Words: Andrew Martin 
Images: Offside Sports Photography (main) / Classic Football Shirts (unless stated)

They’re not just boots, those things that you wear.

They say something about you as a player, you as a person. You knew that! You saw other boots that were suitable or acceptable but never quite right. When you find the right pair, they stay with you forever. You’ll never throw them, even when the sole starts to crack and the stitching starts to come loose.

It’s a very intimate thing, a boot, and you can learn a lot about a person from what they choose. What does yours say about you?


You’re a player absolutely riddled with nous. A cart horse. A horse that pulls a cart of nous.

Shot power: 20 / Aggression: 17 / Pace: 3

All about the positioning: “Maldini averaged one tackle every two games,” you say, every single day. “It’s all in the timing.” Your feet are in bits because you refuse to upgrade the footwear and knees have gone but you don’t play football with your knees, do you, you play it with your head, don’t you?


Everyone reckons you’ve done time. You haven’t. But you’re not going to tell them that. You eat fear. You tell the lads you were inspired by Robert Pirès and were a winger when you were younger. You weren’t. You’re a centre half, not a centre back. What’s a centre back, anyway? Back? Will you fuck go backwards. Ey? Pressing? Is that like a fancy way of saying “sitting deep” or…?


Image: Pro Direct Soccer

Metatarsal’s just healed. You’re a specialist in lunging for balls you’ve almost lost control of then hitting champagne passes every single time. Annoyingly, you’re also very good at it. And you’re feeling good, too. You’re getting back into your stride. Maybe if you can get fit again, you could go to some trials, maybe go semipro. Never know. Few quid in your pocket, beer money, trips to Canvey Island away. That metatarsal though, that dull ache—it’ll always be there. Always. You know it will. Like that big defensive midfielder who haunts your dreams. Fade to black.


It’s 1997. Calciopoli is a myth. There’s no way huge teams like Juventus would fix matches, don’t dare anyone question the integrity of The Old Lady. Have some fucking respect. You’re going to be on the cover of La Gazzetta dello Sport, and you’re going to do it all by yourself. Hmm? How much to score an own goal? Meet me in the physio room by that toilet some cunt ripped out with his bare hands after getting sent off at fives.


Image: Umbro

Stepovers are for people who can’t drop their shoulder. Goals are all that matter. Everything else is secondary. You don’t understand the concept of ‘Goal of the Month’. All goals are equal. Bicycle kicks don’t count for double, do they? You’d rather place yourself in a coffin than place a penalty. You eat sausage and mash every single day. You go to bed at the same time every night. You just want football to be what it once was. There’s a dignity to that.


“I’m a bit rusty. Haven’t played for a while. Is Dwight Yorke still playing? Him and Andy Cole up front were fantastic together. What do you reckon of this ‘Millennium Bug’, then? Reckon it’ll actually happen? Would be mad, like.”


Ronaldinho. Totti. Pirlo. Romário. You. Bloody. Wish.


What’s that? You’re playing on the left wing, but you’re right-footed? But you’ll have to cut inside all the time. Won’t that be a problem? I’m just gonna show you onto your weak foot the... oh right, you’ve gone. And you’ve scored. Okay. Cool. Enjoy your towelling wristband.


This 4G stuff can get a bit slippy. “Come on, boys! I don’t need this. I’ve got to go to work in the morning. It’s just a kick about, isn’t it?” Three minutes later you’ve gone in, knee-high, on a fifteen-year-old. You feel bad about it, but that’s just the nature of the game. No need to apologise. You’ll get the pints in afterwards. That’ll make it better.


Image: Under Armour

“How was that trip to the USA? That New England Patriots beanie is pretty nice. Yeah, Tom Brady is good, but he does have some controversial views. Yeah, I saw a bit of the Super Bowl, it was alright, I guess. Bit late for me. Yeah, I… Are you sure you want to be here, mate? We’ve got even numbers. You can go if you want.”


You love to try new things. Someone mentions a food you’ve never heard of, and you make a mental note to try it as soon as possible. Someone mentions a band you should listen to, and you actually add them to a playlist, and you actually listen to them because what if they’re amazing?! You’re great, you are. A good person.


You keep these hung up in the cupboard just past the pantry, the smell of a home-cooked meal fills your nostrils as you return from football. The kids are doing really well at school.  Car has just passed its MOT with ease. Everything is just really nice at the minute. OR you enter every single competition you come across online and in magazines. Big into vouchers. Not mutually exclusive, I suppose. People are complex.


Image: Sports Vibe

You don’t exist. You tell lots of stories about goals you’ve scored and games you’ve played in. Slipped through the net. An untapped font of footballing genius. Of course, mate. Of course. A hundred goals in a twenty game season. Yeahhhhhhh. You sure did, buddy. Best Sunday league player of all time. I bet. Not playing again this week? Lot of work on?


“They’re not cheap, you cheeky git. They’re actually a cultured, continental boot. Like off Channel 4. We’re lucky to get them so cheap here. Cost you a fortune in Italy, these, mate.”


Image: Futbol Emotion

You’re gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. Fucking dreamboat. Haven’t passed in your life.


Image: Pantofola d'Oro

Bespoke barista by day, craft ale drinker by night. You call it calcio sometimes, half-joking. Wink, nudge. You’re not, though. Been following Pordenone’s season in Serie C quite closely. Leonardo Candellone’s been having a great year. Your girlfriend hasn’t texted you in weeks, but she can’t have broken up with you if you haven’t spoken to her. That’s a verbal contract, and she’s not yet terminated it. See if you can hold out until the end of the season. Maybe wait for the play-offs, that's when it's Salvatore Burrai's time to shine.


You know James Bird who works on this magazine? He wore them. Won’t shut up about them. Describes his play as “going nicking”. Think he’s gonna have a heart attack one of these days. Absolute pain in the arse.

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