled alongside your mates can’t be beaten. If your playing days are over then there are hundreds of clubs who would love someone with passion and enthusiasm to help with administration and fundraising and of course if you have the right people skills, like Jan, you can coach and manage.
So take that first step and find your own place in The Grassroots Revolution. I promise you that you won’t regret it and like Jan it’ll open doors to new friendships, good health and good times.
© Davie Brown, Chairman, Tantallon Victoria AFC for @awaycolours 2014