Marcus Gayle writes for Kick It Out
Not many of our mentors have played at the FIFA World Cup finals. Marcus Gayle played over 600 professional games for teams in three different countries, most notably at Brentford and Wimbledon. While at the latter, he represented Jamaica at France ’98. Marcus went on to manage Staines Town between 2012-2014 and will be passing on his experience to the next generation of football’s workforce at the Raise Your Game conference on 28 April at the Emirates Stadium.
He has written exclusively for Kick It Out about his upbringing, the loan spell that helped develop him as a player, and what he’s looking forward to from Raise Your Game.
Growing up, the best advice I got was from my family and my community in Shepherd’s Bush. I was always kept focused on becoming a professional footballer, constantly being told I was going to make it. I was rarely in trouble with my parents, and the only times it happened was overstaying in a park after playing football. Even then, my parents always knew where to find me.
There were certainly better players than me technically while I was growing up. However, I was always willing to sacrifice things and was always learning and working. One of those sacrifices came early in my career, being loaned out to KuPs in Finland for six months.
That loan move was exactly what I needed. Sometimes as a teenager you need that push towards the right direction. I came back a changed person. I was better tactically, more comfortable in a team and also played European football at the age of 19. It really stood me in good stead and when I returned, I was in the Brentford first team. Sometimes as players or individuals you have to come out of your comfort zone.
The experience I gained allowed me to learn about myself. I didn’t know anyone, and I didn’t speak the language. The only language I knew was football. I would encourage other players and coaches to do it. Cultural change is good and you can learn lots of lessons and see the world from a different angle.
There are a lot of talented people in football in all aspects of the game. During my career, I was oblivious to any racist abuse I might have received. I’ve had issues with crowds, but it was never due to the colour of my skin. In fact, playing almost seems to be the easiest part of the game – that pure talent – if you don’t produce, you won’t get on the pitch. The task now is to push that talent further in the game, elevating it to coaching, management, and boardroom level. I recently graduated from the ‘On the Board’ programme and people getting these qualifications are a step in the right direction, but there is still a lot to do.
I’d like to think I’m an approachable individual and I’m looking forward to passing on my knowledge to the next generation. It would be easy to say the same thing to every mentee that I speak to, but I don’t think that will add any value. What I’ll do is listen to the person in front of me and tailor my advice to the mentee. I’m really looking forward to the day and I’m confident that Raise Your Game will be a success.
I’ve always felt that through good communication, issues can be raised and resolved and these events help pave the way to the next generation of football, allowing me and other mentors to give back to the game. Raise Your Game isn’t one day that will generate an instant solution, but they’ll be around 400 people there and it will help make the future better through the sharing of advice, experience, and conversations.