'football is my saviour'

MATTHEW Pattison is proof that hard work, dedication and perseverance pay.

The Mamelodi Sundowns linkman says football was his saviour.

"I wasn't really good at school and football was all I knew. I've always wanted to play football ever since I was a youngster," says the Sandton-born midfielder.

Born Matthew Joseph 23 years ago, Pattison began at Kenton primary school in Alberton before he left for England.

"I was young when I arrived at Newcastle and the lifestyle was so different to what I was used to back home. People in England tend to spend most of their time indoors, probably because of the cold weather. But it was a fantastic experience and my first club there was Redheugh Boys Club. Gazza (Paul Gascoigne) actually played for this club," he said.

Though he grew up a staunch Newcastle supporter, he admits to not having supported any South African club in his formative years.

Strangely though, his favourite players didn't play for any of these clubs at the time.

"My favourite players were Benni McCarthy, Philemon Masinga and Shaun Bartlett, and that was the time when Bafana Bafana were doing splendidly."

Seeing his beloved Newcastle relegated after losing to Aston Villa in their final league match last season was one of the lowest points of Pattison's football life.

"I was back home in England and it was a depressing day for all the Geordies".

The Magpies' relegation, together with Sir Bobby Robson's death were very tough for him.

"He was a top manager, one of the best in the world and played a huge role in my career. He gave me my first debut for Newcastle on the day we were playing Scottish side Celtic. I'll never forget that day.

"It was a friendly match, but there were about 60000 fans at Celtic Park (Celtic's home ground)."

Pattison says his return to South Africa was not only influenced by the 2010 World Cup.

"Not only do I want to be a given a look by the selectors, but I also needed change. I'm not disappointed that I haven't being picked as far as the national team is concerned because I missed the better part of my team (Sundowns') pre-season. Besides, my fitness was not where it was supposed to be."

He says he has been impressed by the standard of the local game.

"The standard is very good here. It's obviously not at the English Premiership level, but it's really good and I reckon a lot of overseas people would be surprised by it."

Debuting for Sundowns against Orlando Pirates, Pattison could not have asked for a better taste of local league, thanks to a typically electric atmosphere that usually characterises matches between these two sides.

"I'm happy to have joined a big team like Sundowns and we have players with big hearts at this team and our president (Patrice Motsepe) is doing everything possible to make the club a household name not (only) in the country but also on the continent."