00:00:04 My name is Mark T. I work for Sheffield United in the role of Community Development Manager. Basically, we’re the community arm of the football club that looks at engaging the wider community. Predominantly, my role is schools development programme that is rolled out in working with the local schools and partners, etc. My role is about making sure Sheffield’s children are motivated, are healthier, and engaging with this football club.
00:00:29 I absolutely loved school. I don’t know what they call it these days but I never bunked off a day in my whole life. For me school was an adventure. I loved learning and obviously the football kind of went very much alongside that learning. My father was also a community worker. He ran youth clubs in Belfast and Carrickfergus back in Northern Ireland. There was a big football theme to the youth club, so he was taking football teams. We went to Scotland to play in a tournament and, luckily enough, I was man of play of the tournament and that was at eleven years of age. The pride and sense of achievement then, I just thought ‘This is what I want to do. I want to be a professional footballer.’
00:01:12 From thirteen or fourteen, I had sort of ten or eleven football clubs, as well as the Scottish football clubs Celtic and Rangers were sort of knocking on the door and asking me to go for trials, but then the biggie came. Man United came knocking and that was it – hooked. That was my only choice. Luckily enough, I’ve managed to get a three-year contract at Manchester United, which set me off on the path to, as I say, realising my dream. My father was quite strict in those days, so it was ‘Even though you’re a pretty good footballer, you’re going nowhere without an education.’ So he very quickly installed in me ‘What if your dream doesn’t happen?’
00:01:53 To play for Manchester United was an unbelievable, unachievable dream, until I achieved it. So you think ‘Oh, this is me. I’m set.’ I was a little bit small for Mr Ferguson, to play in his first team, Sir Alex, but then my love affair with Sheffield United started. Between ’89 to ’90 was a great time for me personally because I was in the team. I was playing first team football in front of big crowds. It’s every schoolboy’s, you know, footballer’s dream.
00:02:21 Then one or two injuries started to occur when I was about twenty-four. I left to go to Rotherham and then I had a major injury. I was out for a year. At the age of twenty-eight, I found myself out of football through injury, so it was very difficult to sort of take. I was married at the time and I just took it out on my family. I wasn’t a very nice person to be around. The one god given talent I had was being taken away from me.
00:02:46 So I started re-training as a football coach, and, luckily enough, at Rotherham United they still sort of supported the youth team, and training, and playing part-time football. So I kind of had my passion, my motivation, relit.
00:03:02 The community job came up for grabs. Lucky. Right time, right place. And I stayed there for another ten years managing that community programme. It was kind of making a difference. It was kind of becoming that role model off the pitch instead of on the pitch was a bit of a hook. This is Caroline, my partner, and Emma and Oliver my two children. When you do have family, they’re the first thing in your mind and the last thing you think about, and that’s very much where I am at the moment – a family working man rather than a famous professional footballer.
00:03:33 My mum and dad meant everything to me. Obviously, it was tough. We lost mum five years go through cancer, so that was a big blow. She was only a cleaner, bless her, but she supported… Even through her cancer, she was supporting other ill or infirmed people in the estate that we lived in, so she was massive in my life. God bless her, I think she’d be smiling up there.