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Sonny Pike: The greatest footballer that never was – and how he crashed back down to earth


“The little voice in my head urged me on. I pictured myself leaping.

“I wasn’t too excessive, however excessive sufficient for all of it to be over right away. There wouldn’t be any ache or struggling.

“My fingers remained glued to the fence, sweat seeping onto the chilly steel.

“One motion. One probability to finish all of it. It could be really easy. It would finish all the pieces.”

Sonny Pike was the wonderkid that had all of it. He was the gifted younger footballer destined to be a star, till all of it got here crashing down to earth.

His repute throughout the Nineteen Nineties exploded and there was immeasurable hype that got here with it. Dutch giants Ajax had swooped on him, he was touted as English soccer’s Diego Maradona and his legs had been insured for £1 million on the age of 11.

Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Paul Smith all queued to sponsor him, and he appeared on TV reveals like Fantasy Football and Blue Peter.

But bubbles have a tendency to burst. If his rise to fame was fast, then the velocity with which it was all taken away was double time.

It all unravelled to such some extent the place the footballing boy surprise was stood on high of a bridge – identified domestically as Suicide Bridge – considering ending all of it aged 15.

These days Sonny Pike is a London taxi driver residing in Hertfordshire, and he runs his personal soccer academy simply off the M25. He is the final word cautionary story for baby footballing prodigies and now he is telling his personal aspect of the story in an explosive new ebook that is launched in the present day (May 27).

He exposes the reckless ambition, the damaged guarantees, and the misplaced innocence that nobody actually noticed when he was at all times within the media.

He additionally particulars the best way all of it fell aside, the spiral into despair and how he has constructed his life back up to the place it’s in the present day after that terrifying second on high of Suicide Bridge. This is the story of the greatest footballer that never was.

‘It was a dream come true for me’

Sonny starring in a Hello! journal shoot

Dutch soccer giants Ajax had been the staff in 1995 having gained the Champions League. For a younger Sonny Pike, who had fallen in love with soccer after the 1990 World Cup and idolised the nice Johan Cruyff, it was a membership he would never have imagined enjoying for.

That is, till it occurred for actual. His goalscoring at youth stage had already gathered consideration within the native press’ sport pages in Enfield, and it wasn’t lengthy earlier than a London Tonight TV crew got here to see what this proficient child was all about.

“In that interview with London Tonight I discussed Cruyff, and I discussed these gamers, and being the early 90s soccer wasn’t precisely probably the most technical sport,” mentioned Sonny.

“It was first one’s free, deal with them, hospitalise them and get a yellow card – and I’m right here speaking about technical capacity and Cruyff turns.

“It received consideration and off the back of that we received a name from out in Holland that I might have the prospect to go to Feyenoord or Ajax.

“I heard that information – my dad simply rang me and mentioned, ‘you’ve received a alternative to go to Ajax or Feyenoord, what would you like to do?’

“Obviously once I heard Ajax – and Cruyff and the connection there – I was like, ‘wow, let’s go to Ajax!'”

He continued: “It was a dream come true for me actually. I’ve actually simply gone to the highest and gone previous all the pieces – and that’s when it [the fame] did crank up. Blue Peter got here on the market with me – they filmed the entire thing – Trans World Sport had been on the market, and additionally they filmed the entire thing.

“There had been two Dutch digital camera crews and they filmed all the pieces on the market. Everywhere I went for that week or so there have been normally three or 4 completely different units of cameras with me.”

‘I simply need it to cease’

Mizuno let Sonny circle whatever products he wanted from their catalogue

Mizuno let Sonny circle no matter merchandise he wished from their catalogue

Ajax was only the start of Sonny Pike’s fame. Brands queued up for sponsorship or for alternatives to work with him and the TV work continued to flood in.

If you had been a soccer fan within the 90s, the possibilities are you had seen Sonny someplace. But then, as Sonny writes in his ebook, all the pieces modified when Chelsea got here calling.

“A documentary took place once I was 14 with Greg Dyke, who ended up operating the FA,” he defined.

“It was simply going to be one other documentary and I’m drained. I’m uninterested in all of the media by then. For me it was simply one other documentary that I don’t need to do however we had been informed that it’s going to be a pleasant documentary about how I’m progressing and what’s going to occur.

“It was referred to as Fair Game, and it was on Channel 4, and Greg Dyke and a cameraman got here to my home. I was at Leyton Orient at that time, however I wasn’t formally signed there, and I’d been requested to go to Chelsea on the similar time.

“I’d been coaching there a little bit bit and they got here and turned up at my home with the digital camera. We flip up at Chelsea’s coaching floor – Bernie Dixon was operating it – and I’ll never neglect, as we walked in, my dad is there and Terry is there – my previous soccer coach – and the cameraman is there.

“Bernie mentioned ‘woah, what’s this you may’t have a digital camera, we’re right here to prepare’. The response was ‘no, it’s only for dwelling use’. While my head’s down I’m simply pondering I would like to go in right here and play soccer.”

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As it turned out, Sonny couldn’t simply think about his soccer throughout that session as there was a really notable distraction on the similar time.

“I’m coaching and, you understand in a sports activities corridor they’ve the inexperienced curtain alongside the aspect, all I might see was this man popping up with a digital camera filming me and then he’d pop back down,” he mentioned.

“I’m enjoying and I might see it within the nook of my eye. I can inform everybody else is wanting, the coaches are wanting, and I was shrinking inside myself. I simply need it to cease.

“We got here out of the coaching session and the cameraman comes out with my dad – they’re all pleased. Terry comes down and he’s mad – ‘what’s occurring right here, this has received to cease’. He’s at all times been that one that’s tried to struggle my nook.”

‘I felt like throwing myself in entrance of a automobile simply to cease my head from spinning’

Sonny with his football coach Terry

Sonny along with his soccer coach Terry

Sonny’s spiral had simply begun. On May 12, 1996, a deeply damaging News of the World article was printed that left the boy surprise surprised.

Chelsea tried to nick my 12-yr-previous son: Blues face rap over wonderkid – that was the headline.

“There was a giant image of a magnifying glass, being poached and I mentioned, ‘Dad, this isn’t good, that is actually unhealthy for me’,” mentioned Sonny.

“He mentioned, ‘I do know, I can’t imagine what they’ve accomplished’. I went back within the caravan, appeared out of the window and it began dawning on me pondering that is actually getting uncontrolled.

“The media stuff I’m getting now is just not even making me look good. In the time I’d been doing the media my mum and Terry began to inform me he’s not doing this for the correct purpose. I was pondering, ‘no that is my dad in fact he would’.

“In my thoughts, I’m making an attempt to perceive what’s occurring and, when that occurred, that was a little bit drop for me – possibly they’re proper. That’s once I began pondering a bit in another way.”

Then got here the documentary – besides it wasn’t the ‘good documentary’ about Sonny that was talked about. More scouts had been launched within the present, together with extra promising younger footballers Sonny had never heard of

The full title of the programme was Fair Game: Coaching and poaching. The documentary wasn’t about Sonny in any respect, it was about youth gamers being coached and those that had been being poached – Sonny fell into the latter class.

There was additionally a notable absentee on the viewing celebration that had been organised – Sonny’s dad.

“I watched the documentary, went out in the course of the street after and I was standing on the roundabout,” Sonny mentioned.

“There had been automobiles simply thrashing round me and I felt like throwing myself in entrance of a automobile then simply to cease my head from spinning. It was simply uncontrolled at that level and my dad wasn’t wherever to be seen.”

As a results of the poaching fiasco, Sonny was banned for a yr from enjoying in any soccer membership’s faculty of excellence.

‘I ain’t received a son no extra’

Sonny spent time playing with Ajax before his fame soared

Sonny hung out enjoying with Ajax earlier than his fame soared

Things didn’t get simpler after the documentary aired, as we come to what Sonny describes because the hardest second of all. You can nonetheless hear the emotion as he retells it over a Zoom name.

“The hardest bit, a couple of month after, I’m coaching with Terry as a result of he was my one-to-one coach,” Sonny defined.

“He [Sonny’s dad] comes over, I hadn’t seen him for a couple of month. He comes over to the fence, the identical approach he at all times used to come by means of, and he was saying ‘Sonny, Sonny’.

“It was a kind of moments the place you’re pondering ‘what’s going to occur right here?’ I walked up to him, little bit of dialogue back and forth, and he mentioned to me, ‘I’ve received some extra be just right for you’.

“It was newspapers, this, that and the opposite. I couldn’t imagine it. I was like, ‘dad are you joking? I can’t do that anymore, it’s accomplished, it’s over’.

“I’d mentioned to him a number of occasions earlier than that I don’t need to do it however, this time, I was telling him no.”

What occurred subsequent was one thing Sonny recollects intimately in his ebook, he says his dad informed him ‘nicely I ain’t received a son no extra’.

According to Sonny, that second despatched shivers down his backbone.

“I simply didn’t know what to do and I believe I rotated and muttered the identical phrases back to him – ‘I haven’t received a dad’,” he mentioned.

“That was it and I walked away from him, and I walked back to Terry.”

He added: “That second there was worse than something.

“After that I received refused from a couple of golf equipment and launched. You can multiply that by 1,000,000 and it wouldn’t come close to to that.

“That was an enormous second for me.”

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‘He simply misplaced his approach’

In the back of Sonny’s ebook, he has devoted a chapter in his dad’s defence – a whole message over Facebook giving his model of occasions.

The relationship between the pair is advanced however all through the unhealthy moments it should not be forgotten a number of good got here with that.

“There’s elements of it there the place you assume to your self, was he exploited as nicely?” mentioned Sonny on his relationship along with his dad.

“He didn’t know how to management it and cope with it himself, which form of backfired onto me.

“I like to assume that typically as a result of that’s my dad on the finish of the day. I don’t like to assume he’s gone into it personally for that.

'Sonny Pike: The Greatest Footballer That Never Was' is on sale from May 27

‘Sonny Pike: The Greatest Footballer That Never Was’ is on sale from May 27

“But once I consider that – when he informed me he ‘ain’t received a son no extra’ – then that at all times comes back to my thoughts.

“But he was really actually good, in some elements my dad was sensible.

“He’d go so far as he wished to assist me do no matter I did with my soccer.

“He was clueless about soccer however he tried all the pieces to get me the most effective of what I might get.

“He would prepare me on daily basis and a number of the confusion folks get with me is that he was a pushy mum or dad in the best way he made me prepare and the best way he made me do soccer, which it wasn’t.

“He genuinely wished the most effective for me and he did do that however when these different issues come off the back of my expertise and these different alternatives flip up, he simply misplaced his approach.”

‘Mentally I was shot to bits’

Two years later and Sonny had managed to get a trial with London membership Crystal Palace, issues had been going nicely in coaching and had been wanting up.

Then got here one other newspaper article titled: The ruthless struggle to signal our son broke my coronary heart and smashed this household aside.

It was Sonny’s dad, two years since that they had final spoken. But what hit hardest was the prefix used subsequent to Sonny’s identify – ex-wonderkid.

It boiled over three days later when he performed a sport for Crystal Palace towards Tottenham. “I couldn’t imagine it, that he’d mentioned ex-wonderkid,” mentioned Sonny. “What do you imply, I’m 15?

“I’m pondering I’ve received to produce miracles on this subsequent sport I play as a result of it’s all within the paper and I put a lot stress on myself in that one sport that I had to achieve this a lot. It didn’t work out too nicely.”

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He continued: “I believe I performed simply over half the sport, and I simply walked off the pitch saying I’m injured to the supervisor.

“I walked off on the diagonal throughout the pitch saying I’m injured, I can’t play anymore. Obviously, it wasn’t a bodily damage, it was simply mentally I was shot to bits.”

More soiled linen was aired in public afterwards, as Sonny’s mum took his dad to courtroom. It was an terrible affair specified by entrance of a gallery of reporters and learn by folks throughout the nation. In the top, the decide dominated his dad wasn’t allowed to use Sonny’s identify within the media. Then got here the spiral to Suicide Bridge.

You haven’t got to endure in silence in case you’re struggling together with your psychological well being. Here are some teams you may contact if you need assistance.

Samaritans: Phone 116 123, 24 hours a day, or e-mail [email protected], in confidence

Childline: Phone 0800 1111. Calls are free and will not present up in your invoice

PAPYRUS: A voluntary organisation supporting suicidal teenagers and younger adults. Phone 0800 068 4141

Depression Alliance: A charity for folks with despair. No helpline however presents helpful assets and hyperlinks to different info

Students Against Depression: An internet site for college students who’re depressed, have low temper, or are suicidal. Click right here to go to

Bullying UK: An internet site for each kids and adults affected by bullying. Click right here

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): For younger males who’re feeling sad. There is a helpline: 0800 58 58 58 or go to the web site

‘It’ll be the straightforward approach to simply cease the complications and all the pieces else’

Sonny with his cab at Charlton's stadium to give a talk on football and mental health

Sonny along with his cab at Charlton’s stadium to give a chat on soccer and psychological well being

“I had a lot occurring making an attempt to get my head round it and I bear in mind factors the place I was taking a look at myself simply getting so agitated that I couldn’t determine it out,” mentioned Sonny, describing the interval within the aftermath of the Palace sport and the courtroom case.

“I began getting indignant at myself and upset and it simply despatched me right into a despair I suppose. I didn’t need to speak to anybody about it, I didn’t need to be checked out as the child who’s weak. I wouldn’t say that, I wouldn’t say something.

“After a protracted interval of doing that, I began venturing out a bit, going out in the direction of the park. I wasn’t enjoying as a lot soccer, however we’d exit on our bikes, and we’d go up to both Muswell Hill and go swimming or to the West End.

“I believe we went to the West End at this level and on the best way back we got here up to the bridge. I’d heard folks speaking about that bridge earlier than and it’s a well-known bridge – for that.

“We received to the highest of it and I simply put my foot on the brakes. All my mates carried on going down the hill and I simply thought ‘that is the bridge that everybody talks about’.

“I pulled over on my bike and I walked back to it then it begins to really feel actually actual. In thoughts, rapidly, simply with ideas, it’s there.

“I seize maintain of it, I’m wanting over, I’m pondering this, that and the opposite. It’ll be the straightforward approach to simply cease the complications and all the pieces else. That’s how I ended up there.”

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The subsequent query is the apparent one – what stopped you?

“Maybe I didn’t have sufficient balls for it, I don’t know,” Sonny responded. “I can’t precisely inform you what stopped me, I believe I was most likely simply too scared to do it.

“I was scared. I went there first simply occupied with it and then I received there and it settled into my mind really what was occurring.

“I walked away, calmly received back on my bike and began biking on my approach dwelling and that was the primary time in my thoughts I knew I was up towards this battle. I knew I was at struggle and for the primary time at that level I put soccer second.

“I’ve actually received to pay money for myself right here – this has received to come first earlier than something.”

Sonny Pike – The Greatest Footballer That Never Was, printed by Reach Sport, is on sale now. Save 25 per cent off on reachsportshop.com.