Alan Mahood: The dressing room. Football’s inner sanctum

Tonight Matthew, I’m going to get slaughtered.

Waiting outside the Colosseum and listening to the lions roar as the crowd smells blood…

Standing in the middle of a bullring with a red cape preparing for the beast to be released into the arena…

Credit: Shuttershock

Approaching the dressing room door on a Monday morning after having a nightmare on a Saturday and been in hiding ever since…given the choice, I know what one would be last on the list.

You know its coming. You know you need to go in and take it. You know next week it will be somebody else’s turn (hopefully) so may as well get it over with.

A dressing room can be the best place in the world. Or worst. When you’re joining in and giving it out it’s magic. When youre on the recieving end its murder. But you take it. And you give some back. It’s nothing personal. It never is.

Sometimes it boils over, but very rarely. The dressing room is a great place, a real mixed bag of human beings. Older pros that deserve respect for what they’ve achieved in the game. The boys in their mid to late 20s just about to hit their prime and looking how they might tweak thier games to make improvements and prolong their careers.

Credit: Shuttershock

Then theres the youngsters. Not giving a monkeys! No respect for nobody! Just loving being a footballer and not out on a building site somewhere freezing their knackers off. Only mixing with boys a similar age, they try gang up on the auld boys, tell them that they’re past it, time to hang up their boots. Trying to play pranks and get one over them. The stuff the older players have heard 100 times. The stunts they played when they were that age starting out.

Credit: Shuttershock

Then amongst those catagories there are are further splinter groups. You’ve got the bookies pal who has gave him a “dead cert” so he tells another two or three boys to get it on, it’s like printing money. Then there’s the boys that like to go play another sport, golf in the good weather, maybe snooker when its wet. The other group who might go for a bite to eat, having a couple of beers and up the road. The foreign lads tend to stick together, only speaking English in the dressing room when it suits them. When you were asking them for some cash to pay deposit for Christmas night out, can’t understand a word. As soon as their wages are a penny short they all of a sudden became fluent in whatever language it took to get it back.

The home dressing was also a place the groundstaff boys had no right to be in. Enter only when invited or to do your chores. Do what you’re in to do and don’t overstay your welcome. That was the general rule. As usual you had the over confident cocky ones that seen it as their time to shine. Couldn’t resist. If they got slaughtered, the tried to comeback with something. Wrong decision!

Take it, know your place because it will only get worse. Verbally to start with, but if persistant, it will only end in tears. It wasn’t all bad for them. They would be invited in before Christmas to do a turn, usually singing or dancing and the boys would have a whipround and give them a wee bonus. If you had a decent bootboy you always looked after him, rewarded him for his good work. They were hard to find but I won a watch with mine. Made sure my boots were sparkling, sole shining as much as the 3 stripes. He knew if I was happy he’d be seen alright.

That was what a dressing room was. From they 16 year olds starting out, not even with a foot on the first rung of the ladder to the over 35s that had only ever known dressing rooms throughout their adult lives, it was a place of solace, a place to express yourself, a place to be free from all your other problems and just be one of the boys. A place where you were all fighting for the same cause. A place you could have somebody’s ear if you needed it. A place to get ripped for everything and nothing. A place where you build lifelong friendships. A place you would return to in a heartbeat if given one more chance…

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