E56 - Matthew Joseph, The Arsenal Coach
E56 - Matthew Joseph, The Arsenal Coach

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Matthew Joseph is the man 'coaching the coaches' at Arsenal Football Club's Academy. Matthew played as an Arsenal and England youth team player, gaining an Arsenal pro contract at eighteen. However, at nineteen he was released by Arsenal, a decision that he says broke his heart at the time. He went on to play over 400 games in English League Football for Cambridge United and Leyton Orient before retiring and becoming a coach at the FA. In 2022 Matthew completed a career circle, rejoining Arsenal to oversee the Academy Coaching staff.

Danno caught up with Matthew to talk about his playing career, his role now as Academy Coach Developer at Arsenal F.C. and what it looks like to live as a Christian in the high-pressure world that is professional football.

1:15 How do your sport and faith connect?
2:08 What's it like to be released from a Football Academy?
8:27 Coping with being released.
11:22 Identity in retirement and becoming a Christian
15:33 Why do you want to be a coach?
19:46 Arsenal's values and caring for young players
23:07 How has the process of releasing academy players changed?
27:00 Managing young players on a performance pathway
28:10 What would you say to a parent of a player who's been released?
31:32 Understanding your value in a world dominated by performance
33:45 Being part of the Christians in Sport coaches network


Graham Daniels: Matthew Joseph is currently the academy coach developer at Arsenal Football Club. Matthew started his football career at Arsenal. Then he left the club at the age of 19 and went on to play more than 400 games in a 14 year career at Cambridge United and Leyton Orient during the 90s and 2000s. After retiring from playing, Matthew worked as a coach for the FA for 15 years, and over the last decade he was a regional coach, developer, essentially coaching the coaches.

At various professional football clubs. Then in 2022, Matthew completed a career circle when he returned to Arsenal to oversee the coaching of all their academy coaches. Matt, welcome to the Christians in Sport Podcast. Good afternoon. Good afternoon. It could be any time of people are listening. Here's a question that we start with everybody on this podcast.

What does it mean for you to have your sport, your work as a professional and. Connected to coach connected.

Oh, good question. Uh, for me, one word, acceptance.

Graham Daniels: Oh, that's the shortest answer ever tell. You've gotta tell us a bit more now.

Matthew Joseph: I think working across different facets from sport to faith to life, and being accepted wherever you go by everyone for who you.

Is, is a, is a really special thing for me and, and, and a comforting thing for me. So I would say acceptance in the terms of helps me to feel comfortable, helps me to be free, helps me to be myself.

Graham Daniels: Well, I'm pretty certain, and we'll be unpacking quite a bit of that, uh, through your experience and what you coach others in about the acceptance that you get.

From your Christian faith that differentiates it from perhaps, dare I say, the performance demands of professional sport? Okay. Well, as this podcast comes out, a large amount of academy players will be finding out if they've been released or retained by their clubs in professional football. It's a really tough time of year for children and their families, and though you and I are talking about football through your work at Arsenal and previously in the fa.

All sorts of sports with performance pathways. Uh, children have to face this. The football facts I've captured here are that over 50% of academy players leave the system before they're 16, before they could become a scholar. 97%, 97% of 16 to 19-year-olds never play first in professional. After their scholarship.

Huge stats, I mean, terrifying stats. So let's start with your personal experience on the Arsenal website. You are very, very vulnerable in the way you say this. I think it's impressive. You say about the time when Arsenal released you as a young professional, you were a first-year professional when you left.

Yes. It was a very close decision whether I stayed for another year or not, but in the end, I was told that they were releasing me and that was that. At the time, it was a shock. I didn't really expect it, to be honest. You say they brought my heart. Wow. Go to the Arsenal website. Look at Matthew Joseph.

That's in the bio of his job there. What happened to you and why was it so?

Matthew Joseph: Oh, wow. I think for anyone who wants to play sports or wants to be professional sports, you have this real desire and this drive to, to want to do well. First, you, firstly, you love a sport. Most people. Go somewhere where they, they, they fall in love with that sport.

They fall in love with the environment, they fall in love with the people they're in. So for me, being an arsenal from 14 to 19, because in those days, you know, there wasn't the academy starting at nine years old. So I went in at 14 years old. You, you fall in love with, with the place, and, and it's, it's what you, your version of what that sport is because you don't have any other version of it, especially when you're at an elite level.

So I think for me, having. That taken away was a real shock, and it was a real, it's, it's gut-wrenching because I think, and for, for young people and for, and for anyone actually, it's a real big part of your identity. And if you think for all those young people now who are sportsmen and women who are, enjoying their sports and that, you know, they've got, you know, family or friends around them who are supporting them most of the time.

The first thing that people ask their families and friends is how are they doing. It's never, how are they, so actually, actually, your identity is wrapped up in your performance. So when you get that, that, that, no, you are no longer a performance, your performance levels aren't deemed good enough.

That's a massive part of your identity taken away. How did that happen for you? Because you say something that probably doesn't happen today? Uh, because there are regular assessments and, and parents and young people tend to know how they're getting on in their scholarship or academy work, uh, a role.

How did you find out, because you say you just weren't certain what was gonna.

No, I don't think there was any, I don't think there was any malice or any bad things around. I think just back in, in that day, that's the way that you found out. And I, I walked into, I'll give you the example for those of you who, who've ever been to the art library and, and it's, and these parts are still there.

You walk through the concierge doors and. Massive glass doors and you walk up the first three stairs and you've got a bust of Herbert chap on your left-hand side and you never really go up the other marble stairs cause that's where the boredom is. And that's where the manager's office is.

So you walk up those stairs and actually, you go in and the conversation is a conversation and we're gonna allude, go into that a little bit more. But actually, you walk in an Arsenal player and you walk back down the general public. That's the key, and that's the part where it's, it's really, really difficult because as you walk down, you are no longer a professional footballer.

Now, your contract might say you are, because that conversation might happen in May, and your contract will fi on the 30th of June, but you've just been told that isn't being extended. For all intents and purposes, your performances haven't been good enough for you to have been kept on. So you are now surplus to requirements.

That's really hard to deal with as you walk back down or as you come out of any environment, that's a really, really hard pill to swallow. So when I say that, that breaks your heart, that's, that's, that's really personal. And I, and I'm not sure it's ever meant to be, but that's really personal because that's someone saying to you, you are not good enough.

Graham Daniels: 97% of children. Young people today at that point, and, and you were a first-year pro, so you'd gone past the scholarship, as we'd call it. Now you're a pro first-year professional if 97% of young people who get a scholarship never play first-team football, you were a pro. You walk out of the famous, uh, hybrid old hi.

You're not a footballer anymore. Nope. Your stats are. You went for 22 trials in 21 months. I'll say that again for, for our listeners. You've been at Arsenal from the earliest possible age back in the day you've played for England at youth level. Numerous times you've been with the best boys in England, football, then a young, scholar at Arsenal's academy. You walk out, and you think, well, this boy will get a job. Of course, you'll get a job in football, 22 trials in 21 months. What is that like and how did you cope with it? How on earth did you cope with that?

Matthew Joseph: I look back now, and I building a tremendous resilience and having a belief that belief wasn't in my it was just having a belief and, and I look back at it now as a belief in, in a faith that I didn't realize that I actually had. And I think for the majority of my time as a professional footballer, actually for all of my time, a professional footballer, I wouldn't have said I had faith. I grew up in a Christian family.

I went to church when I was younger, I went to Sunday school. I did all those things. But if you'd just said to me, are you a Christian? I would've probably not said no, but as I think I've said to you before, there was, there's a song by, a gospel choir called, sounds of Blackness. It was called Optimistic, and I listen to that every day.

It's still a song that I listen to most of the time. I could, I could listen to that and smile. I could listen to that and cry. I could listen to that and remember I could listen to that and feel positive, but it's just about being optimistic. And, and I'll quote you on the lines and it for me, and it'll say in the midst of sorrow, you can't see up when looking down.

And that just basically says, lift your head up, you know? And it just says you can win as long as you keep your head to disguise. Be optimistic. So for me, it's, it's that stuff of you can, you can keep your head down and you can be for on and take every rejection as gospel, or you can look at that and say, right.

Everything happens for a reason. My mom always used to say it to me. Everything happens for a reason. And you can take that and think, right, well, today might not be my day. That can happen in any sport. You can be the best team and the best people. Don't always win because today might not be your day.

That's a really difficult lesson to learn when that when it's the first time that day. Hits home when it's days and your day. And it wasn't my day when I, when I, you know, I came out of the Marble Halls arsenal, it just wasn't my day.

Graham Daniels: You did remarkably, stick out this for the best part of two years, and he went on to play, uh, over 400 games as a professional footballer, uh, over a 14-year period.

That's a long time. But today we're not particularly focusing on your playing. Uh, we're talking. You as a coach, uh, as a coach at Arsenal and as a coach of coaches with a deep concern for young people, which already in this interview, uh, listeners and viewers will be saying, well, of course, he cares about young people.

He's really been through it. Uh, I think I'm gonna fast forward a little bit from where you've taken us to your own faith, and then we'll come back into caring for young players in the light of that and your current role. You said a couple of moments ago you wouldn't necessarily have said you were a Christian throughout all your playing career and you played well in your thirties professionally.

How did that Christian faith consolidate then at the end of your career? How did this whole, whole thing come together where you'd be in an interview today saying that you are a Christian? What happened there?

Matthew Joseph: Yeah, I think it goes back to something I mentioned a little bit earlier. I, I finished playing professionally at 32.

I finished playing, I think all the time in terms of non-league and stuff. By the time I was studying for my coaching badges. But I think for me at that point, it comes back to identity. I was no longer a footballer. So what was I? And for me that was, that was a struggle. And at that time, you know, I was married and still married to, to, to my wife and had two children at that time, but there was a massive gap because I didn't know what I was.

Um, and if you don't know what you are, that can be a really troublesome time for, for. Because you're, you are unclear of where you sit in society. You're unclear, and when you sit in the hierarchy of life, you're unclear about how people view you. You are, you just, there's this, this massive confusion and I wasn't clear on what I was.

And again, I go back to, everything happens for a reason and people enter your life for reasons. And I, and I'm, there was a, a ribbon at my, at my children's school who, who I spoke to. So Kev, the Rev, I'll give a little shout-out. Kev, the Rev, Kev Brown. And he, he was, he was just awesome. And I remember having a, conversation with him and he asked me a really, really simple question, which just went straight to my, the heart of.

And a question that nobody ever asked me. And, he was asking, talking about faith, and then he said to me, what's stopping you from being a Christian? And I couldn't answer it. I had all these things that, that had all these sorts of quick answers, well, because of this, that way, but actually what was stopping me, and actually nothing was stopping me.

The only thing that was stopping me was me. So I think for me, there was that real clarity of being able to ask questions that get to the heart of what's, you know, gets to the heart of people and then gets them to think and reflect on what, what is it they want to do. And that was really clear for me.

Um, it wasn't clear at the time because I think, and I said to you before, I prayed with him. And I knew at that time when I prayed of him, that I'd, it wasn't, I didn't think I really meant it. I was doing that to go along with something that I thought, I liked the idea and the concept of it, but I hadn't really explored it myself.

Um, and once I had explored myself, I can remember, it was sometime I think in January, and I was at home and I was on my own. Thinking by myself, and that's when I prayed my prayer myself, and for me that was it.

The consequence of that, didn't particularly alter the trajectory of your career. Because you were doing your badges and you were coaching and, and on your way towards that vision, now, of course, you got better and better jobs, uh, with the fa particularly as you, as you went through the system. I'm interested now, in the last section of our conversation then, to really explore, the consequences of your story and the way you've articulated so succinctly thus far.

What about this. Let's take a simple question in the Kev Browning style, then why do you wanna be a coach?

Matthew Joseph: I know that my gift if that's what you want to call it, is to help people. I like developing people. I help, and I like helping people. That's what I do. So, and it's not for self-gratification, it's just I think that we can all be better versions of ourselves if we want. And it, it's not some sort of crusade, but the job that I'm in, is to support and develop.

So I'll say to all the coaches I've worked with and every one of them ever worked with, I cannot make you a better coach. You make yourself a better coach. What I can do is help you with being more self-aware, provide some context, provide an environment, and provide some support, but I cannot make you a better coach.

So all I'm saying straight away. I'm here to support you the same way that I feel like I'm supported in my faith by God. That, that I, someone's always there. That's my job. So if people want to, to link in with me, great. But my job is to make them as self-aware as they can be. And I suppose if we're linking all this together and you ask me the question around, what does it mean to have my faith letter of acceptance, I had to accept me.

So when I had said my prayer, I accept I had to accept me. If you are a coach or a young person who is playing, or you've had some bad news or, or an injury, or you have to be able to accept that situation before you can move through it. And the acceptance is really hard. It's not, and I'd be lying to sit, sit here and say, it's easy.

It's not easy. It's, it's really, really hard. And so again, another sort of throwaway phrase I would say, linking this all together is I would say to coaches, I say if if people say coaching is easy or overline, or they're not doing it properly, Because it's not easy. You're dealing with people, you're dealing with humans, you're dealing with emotions, you're dealing with performance, you're dealing with perceptions, you're dealing with, a lot of people around you.

There's so many moving parts. It, it can't be easy because you can't, you can't control everything cause you can't control, you can't control, you can't only control the controllables. You can't control how people think about you or how people will judge you based on the comments that you've made or on the performance that you've done.

So someone can be a winner today and tomorrow can be a loser, you know, or they can be, they can lose in someone's eyes and winning in someone else's eyes. You know, certainly, in a team game like football, you can play badly and win and you can play really well and lose. So, so what are you in that moment?

So you have to be able to accept what, the outcome. Of, of your performance, but you also have to be able to accept your role and have some responsibility about what you've done in those moments. And you can only be the, you're only ever trying to be the best version of yourself. So I think when you're linking all this together, I, my job is to try and help people understand what it is they want.

They want to be the best version of themselves and what does that look like? And what does, what does the best mean for them? Because best is, there's lots of different variants. What, does the best mean? Do you want to be the best midfield player? Do you want to be the, the best, under fourteens female traveling field?

Do you want to be the best under nineteens point guard in basketball? Do you want to be the best 12-year-old center in netball? What, do you want to be and why do you want to be that? And why is that so important? You know, so just answer, those simple questions. So for me, there's, I've got loads of models and theories and stuff in my head, which I use, but it is very much about asking, trying to get to the heart of people and find out what, what it is they want, and working from there. But again, it's, it's very difficult when the thing that you want is taken away from you.

Graham Daniels: Yeah. And I think that takes us back. I'm very conscious that you spent 15 years across professional football clubs and now in one of the top clubs in the country and indeed Europe.

Doing the job, you did a number of clubs in one huge club, but your job day by day is with the coaching staff. Yes. You coach the coaches, so you're not necessarily in front of the boys in the club, but, the players themselves translate then.

What you'd hope for your coaches, not technically or tactically, but if it's all about relationships, how, how do you help coach that care for young players?

Matthew Joseph: Well, my job is in a very, yeah. Is to coach the players. However, My job is to reach out to the co, to the players, via the coaches. Yeah. So I don't directly coach the players.

I indirectly coach them. So my, my role is helping the players to understand, the importance of those connections. So we'll talk about Arsenal and these, these are values which were there before me and, and I wholeheartedly agree and part of the reason why I worked to join them, talk about humility, discipline, and.

They're the three key things, that we talk about at our club. So you have to show humility because, and that's really hard when you are in a competitive sport because someone has to win and someone has to lose. So can you be humble in those moments? Being respectful to yourself, and to other people around you.

Um, that's a really big, really big thing. So again,, I would say with my family, Respect yourself. Respect other people. Respect other people's property. The three non-negotiables. So respect is, is massive and you have to be disciplined. So I think if you are a sports person where, how old you are, guarantee you've missed some events that you'd like to have gone to, whether they're family events, friends events, but you're gonna have to be disciplined enough to understand why you're doing that and what you might, and what you hope to get as a return from those things.

So I think when you are working with, when I'm working with our coaches, it's, or working with coaches in general, it's trying to get 'em to, to think around you are working with. And this sounds like a really horrible way of saying it, someone's most precious commodity in the whole world. Someone's child, someone has trusted you to work with their child.

So take that on board and, respect the trust that's been given to you and works with those individuals as best you can in a way which is not demeaning, but it's to help those young people be the best version of themselves they can be. And sometimes. Because of the moment you are in, you might not be able to help that person get to the best version of themselves right now, but you might be the catalyst.

So it might not be me that it gets the best out of him, but it might be the next coach. And it might be the next coach after that because, that individual is learning how to be the best version of themselves because you don't wake up one day as a coach or as a player or as a person, and you are the version of the person you want to be.

It just doesn't happen like that. There's a process along.

Graham Daniels: So Matthew, you, you, you've talked about your experience back in the day, uh, of finding out that you weren't a professional footballer at Arsenal anymore. Very painful. How's that changed?

Matthew Joseph: I think it's changed. Oh so much. It's changed so much. So if you think in that situation, I was 19, I walked up on my own, walked out. I think you definitely have parents involved. You definitely have, there's, there's more responsibility now around duty of care to young people.

So I, I think if, because there are more reviews with our athletes now, I don't think you would ever get end up going into a conversation without having some backdrop to it, having some context of it. I think certainly from a football point of view, clubs are very good, or getting a lot better at having those conversations and saying, look, this is, this is where we're at with stuff.

Football clubs all have, every, every football club has huddle, so there's an analysis platform where you can watch your, games back. You can watch What's huddle? Huddle is like an analysis platform. Performance platform. Okay. So every game is filmed. You can say to, to the performers, like, here's, here's some stuff that you did. You can review them with them all the time and you send that to, to, to players and, and they will then have access to that as do the appearance and they can, you can also communicate for that, like, what were you thinking in this moment?

Think about these things here. Here's where we relate to some talk, spoke to you about previously, so you, you are getting so much more. That. I think it's less likely that you get to a point where someone gives you the ultimate yes or no and you don't, you've had no feedback or anything that, that would prepare you for that.

I still think there is that point, because of hope there. There's still always a disappointment when you do get that yes or no. Certainly, if it's a no, that there is that disappointment and some people. Don't see it come in, in terms of the reflection of others, but it's always about yourself.

Coaches are always gonna talk to you about you. They might reference other people at certain times, but it's always about you. It's like a teacher given, you know, an appearance, a, an appearance, even they don't talk about the other children. They talk about you and where you are in that point. The hardest thing is because it's, a team sport and because everyone has an opinion in football, which is brilliant, that people will, will relate to.

But so-and-so's done this, and they're okay, but you're not. And actually within football and within sports, it isn't always about you being, not being good enough. Sometimes you have to accept that there are people that are better. So you might be, you might be released because a pathway's being cleared for someone else who's coming through.

That's a really difficult bit, to accept. So I think in, I'll give you the analogy for football, you have to accept in football that you are going to release good players. You might even sometimes release very good players, but you don't very often release exceptional players. And so sometimes you might have to lead to go, you might have to leave to go from being good, to become very good to come back.

Graham Daniels: Which thought doesn't, uh, fit quite here in the interview. That's exactly what you've done. That's exactly what I did. Because you found the right path. Yes. Isn't it? I mean, you found, you horned, you horned it, you played, you didn't play Premier League football. No. You played lower than that. But you still played 400 games in the football league as we call it now.

But you've found your sweet spot, which has been the rest of your life as a coach.

Matthew Joseph: Yeah. Cause I think as you, as you said for young people being performers, it's the responsibility of the club or the, or the people that you're working with to provide you where they pathway. If they don't feel they have a pathway for you, it's then their responsibility to not try and keep you there to block it for somebody else or when you don't have a chance.

That's not a really, again, that's not overly palatable. But with years of experience, you understand that's the route that there's, there's a pathway and as you, you, you talked about that funnel just gets smaller and smaller and smaller. You know, you can have 22 players under nine. You're probably only gonna have 26 players in your first-team squad.

You know, if you think you've got 22 under nines, you've got tens, elevens, and so on, you are really squeezing. So actually you need to go. You might need to go somewhere else. So again, and that's why I said stuff about being valuable and accepting the answer, it doesn't mean that you are not good enough.

It might mean that someone's better than you. In, in my example, I was at a club. Who won the league in 89 and 91. I wasn't gonna get past England right back at the time. No, that was some team. That was something that was very helpful. We'll draw to a close here. I wanna ask you something very specific in light of the themes that you've developed for us.

Graham Daniels: So I haven't warned you of this. Of course. A lot of parents who, a lot of parents who listen to this podcast, uh, Be like your mum, I guess, you know, there'd be Christian parents with, uh, a child in a performance pathway, on the receiving end of that, uh, in loco-parentis that you yearn for from the coach.

Give us, what would you say to a mum or dad listening to us right now, whose child? Let's take the hard one. They are being released from the pathway in, in scholarship terms that they're not staying in football. What do you say to a mother or father who has faith in that situation?

Matthew Joseph: It's very difficult. I, I don't think there's a one size fits all because for that young person, there is a huge amount of, disappointment, maybe reject. Maybe a feeling of, unfulfillment, maybe a maybe regret that maybe they might not have taken on the opportunities available to them at that time.

It's, it's very difficult to empathize with somebody in that situation. And again, it's hard to think about being in the arena when you've never been in the arena. So if you've never been in that situation and as a parent, you, you won't, you won't know. You won't know, might not know what to say, but it is about just being there for that person, because when you don't have that clarity and you are unclear and you are unsure, the constant and the stable things in your life are your family, your friends, your p certainly your parents, you know, in most cases.

But there'll be a constant in your life. What those young people don't need at that point in life is that constant to not be, to no longer be constant. Yeah, that's, that's, that's really important. So I know that my mum was always there for me, even though load of times she told me, why don’t you just stop playing football and go and do something different?

And she didn't do it because she didn't believe me or didn't care. She's a parent who's hurting, who's watching her child. She's watching her child go to trial number eight ‘No.’ trial number nine. ‘No’ trial number 10, ‘no.’ And wondering why are you putting yourself through this. So from a parental point of view, which I am now, of course, you, you, you care about your children and we would, we would rather take the pain for our children than, than allow them to go through it.

So sometimes we'll ask them, to stop doing something, even though you know, you. Sometimes you have to go through it to come at the other side of it. And let, and let, there's that paradox in that bit there. So I think, what would you say to a parent? I think try and be there for your child. And I'll give you a, a small story which hopefully might, might make some sense in all of this.

So, And you all know Noel Blake. So he's, uh, you know, someone I've known for a long while and we're on a course a couple of years ago, and this is the effect of being, of, of being released. And, and, well, it can be the effect and it depends on the timeline of it. So I knew that once I got released and I, I'd been taught his clubs and I finally got my chance at Cambridge, I probably spent the next 14 years, 400 games, whatever that is trying to be invaluable.

Cause I never ever wanted to be in that situation again. So I. Work harder, run harder, do more work hard, do whatever I could so that some I was, I was invaluable. And it's only at a point where, again, another cutting question and no said to me. Cause we, we were sharing some stuff about how we felt about stuff and he said, think about all the time you've stuff you've felt about trying to be invaluable.

Why don't you concentrate on being valuable? And it was like a sledgehammer hit issue because you're going, and I go back to that stuff like being accepted. You have to accept that whether you've been released today or you've had some bad news, you're still valuable to your parents. You're still a human being.

You still have value. There was a part of you which is, is no longer there anymore or might have stopped or might, take you down a different path, but you're still valuable. You know, you know, we're still beautifully and wonderfully made. You know, we're still valuable to God. We're still we're still valuable.

We're. The most valuable thing you, you know, you can get more than, more than money worth, worth, more than anything. So I think there's that bit of, when we talk about performance and we talk about young people, we'll talk about anyone come to the end of, of a career path that you can feel vulnerable because you can feel up if, if I'm no longer wanted that I'm, you can go there in this trajectory of thought, then that means I'm useless and I'm no longer valuable and I'm not as valuable as I used to be.

And, and it's all this stuff around what, what we aren't, but actually it's about No, no. You, you're still valuable.

Graham Daniels: Yeah. It's about who you are. I like that. Well, that leads me, I think to a last question, which is, uh, you mentioned Noel Blake there who'd been a football. Player of long career manager and a huge influence on the England, performance pathways and, and for young men over many years.

Uh, and a part of the Christians in Sport Coaches Network. You were a founder when the inaugural members, when the lockdown came of, uh, a group of coaches across the range of, of professional football in, in the UK who started meeting then and continued to meet together. Now, uh, tell us how that's been.

Give us a feel of how that is. Of course, people listening in can't imagine a bunch of coaches hanging out together and working out how to apply their faith to professional football. Give, give people a snapshot of how that is. You can't name names, of course.

Matthew Joseph: I think it's amazing that a group of people who love talking can listen and talk to each other about something completely different. I mean, you, you think these, these, these are coaches who are responsible for first teams, who are responsible for, the development of, of young people who, who carry, carry a great burden with them, and a great responsibility who show great vulnerability and creates humility.

To sit down and, and just talk and talk about, themselves, talk about their faith, talk about football. But that football part probably only takes up about five, maybe 10% of just some connections. And more of it is around how people are doing and, you know, lifting people up when things are, aren't, aren't going well, or things are, people may have lost their jobs or people are going in a difficult place and I think it's a, it's a real, it's a real blessing. And I think you, you don't realize the power of being able to speak to, to people who are in a similar situation. So I go back to that phrase around, you only know what it's like to be in the arena once you've been in the arena and you've got a group of young, of a group of people who have been in the arena who are still in it, who might have come out of it, who have experience of it.

And so there's that, there's a. In the way that people talk. But it's also that stuff of linking it back to having that, the one thing that connects us all together isn't football, it's faith. Football's just a vehicle for us to talk. And, now we've made connections with each other. But the one thing that comes back to us, in that bit is faith.

Again, for, for the young people, for the people that are out there, it's, it's trying to find your version of that. And that can be, anyway, it doesn't have to be people in the same arena as you. It can be your friends, it can be your family, it can be different groups. But I, I would suggest the one thing we definitely do, in those moments, did you find so to talk to?

Graham Daniels: It's been great having this conversation. It seems so important. It's football we're talking about, but it could be any sport. Anyone who's in the arena is a footballer, netballer, cricketer, rugby player, or tennis player. They're in the arena. They're a coach in the arena. You know, you're not less than an athlete or a coach, but you are more, you are more, you're loved independently of your performance, and there's a great God who loves you. Enjoyed your company as always. Matthew Joseph, thank you very much.

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