It’s not all scandal and sordid affairs where footballers are concerned. Alistair Slowe has recently signed a 12-month contract with Northampton Town and knows he has been given a great opportunity. But amid all the media headlines surrounding the likes of Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole, Alistair has a very different story to tell about the life of a footballer.
Dashed exam hopes lead to real determination...
At the age of nine Slowe dreamed of becoming a professional footballer, with aspirations that one day he might get the chance to play for Newcastle as a right-back.
Although he has played for most of his career as a right-winger, he is now working hard to try to gain a regular spot at right-back for Northampton.
He first took up the sport by playing for the Brighton FC School of Excellence but later left to concentrate on his school work and exams.
Slowe did not achieve the results that he was hoping for in his exams so, at the age of 17, he chose to focus his attention on his one true passion – a career in football.
From Brighton to blossoming talents in Ghana...
Slowe’s first opportunity came as a result of a football contact his father had in Ghana. He was soon given the opportunity to trial for a Ghanaian team called Cantonments.
His determination paid off when he was first given an amazing opportunity to set up a football academy in 2006 at Cantonments, where he helped coach a youth team and played in the first team for two seasons. He not only played tough competitive football but also cherished encouraging children into football and watching their talents blossom.
Considering Ghanaians play on such rundown pitches, their technical abilities and sheer dedication was exceptional and would be a match for any UK player fortunate enough to train on well-maintained pitches.
Ghana performed so well in this year’s World Cup, and Slowe was especially proud to have trained in a country with such a burgeoning football reputation.
Breathtaking goals – and on to Cyprus...
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Ghana as I got to do what I love doing most and give something back to the youngsters looking to get into football,” said Slowe. “My highlights had to be playing challenging matches, scoring breathtaking goals and celebrating in style with my team, players and the fans.”
In 2008, during the African Cup of Nations Cup, Slowe decided to take his future into his own hands by approaching two Newcastle scouts who were staying at the Labadi Beach Hotel in Ghana.
He invited one of them to visit the football academy to watch a friendly to demonstrate his and some of the other players’ skills and expertise. Much to Slowe’s surprise, the scout was very impressed with his performance and invited him to play for Onisilos Sotira in Cyprus, where he played for two seasons. For the first season, he was the only British player.
Although Slowe was doing well overseas, he had always wanted to play for an English team. He was offered trials with AFC Wimbledon and Gillingham, who wanted to take Alistair on board in January this year – but he was still under contract in Cyprus.
A trial was set up with Newcastle but it coincided with the Icelandic volcanic eruption and consequently, Slowe had to travel for four days across Europe to get to the trial from Cyprus.
To his despair, he incurred an injury during training which he feels may have jeopardised his chances as he was unable to perform at his best on the first day and as a result was not picked for the team.
Worth the gamble...
A second opportunity came Slowe’s way when Northampton Town offered him a one-year contract in May this year as the manager thought he was ‘worth the gamble’. He was thrilled at the opportunity giving him the chance to make his mark with an English team.
He started as a right-winger but now plays right-back and played against Coventry as well as securing a spot in the squad who won on penalties at Reading in the Carling Cup and at Aldershot, where they drew 1-1.
Slowe is grateful to his family who have been hugely supportive throughout his career. He appreciates having their support particularly if he is having a ‘down’ day.
Although Slowe sometimes regrets taking up football professionally at the late age of 17, he likes to think that if he had done things differently, perhaps he would never have been offered his trial for Newcastle or have found a place at Northampton. He also values his time in Ghana and believes it has set him up well for the future, giving him the grounding and skills he needs to succeed.
A footballer’s confidence can be up and down. Football is intensely competitive and the hours are long. “You have to put in 110 per cent if you want to do well otherwise you will only end up having regrets later in life,” he said.
When Alistair is feeling nervous, his tactic is to ‘keep it simple’ and tackle gently at the start of the game until he feels warmed up and ready to get stuck in. His ultimate football icon is David Beckham as he admires his superior passing skills. He also respects Alan Shearer, his hero when he was a Newcastle fan as a boy.
Mending a bad reputation...
Slowe has seen the way that the England team are viewed by the media and the public and wants to help create a better reputation for English football. He shares the country’s disappointment in the players’ poor performance at the World Cup combined with reports of indisrections in players’ private lives.
Slowe worries that all footballers will be tarnished with the same brush. His main objective is to focus on playing football, do extra training each day and maintain his fitness so he can play at a high standard.
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“I would like to set a good example by encouraging young players to eat and drink well, and not to binge-drink or smoke,” Slowe said.
“I would also like to prepare new players for any setbacks they may incur during their football career as you need to be able to pick yourself up and dust yourself down.”
Slowe is keen to get involved in charity work and further opportunities such as training events for children where he can offer expert advice and guidance, and become an inspiration to others.