ADRIAN CLIFTON is in a reflective mood as the sun sets at Meadow Park.
After coming on from the bench to witness a 1-0 win over Eastleigh in the Nationals on Saturday, the 33-year-old Boreham Wood forward is holding a brochure full of photos.
They were his as a kid during his days in Arsenal’s youth ranks before he was let go in 2004, aged 15.
Clifton Acknowledge emotions when looking at them.
After escaping from the Gunners, he turned to crime and was jailed three times between the ages of 16 and 21, before turning his life around in off-season football thanks in part to a chance encounter with Ian Wright on the show Sky One Football Behind Bars.
Arsenal Wrighty legend helped Clifton get on trial with Wycombe after he was released from prison but more importantly, inspired him to take control of his life.
Clifton took his advice and quickly became a qualified gas engineer.
It seems fitting that Clifton recalls his past as he looks ahead to one of the biggest games of his life – the FA Cup fifth round tie against Everton in the Premier League.
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He will most likely come on as a substitute at Goodison Park on Thursday but that won’t make the moment any less special.
“I have been to a lot of different places in my life,” says Clifton.
“I have always considered football to be without pressure, because I was there. I was in prison.
“Football is not pressure. I enjoy this moment. This is what I dreamed of sitting in that cell.
“I am here, doing it. I will just enjoy it.
“I am smiling, I am happy to be here. It will also be a case of, ‘I finished it’.
“I was ready for my opportunity and when it came, I was ready to take it. Hunt to give birth.”
Since his release from prison, Clifton has been a non-league act, going from the likes of Romford and Maidenhead United, to Bromley and Dagenham & Redbridge.
However, his move from Daggers to Boreham Wood last summer made him feel at home.
Boreham Wood is a real community club.
A crowd of 1,236 gathered inside Meadow Park to watch the win over Eastleigh, with the majority clutching commemorative FA Cup match shirts and a half scarves bought from the stadium store. motion.
“Every few years, if you’re lucky, you get on a team like this,” explains Clifton.
“I have had many different clubs. You’re not always lube and it’s not always a family feeling and it’s just like work.
“For this group, it’s a family. Everything was great, from the manager to the lady dressing and to the physical.
“Everybody wants to hang around, no one comes in and out.
“People always ask us how we got here.
“When they look at our team, they don’t see special players, like referral players but we have come this far because we are a family. We found that formula.”
And it’s definitely a recipe for hell. From their fourth qualifying win over Barnet, to historic third and fourth qualifying wins over AFC Wimbledon and Bournemouth, they are yet to concede a goal.
What’s even more impressive is that coach Luke Garrard’s team is one of the oldest in the National League, with an average age of around 28.
Clifton – who scored the winner from the bench in the 2-0 third-round win over Wimbledon – laughed and said: “Some of the boys here will go on and take part in more matches like this. But especially for an old boy like me, it’s the biggest game I’ve ever played.
“We have the oldest team in the league but I like to think of myself as the leader of the men and I can give a lot.
“I would be lying if I said we don’t have this Everton game on our minds. It was hard for us to concentrate, but here we are now. Time to go.”
Immediately after the final whistle in the home win over Eastleigh, Garrard gathered the entire squad and staff in the center of the field.
So what was said?: “It was something along the lines of: ‘We can beat them. Get it in your head that we can beat Everton’.
“That’s what gaffers do. He sows seeds in boys. He did it against Wimbledon and Bournemouth. I really believe we will win these games, because of the boss.
“I look forward to preparing for the game and watching the videos of all these internationals.
“But we are playing against a Premier League team that is not playing very well. We’re going to believe we’re going to get there and get something, otherwise it’s no use.”
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/football/premier-league/4809581/boreham-wood-adrian-clifton-fa-cup-ian-wright/ ‘I dreamed about this in prison’ – Boreham Wood’s FA Cup star turns life around after chance meeting with Ian Wright in prison