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I suppose your life changes a little when you have dangled your feet over the edge of the abyss, then have a little sneeky look over the edge to see what’s going on down there. What is down there? Not a lot my friends.

Carl isn’t going to play in goal any more. Something else has captured his attention. His life. That thing we take for granted most of the time, you never really take any notice of it while you are busy living it. Life is a wild horse you know. When we are young we can spend most of our hours running after it, trying to tame the fucking thing as it runs over the green grass of our existence. We grab it’s mane and hang on as it stampedes across the meadows hanging on for grim death, trying to get on top of it and always getting thrown off. At these times we feel tired and settle ourselves down in the sweet grass looking up at the blue sky until we have the energy to get up and start chasing it again. We do that all the time. For ever in fact. Get up, shake the dust off and again we are running after that beautiful pony all sleek and muscled. It tosses his head and neighs so loud it shakes the ground. Again we chase it, try to get on, get a leg over and fucking hell, see stars as we are dumped back onto the ground. That horse gallops a short distance away, it neighs to the sky, but it’s not laughing at you, it’s encouragement. To sit on it? No.

When I finished my chemotherapy I went for a skate, tried to catch that pony, tried to catch it good. Off it went. Dumped at the bottom of the quarter pipe in Wednesfield skate park. Lying in the dust and the piss, the litter and the crap, holding my ribs trying to catch my breath so I could get back on. Carry on fighting and chasing as the fucking thing has me back on the ground spitting blood out. A bit angry.

Carl is at that point where he is the proverbial would be rider. He’s watched that pony for a year now as he has been too tired to chase it. Sometimes it comes close and sometimes it is far away running over the hills. He glimpsed it you see. When his kids smiled at him. When people showed him some love, when he looked out of his window and saw the wind moving the trees outside, the blue sky. All of this, all of it. But some times it’s dark and you can hardly see the pony running. Sometimes all you hear is it’s hoof steps, a thunder low and bass like. You struggle to see it but just glimpses. Flashes behind the trees, the crashing of the undergrowth.

Carl has decided to retire. I knew he would when I heard about his diagnosis. Sometimes as you sit back resting from chasing that Pony you get a little tired and it’s good to feel the sun on your face and the wind on your skin. You have taken your shoes and socks off and are feeling that cool dew covered meadow grass between your aching feet. You feel like maybe it’s too much trouble chasing that horse around. Sometimes it’s good to just relax.

This post hasn’t even got a football angle. He will not play for us any more. I am sad about that. Ikeme trotting towards the Southbank always filled me with pride in my team. I trusted him. I knew what kind of a player he was but…the abyss, that’s a thing. I knew he would beat it of course. Inside Carls head is the Warrior but also the lover I suppose. Ikeme isn’t daft, he is a Philosopher also, a Wizard between the posts. Long hours having that shit pumped into your veins gives you ample time to think even if the chemical makes you sick, foggy headed and forgetful. Football is now not really important. He will still love it of course and at times he will feel sad that he is not out there fighting and clawing at a fast shot at his goal or wrestling away snothead big centre forwards. Oh fuck yeah he will remember those battles but this fella has just had the hardest battle ever. For his life. Did he catch the Pony? Nah.

You see…there comes a time when the beauty of the horse running free over the grass kind of captivates you. As you sit tired and sweaty, hands peeling from battle, but feeling also the warm sun on your face. You start to appreciate the Horse running. All of a sudden you don’t want to chase it any more, instead you want to admire it. The energy and the delight, happiness as it flicks its mane as it gallops and jumps. This is the point where our Carl is now. Admiration for life and what life is. The courage that the Horse has as it escapes you again and again. But still stays close. Of course as you sit there admiring this Horse it will come closer and closer to you and eventually it will let you stroke it’s flanks, ruffle it’s mane, it will let you give it an apple maybe too. The Horse is quiet and tame not because you chased the thing all your life but because you realise that it’s beauty and it’s freedom should be your life. You will never possess your life but you can admire it and learn to live with it as equals I suppose.

Enjoy these days Carl, they are precious and beautiful. Fulfil your dreams and enjoy your family. Cast your mind forwards and make great plans my Brother. Warriors we are mate, we know both love and war so let those wild horses run where they will. X

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