My name is Ronnie Matthews and I am a professional footballer.
I know what you’re thinking. Flashy, all the clothes, loads of money, birds, Jaguar XJ with the five litre engine and all the trimmings.
But there’s more to me than that.
In my time in football I’ve been at the top and I’ve been to the bottom. Beneath the bottom, if I’m honest. I’ve learned a hell of a lot about life, about who I am, about what really matters.
I realise now there’s more important things than how much you’re making, how big your house is, how big your dog is, how many Nuts cover girls phone-numbers you’ve got in your phone (six, seven if you count Jordan and Katie Price as two people which to be fair to Katie she has earned the right to do).
I want to experience just more than being a footballer. I want to learn. And I want to teach, as well, about the stuff I’ve done, the mistakes I’ve made, the lessons I have picked up along the way.
This book is part of me doing that. Peace.
When I said I wanted to write a book, they said it couldn’t be done. Well if there’s one thing you don’t want to say to Ronnie Matthews, it’s to say to him that something can’t be done. Don’t do that, becuase he’ll do it.
And I did.
This book is about my career as a top footballer, sure. But it’s about much more than that. It’s about my hopes, my dreams, my beliefs, my fears, my attempts to open a sushi restaurant with Ashely Cole, Rio Ferdinand and Jay-Z. It’s about my relationships with Harry Redknapp, David O’Leary, Barry Fry and the police. It’s about life. And love. And my beautiful children Ronnie Jr and Ginseng.
I have been on an incredible journey and I want to share it with you. So please dig deep. Also Neil Ruddock is my literary agent and he’s getting heavy about his 15%, so buy the book. You might just save a life.
Thanks to Alan Tyers, my ghost-writer and number-one fan for his help with the words. And props to Beach, my life-drawing tutor, for his advice on the art and for teaching me that little trick with the Tippex.
Big shout out to Charlotte at the publishing company for going the extra mile and busting the Bloomsbury wage structure to sign me up. Thanks for keeping it real, babes.
And of course massive thanks to Tonette and the kids for giving me the time and space to write this book. It can’t have been easy for them being without their Dad for such long spells that weekend. The next one will be quicker, I promise.
And lastly, thanks to the fans. You know who you are.
As it turned out, I unfortunately became the first England player to be sent off on debut for propositioning a female linesperson, but I told myself: they can’t take that cap away from me. And until an unprecedented decision by Sepp and his FIFA Europrats to retrospectively strip the match of its full international status on account of my so-called ‘disgraceful actions’, that was true.
Happy memories of booing the Faroe Islands national anthem aside, I’ve been in no doubt as to where I stand on the old club v country debate ever since.
Studying the greats has definitely shaped my own personal philosophy, but I don’t like to be tied to one thing. Like, I’m definitely a bit Oriental in my belief you have to open your mind to be one with everything, but I’m also a big admirer of your rational Germans, who were typically well organised with their thinking.
I don’t like Scottish philosophers though, even Bill Shankly. But that’s just a personal thing.
Obviously a lot of the great philosophers like your Platos, your Nietzsches, your Oscar Wildes, your Camuses were writing before football was invented, but in my opinion there’s a lot football could teach the world about thinking and the way the universe works. It’s like the famous saying: ‘All that I know about life, I have learned in boots’.
Of course, there have been lows as well: injury, arrests, being told I was too fat to play for the Crawley Old Red Lion just 18 months after being capped for England. Rock bottom was my last game here before I moved to Turkey. Playing for Peterborough v Watford, a fox got on the pitch and was charging around all over the shop. It nicked the ball away from me just as I was going in for a 50-50 with Big Martin Taylor and I’ve ended up catching the fox two-footed. The ref had the red card out right away and I became the first British player to be sent off for a professional foul on an animal. Looking at the replays I still say the fox made a meal of the challenge.
The physio came on to have a look at the fox and I said maybe they should put a green tent around it like at the Grand National, only they didn’t have a green tent, so Barry Fry had to hold a copy of the Daily Star over the animal to like shield it from the crowd’s eyes, and eventually they took it off on the stretcher.
I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed seeing the front pages the next day – a new low for football blah blah blah – never mind explaining to my little princess Ginseng and Ronnie Junior that Daddy had put a fox out the game for six weeks with a two-footed challenge.
But that’s football for you. One minute you’re exchanging one-twos and bedroom war stories about Amanda Holden with Neil Morrissey, next minute you’re public enemy number one for the nation’s animal rights nutters.