I was brought up in a footballing family. My dad, Keith, played for Charlton Athletic for 17 years in the 1960s and 70s, and I grew up at the Valley watching him. All I ever thought about doing was following in my dad’s footsteps. That was the goal for me.
Like a lot of schoolboys, that was the dream for me. Of course, I had the great privilege of having a dad who could be a hands-on coach from an early age.
So we were a footballing family, but I was not brought up in a Christian home and never heard the gospel preached. Sunday school gave way to Sunday soccer. The most biblical form of instruction I received was in assemblies at the Church of England school that I attended. I was a kid who intensely wanted to achieve in the classroom and on the field. And my father taught me the necessary self-control, discipline, and skills to succeed in education and in the professional sports arena.
At age 16, I left school and signed a professional contract with Queens Park Rangers (QPR), who were in the top-flight with Terry Venables as manager.
I had achieved the goal. I was playing for the England Youth National Team, and it wasn’t long before I broke into the first team starting eleven at QPR aged 19.
However, shortly before my full debut the most important thing in my life happened. I became a Christian.
I wonder how many of those fans realised that this is the best news in the world, and the only way to a glory that never fades.
I’d been increasingly thinking about life and its great purpose. I mean, I had everything, didn’t I? I had achieved the schoolboy dream. I had money in my pocket at a young age. I potentially had a good future. I had relative fame compared to many of my contemporaries who had left Bexley Grammar School.