Good morning, on such a special day – for the first time in my life, I’m 46 years old. I’m in Reading, I’ve been driving, making calls on speakerphone so I don’t get into trouble with the policemen, seeing some of the sights and some of the places I grew up in.
I’ve just been driving along a road where the gangs of lads, and maybe some lasses, were trying to nick, smash and grab, throw stones, rocks and anything they could get their hands on, set fire to cars and buildings, and of course do any damage they could to our police force.
Writing this Sermon at 8am, the roads are empty and it’s surreal, this area is close to Reading FC’s old ground Elm Park, and so many of my old school friends came from this area, where I grew up.
I wonder what it is and what has happened to make these young people feel that this type of behavior is OK? I wonder what it is that makes them resent any form of discipline or authority? I wonder what type of upbringing they have had? I wonder what makes them tick – what is their motivation?
I notice they’re all being arrested, marched up to the court to be fined for being naughty, but surely there are much deeper issues that need to be addressed.
What is the parents’ role in all this? The power has been taken away from the teachers in the schools, you can’t tell anybody off now, or discipline anybody without being disciplined themselves, or threatened with the sack.
Good old Margaret Thatcher, who was great for me personally, earning good money as a professional footballer, with low taxes, but who also sold off the fields, the pitches where people could go out and play, exercise and have a ‘match’. The only ‘matches’ that are taking place at the moment are far removed from a game of football.
These issues in society in my opinion are difficult to address. There are far too many do-gooders who try and make things politically correct, a lack of discipline in the schools, and lack of discipline in too many broken homes, and too much greed.
Last week I was asked by a reporter why I go out to Africa every summer to work for Coaching For Hope. This summer I was in Botswana, 90 minutes west of the capital where they have high levels of unemployment and just about enough food to survive. Some have TVs and a few have got cars and if you had a bike you were lucky. A few of those that I coached had football boots, some of them played in bare feet and a lot of them walked for miles to get there and get home each day. The food they were given by the charity at lunchtime was I think the highlight of their day. And God bless, I never had a problem with 22 teenagers arguing, moaning, complaining of being tired, bored, asking when they can go on the Playstation – they were simply just happy. Happy every day. Big smiles, full of energy, unspoiled, not greedy – and they have nothing.
And all of these young people here complaining they’ve got nothing – it’s so sad.
When I drove home from Nottingham Forest the other night, having drawn a game of football, I was exhausted and very happy as I made my way back to my house. But it was like a scene from a movie as nine police vans rushed past my car, blue lights a-blazing, sirens howling, it was unbelievable. There were hardly any cars on the road. And then in front of me I saw loads of police horses, and loads of police hovering and wandering around as I tried to navigate my way through back home. Strange really. I know my Dad, God bless him, would turn around and say “they need a good hiding”, but I think there’s a lot more to it than that, or sticking them in front of a court. I just hope something positive comes out of this, and that everybody doesn’t go into denial.
It’s now back for another healthy day on my diet. Two months living in a hotel has helped me pile on the pounds and while I was there I indulged in that special diet: ‘The Four Breakfasts Plan’.
It goes like this:
1) Coffee, fresh fruit and yoghurt.
2) “Yes that omelette the chef is making looks great, I’ll have one of them.”
3) “The bacon looks nice and crispy, the mushrooms are fresh out, stick a tomato on there and some scrambled eggs, bit of toast under the griller that never cooks it properly and another coffee.”
4) “Those mini-croissants do look good. And those mini-Danish pastries and Pain Au Raisins. Go on then, just a couple.”
Repeat this plan for two months and it’s a guaranteed way to put on a stone.
I suppose it’s OK when a few people point out that you’ve put on a few pounds and as you do, you turn your nose up at them and say “mind your own business”.
But when there’s 10,000 people and you’re stood in that little white rectangle on the side of the pitch and they’re all singing “You Fat Bastard”, you tend to think that it’s about time to get on and lose a bit. So for my birthday celebration it’s looking like more salad, and more grilled chicken.
Have a lovely day,