When Carlos Tevez returned last week for Manchester City, I sat with my friends who gave out about Tevez being a spoilt millionaire. While I do understand why they reacted this way, I was happy to see him back.
Sure I do agree he has behaved badly, but you also have to realise that Tevez is a young man whose life has always been about football and you cannot hide the fact that he is an excellent player. Football has given him a life that most can only dream of.
While I would never dream of comparing myself to Carlos Tevez, I remember at Cork City I refused to play for my manager after he spoke about my private life in the media. Right or wrong it was a decision I had made so along with my Cork stubbornness and my ego I was not backing down! As my teammates headed off for their Champions Leagues exploits I sat at home waiting for the phone to ring. Regrettably it never did.
By this time only one side of the story had been told to the media making me out to be the villain. On the night of the club's game with Apoel Nicosia, I went for a walk to clear my head, and as I walked past Roy Keane’s family home his mother was standing in the garden. She called to me and asked how I was; she then said "Roy is inside, do you want to speak to him?" I had come across Roy a couple of times before but only to say hello, and of course he has always been one of my idols, so I was shocked when I walked into his living room and his first words to me were: "So you’re the fella causing all the trouble."
This was a very surreal moment for me hearing this coming from Roy Keane. We spent the next two hours talking about football and Roy kept saying "you have to keep playing, don’t be stubborn, just go back". He also told me about his own stubbornness along with some funny stories, one of which was about him turning down a lucrative sponsorship deal because he was left waiting in a restaurant by a rep.
I felt very lucky to have the chance to chat to and get to see a side of such an icon that most people don’t get to see and I was very grateful for his time. Looking back he was right, you have to play because it is a lonely place being isolated from the game you love.
So yes, of course Tevez gets £200,000 a week, but money will never be able to replace the buzz of playing in front of thousands of fans who love and idolise him along with the bond you have with your teammates working to achieve your goals. I have no doubt that he had many days of regret and just wanted to get back out on the pitch. Why else did he return?
After all, professional footballers are just young men who make mistakes like everyone else.