Dateline: Southern Spain, January 2021
We’ve just seen out one of the most fucked up years’ mankind has experienced for centuries. It’s now January 2021 and I don’t see much improvement since April 2020; coronavirus is still spreading, lockdowns and restrictions continue to be implemented by governments the world over, a large proportion of the human race are shitting themselves at the prospect of being injected with a vaccine that went into testing only a matter of months ago, while much of the rest are queuing up to put their trust (and health) into the hands of the faceless corporations that made said vaccines. Throughout the world, the Covid19 pandemic and the measures put in place ‘to protect us’ have ruined many lives and not just those who have died from the disease, I’m talking about suicides, depression, broken marriages, millions of businesses gone forever, over a years’ worth of education and socialising stolen from children and the list goes on. After the first wave ended around the end of Summertime, I went to my place in Spain to sit out the rest of what was to come, my thinking being I’d rather be socially distancing by the pool than looking out of the window at wind and rain! One day after training I was finishing up having some lunch with Gemma, when one of my closest friends called me; “Hola Jefe” Jay said jokingly. Jay spends most of the year in Spain too and although neither of us speak any decent amount of Spanish, we occasionally dabble in a bit of Spanglish for a laugh! We somehow ended up discussing many things that are wrong with the world right now and what sort of world we’re going to be leaving behind for our children and grandchildren. To give you an example, many of you reading this book will remember a time when the NHS was a real jewel in the crown, leading the world in every way. You’d go into a hospital without fear and all you’d smell was disinfectant, you had confidence in anything that would be done to you and it felt as though the staff were happy to be there to help you. Sadly, most of us have experienced the stark opposite that is today’s NHS! I’m not taking away from what hospital workers do, I believe that the problems are at a political level; there are far too many people in the Country, urban areas are very densely populated and appropriate funding isn’t available to hospitals and to top it off, doctors and nurses are forced to work crazy hours for a piss-taking level of pay. I think that the British education system has a similar story, too; an amazing reputation globally, for now, but class numbers must have doubled or more in cities since I was at school and imagine the job a teacher must have if 50% of a high school class can’t speak any English? How does a school communicate its ethics to pupils and parents in 8 or 10 different languages, without diverting resources? School funding doesn’t increase sufficiently to ease these issues. I could go on, on to other topics that frustrate many of us daily, but I think you probably get the gist of what I’m saying!
At the end of our chat, Jay suggested that maybe now is the time for me to write another book, which I kind of shrugged off at that moment. I’ve been approached by several writers over the years to work on a book, but the timing just hasn’t been right for me. Mike Fielder, co-author of Muscle, passed away years ago (I requested that the publishers continue sending his royalty cheque to his wife) and no other writers really conjured my desire since then. After the phone call with Jay, I sat with a coffee on the terrace and following some deep thinking, I decided that actually, the time is right for me to get some things out in the open.
My first autobiography, Muscle, launched in 2002 and was subsequently made into a film called Rise of the Footsoldier. The publishers wanted my story brought up to date on paper too, with some extra chapters added to Muscle and released under the same name as the film. Almost 20 years on from Muscle, so much has happened, so much has changed in the world, the underworld and my life. There have been so many rights and wrongs, so many happenings and events; whilst we sit in lockdown wondering what the fuck is coming our way next, I decided to do something positive with my time. With Muscle still selling hundreds of copies per year 2 decades on, I feel I owe it to many to write what will be my last book. In the process, I hope to conclude some matters for myself and my family that will ultimately form part of my legacy to them when I’m gone.