x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Scunthorpe, this trophy is for you

When you come from the part of the world that I do, sporting success is something you do not even bother dreaming of.

Luke Thornhill is extra cautious as he tries not to drop the trophy.
Luke Thornhill is extra cautious as he tries not to drop the trophy.

When you come from the part of the world that I do, sporting success is something you do not even bother dreaming of. Australians dream of taking wickets for their country, the French lust after cycling glory and Americans fantasise about winning the Superbowl. In my home country of England, youngsters roam the streets of Liverpool, London, Newcastle and Manchester imagining themselves as the star of their local team.

Unfortunately, I am from Scunthorpe, a small working class town in Lincolnshire, and we don't do sporting success. We once had an American football team called the Scunthorpe Steelers who enjoyed moderate success in a sport no one else in the country cared about, and despite being popular in our town the speedway and rugby union sides have won little silverware of note. Our football team, which I used to dream of playing for, used to set their annual target as finishing in the top half of the fourth division of the English league system.

In the 60s we briefly flirted with promotion to what is now the Premier League, but faded away to finish fourth in 1961-62. Liverpool won the title ahead of us, starting their period of success. Many in Scunthorpe will have thought that was our last chance to reach the pinnacle of English football. But then, they were not counting on me coming across the guys from Barclays who were in the Emirates this week along with the Premier League trophy.

So, when I was allowed to get my hands on the cup - the same trophy that Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney lifted earlier this year - I felt I was carrying the hopes and dreams of an entire town. No pressure, then. It certainly did not help with two burly bodyguards - plus an ever-increasing crowd of bystanders perplexed at why I was holding one of world football's most famous trophies in a courtyard in Abu Dhabi - watching my every move and barking at anyone who went close to it without permission.

It did not help, either, when I questioned how much the trophy - made out of solid silver, with the crown made out of gold - is worth. It is "priceless" apparently, so I really did not want to be the one to dent it. When the crown started wobbling as I lifted the trophy above my head, imagining I was in front of tens of thousands of celebrating fans, my heart skipped a beat. There is one chink in the trophy, when Arsenal were crowned champions they celebrated their achievement by dropping it. But while the Premier League turned a blind eye then, I don't think I would have been so lucky.

lthornhill@thenational.ae