Sonny Pike on life as a football geniu:’ At 17 my thought was finished. I was suicidal’

Sonny Pike was touted as the next Maradona. At 14 he was doing McDonalds adverts and had his legs ascertained for 1m, but three years later he wanted the world to feed him up and take him away. He reveals what happened next …

Sonny Pike recollects the game and there were so, so many tournaments that raised him to the edge. I was on trial at Palace, playing against Spurs, out of posture on the left wing. The coincide was going on around me and I simply thought to myself: You know what? I precisely miss the whole world to devour me up and take me away from here.

What happened next does difficult listening. Pike wasted the mid-1 990 s being touted as the next Diego Maradona, shuttled between agents, sponsorship deals, television impressions, visitations at Premier League associations and a high-profile fortnight with Ajax. The wavy whisker and cherubic peculiarities made a household name of a young player who should not really have been referred to in those terms. Pike was just a child and by the age of 17 it had all become too much. My head was finished, I was croak, he replies. I was suicidal on occasion, in a bad lieu for a long time. I couldnt take it and used to think calling it a day.

Pikes story has been held up as the example cautionary narrative for garlanded genius, yet it has been shrouded in mystery and half-truths. Now 32, “hes been” motivated to resurface after becoming a father of two and considering the damage that had been done to his own childhood. A radio interview with TalkSport the coming week was like therapy, really, its chilled me out so much; the effects of his teenage years had bottled up and hearing what happened would be a jolt to the appreciations of anyone naive enough to believe parties are automatically knowledge to look after young footballers interests.

Not least those close to them. Playing for his youth side in Essex, Pike tells the Guardian that he scored about 150 points a season, 300 if you count the other challengers I played in, although he saw himself as more of a No10, a Dennis Bergkamp. Scouts initiated to take notice and by the age of 12 or 13 he was representing East Anglia at a Mini World Cup tournament in Denmark, playing alongside Ashley Young and David Bentley. How many scouts did you have today? he and Bentley would request each other after games. The inquests submerge in and descended at the feet of his father Mickey, a builder by sell. Mickey had never pictured any interest in the boast itself but, according to Pike, insured a chance to grasp.

Pike says he imagines his father was thirsty for the public attention and went carried away by the publicity surface of things, and did me a great deal of damage. The benefit, and even more importantly the schedule that came with them, swiftly became overwhelming. Hed get together with reporters, do slice and earn money on the side out of all the attention I was get. By around 14 or 15 I was living with the added benefit of a professional be supported by Paul Smith and Mizuno, free invests, legs ascertained for 1m, McDonalds adverts, Coca-Cola promotions.

Sonny
Sonny Pike poses with Ian Wright after being mentioned the Sun Schools Champion for football in 1995. Photograph: Photoshot

My dad genuinely pushed that area of it and a lot of it was just too much. I remember doing the McDonalds ad, having to keep the ball up and hit it towards a camera, and my thighs detected raw. The situation was ruthless.

Pike went through several agents Eric Hall and Sky Andrew among them and even more visitations, the best-known coming after a Dutch television gang filmed a tournament he was playing in. The request from Ajax came from that, as did a request to move full-time to the Netherlands. That did not feel like an option to Pike but its own experience was, at the least, one of his more enjoyable.

I went out for a while and played a few recreations, includes the win against PSV, he announces. They wanted me to go back for good but I was 13 or 14 and wasnt very interested in doing that, Ive always been a family being. But I assembled the first team, Louis van Gaal was in charge at the time and was genu to me too, and mixed with Nwankwo Kanu, Patrick Kluivert, all of the far-famed crew they had back then. The civilize surface was like nothing Ive ever seen over here just unbelievable.

Pike dissolved up at Leyton Orient. It seems a strange choice and any probability of stability was destroyed permanently by his appearance on a 1996 documentary, Coaching and Poaching, presented by the current FA chairman, Greg Dyke.

That was the beginning of the end, Pike replies. I was signed at Orient but my dad was working with a certain writer at the time and wished to accede to do the documentary. I knew Chelsea were interested in me, and one day my dad told me to go in the car where another coach-and-four I knew was sitting and articulate I wanted to go there.

I didnt know I was doing anything wrong. This movie crew followed me into the Chelsea training ground and filmed me playing for them. It used to go on Channel 4. Then I went back to Orient and played in a game on the first-team slope. The director said hed already heard a rumor something had happened.

Pikes dates at Orient were numbered and he feels it was a set-up. It went to an FA inquiry and I was banned for a year, couldnt play for any of those crews, all down to that documentary. It was a kick in the shins, to say the least.

Television
Television crews became a regular fixture in Sonny Pikes life during the mid-1 990 s. Photo: Act Images

It turns out that Pike may not technically have been signed to Orient at all. He feels Mickey signed his contract forms and that, he supposes, was legally the responsibility of his mother, Stephanie. But the damage had been done and it was during this interrupt from video games in which he continued to play away from the spotlight, helped by his old tutor and lifelong acquaintance Terry Welch, for a youth crew in Loughton that Mickey left the scene. Pikes mothers had been separated for years and had long deemed resisting vistums on the merits of pushing for a career in football. Pike has not accompanied Mickey in more than 15 years, and the immediate psychological toll was immense. He returned to football that tribulation at Palace, and others around the south of England but felt broken.

There were multiple reasons for why I find as I did, he enunciates, remembering the time it appeared easier to make everything croak. As much as I now know my papa did me bales of impairment, when I was a young child Id have done anything for him. But Id lost him. Id lost the chance to play for Chelsea, which Id genuinely craved, and then there was all the abuse I used to get on the sideline from people who knew my legend. Transgress his legs, and much worse. I got a lot of bad things coming my practice and for somebody of my age it was just too much. Pikes comments about his father have not been substantiated.

Pike struggled along. Dialogues with a close category pal helped his mental state but efforts to eke out a football profession is more and more withdrawn.

I decided to change my image, appear different, he pronounces. I did it all intentionally, I didnt want to be seen as I was. I remember going to Grimsby for a trial, driving up, and didnt crave anyone to recognise me. Before I got in the car I got out the clippers and have myself a skinhead never had one before or since. I didnt require anyone supposing: Wasnt it you who played for Ajax? I just wanted to be another geezer, considered the same as anyone.

Sonny Pike considers being a child football whiz .

The trial lasted 2 day before Pike, who had been scheduled to play in a accord, “ve had enough” and drove dwelling. I was all over the place, I only packed up and get, he remarks. Subconsciously, I see I must have known it was all over. But when I didnt get a slew at Stevenage after that, I knew I couldnt haunt it any longer. Id wanted to be at the top.

Pike vanished from the radar after that and it is easy enough for urban myths to develop. He had supposedly been spotted under accepted identities at a number of non-league associations; he had, according to a recent narration, uprooted to Dundee to study psychology. None of it is true. With few financial benefits from all those copes and programs having come his method, he trained to be a carpenter and then after the birth of seven-year-old Freya, expended three years contemplating the Knowledge. He now drives a black taxi six periods a few weeks, idolizes on Freya and her 18 -month-old brother Beau, and has little real those who are interested in video games that eventually wronged him.

I dont know much about football these days, he mentions. When I was younger I was obsessed, could imitate all the players, but now I rarely watch a game unless perhaps England are playing. These daytimes Im rabid about boxing I actually analyse it, the free movement of persons, everything, and follow all the fighters. What I desire is the fact that it one on one. In a squad play you have been able hide, but not there; I look up to boxers.

He does, though, appear he has something to contribute and that is another reason for his keenness to speak to media now. With hindsight it is clear enough that he was a guinea pig in footballs ham-fisted early attempts to monetise young ability; some academy students these days are on the brink of growing firebrands of their own and, while acts may have moved on beyond return in the last two decades, Pike would be delighted to pass on its own experience to interested players and clubs.

When I was younger I was the only one getting attention like that, he remarks. But now its non-stop for hundreds of them. These participates need to take a step back and concentrate on their spacecraft, because the amount of money they are walking around with is crazy. Agents arent inevitably a bad event but there is no reason they should be working with children as young as I was.

Sonny
Sonny Pike with his wife and children. Photograph: Courtesy of Sonny Pike

Id be more than happy to get out there, talk to establishments, girls and parents, make sure they hear and learn about it, help them understand you mustnt get too carried away. I want people to hear about it, and make sure they dont lose in accordance with the rules I did.

The biggest sadness is that Pikes tale is far more that of a lost youth than of a wasted flair. The latter is of relatively little repercussion in the bigger situation and that is why, all these years later, Pike has been able to rebuild himself without is necessary to the game.

Im not saying this story hasnt had a beautiful ceasing, he speaks. Im so happy now with my teenagers. Because of my experience theyve got a good dad, someone who will do his best for them, and thats how I look at it. Occasions have ended up well, but theres a lesson to be learned.

Sonny can be contacted via his Twitter account, @Sonnypike01Pike

In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support work Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in non-eu countries can be found here .

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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