Press "Enter" to skip to content

Sonny Pike was one of England’s top young footballers but then became a London cabbie

It might be when a kid with that same long, curly brown hair he once had turns up for training. Or perhaps when one arrives wearing an Ajax shirt.

There have been regular reminders of Sonny Pike’s early life as one of English football’s most talked about prodigies since he has returned to football.

Over two decades since he appeared to be on a one-way street to super stardom, Pike appears to have now found his football calling.

After experiences in the 1990s which pushed him away from football, Pike is in a good place again.

Back in the game, re-energised with a renewed enthusiasm and working as a one-to-one coach and mentor to some of the next generation.

‘All of a sudden I am trying to do maybe what I needed back then,’ Pike said.

To understand that sentiment, a quick refresh of Pike’s story, a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of the football industry, is required. Pike shot to fame in the 90s and seemed destined for greatness.

He first started causing a stir playing youth football in Essex and by his early teens was being hailed as the next Diego Maradona or George Best.

Clubs, global brands like McDonalds and Coca Cola, and agents were scrambling for his signature.

He had deals with Paul Smith and Mizuno, his legs were insured for £1m and his story and exploits featured on TV regularly.

The attention ramped up even further when Dutch giants Ajax picked him up in 1995.

It seemed only a matter of where and when Pike would make it. Except things didn’t pan out like that with the pressure being put on him to become a star eventually becoming too overwhelming.

Pike’s inclusion in a Channel 4 documentary about player poaching, also helped finish his career, aged 18 and without a professional appearance, before it started.

Chelsea got cold feet after the documentary, a setback Pike has described as ‘the beginning of the end.’

By the time he later went on trial at Grimsby and Stevenage the damage was done.

Pike, now 36, instead went on to become a London cab driver. However, returning to the public eye in 2016 to tell his story helped lift a considerable weight off his shoulders.

Meanwhile, going through the process of writing a book about his life, which is due out next year, gave him a ‘second wind’ and was the spark that made Pike think about getting back into football.

He took a couple of badges, began coaching locally in parks, caught the bug and just through word of mouth his Sonny Pike Academy venture has grown significantly.

He now has his own indoor facility near Tottenham’s Enfield training ground and coaches over 30 different kids a week on an individual basis, ranging from professional academy prospects to youngsters just looking to build up their football confidence

Both the kids and their parents have plenty to learn from Pike’s experiences on and off the pitch while the role is taking him back in time.

‘Seeing the kids come in, a few of them have even got the hair and I say to myself “Jesus Christ, this kid is just a little me,” Pike smiled. ‘One even came in an Ajax kit.

‘One guy brought in his kid and had a video of him at a pro club.

‘He was meant to be this, that and the other when he was 10 and he was telling me “it is just like you.”

‘A lot of the parents, they know my story and are thinking about the pressures.

‘Sometimes it’s not the football side of things [that is the issue] but maybe their relationship with their kids and they know I have experience in that field.

‘What I get a lot from the parents, which I completely understand, is they like to get someone into their kid that can talk to them from another angle instead of it being just their dad ear-bashing them.

‘They say “as soon as I try and do something with them they’re switching off and it’s like I’m having a go at them which I’m not, I’m trying to help.”

‘But when I comes in from a different angle saying the same sort of things but with a different approach it settles in a bit better.

‘Because I’ve been though all sorts, that’s probably worked to my benefit when doing something like this.

‘If I didn’t go through all the stuff I went through I wouldn’t be doing it. Definitely not.

‘I do think about the other effects of football a lot more than I would have when I’m doing my training and as I am talking to the kids because of my background for sure.

‘I just try to give them advice that will keep them steady and give them a solid foundation so they’re enjoying it. Make this a place they can come to with a nice atmosphere.’

Influenced by his own football upbringing and admiration of foreign players when he was younger, technique is a big focus of his sessions, along with mental health and mindset.

And while business is booming – his website has attracted visitors not just from across London but as far afield as America – and he has been encouraged to take on many more hopefuls Pike’s focus will be on quality over quantity as he continues to grow.

‘I love it and get a right kick out of it to think I could be helping some people,’ Pike beamed.

‘The football side of it massively but also the parent-son side of it too, having gone through what I went through as a kid.

‘Therapeutic is a word I’ve used quite a lot. It’s so nice that people are coming to me to help in that sort of way.

‘It didn’t work out for me in football the first way but maybe this was supposed to be my calling.’

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *