I had a setback after the last time I wrote a blog; well not necessarily a setback, but a confirmation that I needed more control in my knee to be able to train on a more regular basis.
To train 3 times in a week with the under 21s was the highlight of my 2 1/2 years of recovery, but having to go back to some basics after having a taste of playing again has tough and extremely frustrating.
At this moment my knee is the best it’s been over the last 2 1/2 years; I’m training twice a week again with the under 21s, and have been for three weeks now! I’m sprinting, jumping and landing and now focussing on my accelerations and decelerations.
Last week was the first time since my injury that I joined in a full session with the 1st team squad, which included a warm up, keep ball game, shape and a game to finish. To say this was a monumental moment for me is an understatement – I’ve waited patiently for 2 years and 10 months to get to this stage (not that I’ve been counting!), and it’s fair to say I was a little nervous going into the session.
I felt like a new signing, hoping throughout the session that it wasn’t obvious that I’d not trained for nearly three years.
Wardy kindly introduced me to the lads as a bit of banter and then it was straight into training. Each session is monitored with a heart rate monitor and GPS system, and I was delighted to find out that in that session I was close to replicating 45 minutes of a 21s game.
The stats show things like sprint distances, decelerations, total load, top speed, distance covered, and heart rate etc…. I’m hoping that if I stay clear of getting any major reactions after these sessions I can finally look at the possibility of playing a competitive game with the 21s.
My progress has shown a consistent pattern throughout the whole rehabilitation process: making large strides in recovery then having to take a few steps back before the joint can cope and adapt to what I’m asking of it. It wouldn’t surprise me if this continued to be the case over the coming weeks/months but I’m hoping that with this knowledge I can avert it happening and continue moving forward.
Throughout my rehab I’ve never thought of giving up, chucking in the towel or, as an ill-informed journalist put it ‘calling it a day’. I’ve worked too hard and come so far to even contemplate it and with each day that passes, including the inevitable high and lows, I’m getting closer! To give up now would be weak and disrespectful to those who have supported me and that have given me this amazing opportunity to return to action, and that’s something I wouldn’t do whilst I can see even a glimmer of hope.
Failing to return would be the biggest disappointment of my life but it wouldn’t be something to be ashamed of………failing to give every ounce of effort would! The next four or five months are going to shape the rest of my career and life so giving everything I have to return is my only option and I’m ready for the fight! I’ve always believed returning to playing professionally was achievable but finally I’m receiving signals from my body that I’m not too far away from making that a reality.
Professional footballers are often viewed with a stereotypical preconception by the general public and are more often than not given the wrong press by the media and their sources.
The press cannot wait to print something a footballer has done wrong yet we rarely see any of the good they achieve too. Of course we are not perfect, mistakes are made throughout our careers and lives but that’s no different to anyone else in the world!
I both accept and understand that as a public figure looked up to by young children, we have an added responsibility to behave in the right manner, but is that any different to a teacher, doctor, actor or any other respectable profession?
For some reason there is an exaggeration over how a player must conduct themselves and its beginning to feel like we are becoming robots, having a pre-programmed brain.
Things become unnatural in our lives, constantly having to watch what we say, what we can write (especially on social media), and how we interact. It makes me smile when players get ridiculed for replying with cliche responses when interviewed and being so politically correct that people believe we have no personalities ourselves and struggle to express our own opinions.
The truth is, we can’t be ourselves. We have abide by certain stipulations and become these perfect ‘role models’ that’s near impossible to achieve. We are all just normal lads after all, each lucky enough to be gifted with being able to play a football to a professional standard, nothing more.
The vast majority of players are taken on as apprentices straight after finishing school and never have the opportunity to experience the real world until our careers finish. They have no real concept of the ‘traditional’ nine-to-five job and are probably out of touch with the general public that have the financial worries that many people face.
There are no lessons or coaching around how to conduct themselves with the media and no help in teaching young players how to deal with fame, financial rewards or the attention that comes along with being a footballer, yet it’s expected that they should know the instant fame strikes!
Should they be expected to be able to relate to a world that they don’t know and more importantly don’t understand? I’ve got no doubt some footballers get bad press because they deserve it, but to generalise is ignorant and unfair.
It is football clubs that choose who we see as their representatives to showcase their ethos by selecting club captains, skippers, ambassadors and anything else that will catch the public eye. These players are chosen because of their personalities and temperament both on and off the pitch, and that added responsibility will indefinitely land on their shoulders!
I’ve never been an outspoken individual, I’m not one to cause offence and upset the status quo, but I am comfortable enough to express my own opinion and beliefs. I’ve never conformed into the ‘norm’ of professional football as a whole and I regularly get reminded on this with friendly dressing room banter/ribbing.
I’ve followed my own path in life and stuck to what I believe and how I want to act myself. I haven’t tried to do the right things because that’s what my profession and employers expect of me, but because I was brought up to act a certain way by my parents.
I’ve always known how privileged and lucky I’ve been to be in this profession, where the rewards are so high, both financially and as a lifestyle too.
This is why I’ve decided to set up the Shaun Barker Foundation and do my bit for charity.
I’m not the only footballer to set up his own foundation, many have already and many will in the future, proving that not only do some players feel like they’re in a fortunate position, but also that they are going to go out of their way to help other less fortunate than themselves too.
I will, and already have, received a fair amount of accolade for doing such a thing, but many other lads are extremely generous and selfless acts in a less public way. I suppose you have to be personal friends of the players to witness and appreciate what they do to give back but I can assure you most of the players I’ve played with have done their bit to help others along the way.
Just because you rarely hear of all of the good things we do, doesn’t mean we’re all bad.
The Shaun Barker Foundation
As you’re all aware now a few weeks ago I released the news that I’d set up the Shaun Barker Foundation. The response I’ve had from everyone has been overwhelming!
I’ve had no ulterior motive with setting up the Foundation other than to try and make a difference to those less fortunate than most of us. People can get over presumptuous at times, believing that I’ve given up on a return to playing again and that this is another sign that that is true. That’s not the case.
I’ve been talking about setting up a foundation for around 2 years now and I’ve been networking around the city since then, creating relationship and becoming more involved with charity work to enable the Foundation to be a success from the off!
Setting up the Foundation has been tough and time consuming too. I’ve had to treat it as a business to try and make it as profitable as possible as well sorting trustees, accountants, funding etc.
I have no intention of simply delivering a couple of events and that’ll be the end of it; I’m expecting and hoping this Foundation will be raising funds for years to come, hoping to create opportunities for people of all ages and to make the city a better place.
I’m an aspirational guy, I don’t do things in half measures and I’m attacking this project head on!! As of next week the Foundation will be ready to take donations and put on events to begin creating funds to help in three areas that I’m focussing on: Sports in the Community, Arts and Culture and Social Care.
All of these are very personal to me and they are areas I believe I can contribute towards within the city. So far I seem to have the backing of the players, the club and people of Derby as a whole, which is obviously really important going forward.
The more help I get as I progress with the Foundation the stronger it will become and more importantly the bigger the difference it could make.
I’m hoping to create classes of various kinds that will be available to kids for free. These will include, dance, art, acrobatics, photography, football coaching and many other creative forms.
Through the Foundation I’m also eager to put on one-off events around the city over the course of the year that you will all find exciting, intriguing and entertaining. If it’s something that I wouldn’t find interesting and what to attend myself I’m not staging it (I’m sure there will be a few worried about that though).
Over the next few weeks more information will be provided and you’ll get an insight to what my aims are and whether it’s something you’ll all want to get behind and support.