Earning Your Stripes

I had a superstition when I played football when I was younger.  I was a goalkeeper, but I couldn’t warm up in my playing kit.  Warming required getting dirty, and I hated starting a game in kit that wasn’t clean.

Cleanliness does actually have it’s part in the game, traditionally.  31-year-old former Newcastle United centre-back Steven Taylor has joined Ipswich Town until the end of the season and was immediately surprised by an offer from a young player at the club to clean his boots.

Back when I was growing up, it was one of those things that we knew players from the younger age groups cleaned the first team’s boots.  It never seemed like such a big deal.  Taylor said:

When you were a young lad you had to do certain jobs around the place, like the boots, shampoos for the first team, get the coffee, don’t eat until the first team get here.

After the old heads left at Newcastle, it became a thing where the reserves don’t do that any more.

I came in on my first day here and had a young lad come up to me and ask to clean my boots, and I said ‘I’ll do it myself’, because I wasn’t used to it.

It brings back memories of how a club should be run and that’s how Mick McCarthy is and how it was with Bobby.

I’ve always been a fan of learning from the bottom up.  I had and do have a lot of respect for the people at the top of an organisation who can do the work of the people at the bottom.  They’ve been there and done it and the experience allows them to make better decisions.  It also more readily fits in with my own preference for servant leadership.

However, at what stage does learning your trade become a right of passage and, more importantly, at what stage does a right of passage just become a way of dressing up asking someone to do the rubbish jobs?!

With cleaning boots, it’s not the cleaning that’s the lesson – it’s the working hard and working for other people.  To an extent, it’s possibly about respect when it is a tradition that is passed down from one generation of players to another.  I think, though, that it is only useful when everyone has done it.

The drought was the very worst
When the flowers that we’d grown together died of thirst
It was months and months of back-and-forth
You’re still all over me like a wine-stained shirt I can’t wear anymore
Hung my head as I lost the war
And the sky turned black like a perfect storm

The rain came pouring down
When I was drowning, that’s when I could finally breathe
And by morning, gone was any trace of you
Think that I am finally clean

There was nothing left to do
When the butterflies turned to dust, they covered my whole room
So I punched a hole in the roof
Let the flood carry away all my pictures of you
The water filled my lungs, and I screamed so loud
But nobody heard a thing

And the rain came pouring down
When I was drowning, that’s when I could finally breathe
That morning, gone was any trace of you
Think that I am finally clean

Ten months sober, I must admit
Just because you’re clean don’t mean you don’t miss it
Ten months older, I won’t give in
Now that I’m clean, I’m never gonna risk it
Now that I’m clean, I’m never gonna risk it

The rain came pouring down
When I was drowning, that’s when I could finally breathe
By morning, gone was any trace of you
I think that I am finally clean
It came pouring down
When I was drowning, that’s when I could finally breathe
By morning, gone was any trace of you
Gone was any trace of you
Gone was any trace, gone was any trace
Gone was any trace, gone was any trace
Gone was any trace, gone was any trace

Clean by Ryan Adams

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