SMITH OF THE STAR: Brendan gave me a fighting chance

THERE is more than one way to be a champion, more than a single route to success.

Some take the first chance they get, others need longer to mature and find their way, most never make it at all.

Wayne Windle never quite hit the heights as a boxer but he learned about life and himself and he picked up enough confidence on the way to make his way in the world.

Now the man who was almost too shy to speak as a ten-year-old is passing on the advice he learned as a boy to the kids he comes across today.

Wayne, now duty manager of the Meadowhall shopping complex, 'grew up' in Brendan Ingle's Wincobank gym.

He was raised on the homespun teachings of the legendary boxing trainer at St Thomas Boys and Girls club on Newman Road.

The man who produced champions like Herol Graham, Johnny Nelson, Ryan Rhodes and Naseem Hamed has also turned out thousands of decent human beings who may not otherwise have become so.

His methods are basic, controversial and all-encompassing.

And they work.

Learning by rote, working 'the lines' on the gym floor to improve mind and body co-ordination, learning that education is the way to personal freedom, drink and drugs only do damage and more than one girlfriend at a time will ruin your life.

When kids first join the gym they have to look at the wall and tell everyone else about themselves or sing a song. Everyone does it.

All races and colours are equal and for many of them it is their making.

Kids whose parents don't know or care where they are. Kids with stammers, aggressive tendencies, ASBOs, runaways and drop-outs all lose their labels and become Brendan's boys for the time they are at the gym. Many of them take their lessons into the rest of their lives and turn themselves around.

Surely no man has done more for the welfare of some of the neediest people in Sheffield than Brendan Ingle.

"I was nine when my parents split up," said Wayne Windle, now aged 42 and living in Thorpe Hesley. "I stayed with my dad and brother, my sister went with mum. I had a good childhood, dad was fantastic to get us through all that, and he's retired to Mablethorpe now.

"Our next door neighbour in those days was Glyn Rhodes who became a boxer and a boxing trainer. There was his brother Lee who I used to hang around with. That got me the boxing bug. We used to spar on the back garden. He started me off going to Brendan's gym, when I was nine or 10 and that helped me with my confidence.

"I was really quiet and shy and without boxing I don't how I would have got over that.

"Without the confidence that Brendan gave me I have no idea what I'd be doing now. I don't think I would have ended up in trouble, I don't have that kind of background, but you never know, it could have happened. I've been around kids who ended up in prison. Boxing was definitely my salvation - it gave me extra confidence. Without that boost I don't know what life might have had in store for me.

"When I was 10 or 11 I was very quiet and shy but I could take in boxing trophies to school and tell the other kids and the teachers how I got them and it helped me and it let other kids know that I could look after myself.

"Otherwise, I was the kind of kid who gets bullied. But nobody ever bullied me."

Wayne Windle did enjoy some success as a boxer, winning Central Area titles in 1992 and 1997 at lightweight and light welterweight but it was the experience of being a boxer that made Wayne Windle rather than his prowess within the ring.

"I used to go around the clubs on Sundays with Mick Mills, Herol Graham, Brian Anderson. We would go round sparring against the blokes who were having a few pints.

"I have seen guys come through the gym like Herol Graham and Naseem Hamed and every one of them would have been treated the same way as the rest of us. They've all had the Brendan Ingle magic. If he could bottle it, it would be priceless.

"Brendan would have us sweeping up around the streets and cleaning up round the church and we didn't always want to do it.

"I remember hiding when we saw his van coming but he would get us in the van and have us picking litter, talking to us constantly and trying to give us a decent start in life, laying down the foundations, as he called it.

"There are lots of lads who could be in prison but for Brendan.

"You wouldn't be able to count the number of kids he has started on the straight and narrow.

"I think everybody comes out of Brendan's gym a champion, just passing through his doors.

"I sat in the car with him this morning waiting to get in the gym and it was like going back 30 years. You hear the same stories and the same advice and it's still sound."

Wayne also saw the other side of Brendan Ingle's fatherly supervision.

"I remember my hair being a bit long when I was fighting. I was in the ring with a fella called Mick Mulcahey and I had to keep moving my hair out of my eyes as I was fighting. Every time it dropped down I had to move it with my hand.

"When I went to the stool after a couple of rounds of this, Brendan said: 'Sit still a minute, he took the scissors he would usually cut bandages with and chopped my hair off right across the front.

"I must have looked a right fool, but it stopped me fiddling with my hair in the ring.

"It helped but I still lost. Another lesson learned."

'I had a great time as a boxer - I wish I'd stuck at it'

IT'S taken almost 20 years but Wayne Windle has finally got the belt he dreamed of.

Wayne won his first area boxing title as a lightweight in 1992 but in those days the Central Area title had no belt.

Nowadays it does.

"I bumped into Brendan in Meadowhall one day and we got talking about the old days," said 42-year-old Wayne.

"Brendan told me that the area titles now carry a belt and that he would get me one made up to remember my title by. I thought that was fantastic.

"I had a great time as a boxer and I now regret not trying to progress further than I did. I think I might have been British Champion if I had stuck at it."

Wayne, pictured right in his boxing days, first went to Brendan Ingle's St Thomas Boys and Girls Club gym when he was ten years old.

"He was always timid and quiet but he was a good lad who wanted to learn. Wayne Windle is one of the successes, he just got better and better as a fighter and he had a great attitude, whatever needed doing he would do it," said Brendan

"He's a smashing bloke and he could have been an even better boxer. He was very skilful and you had to nail him to the canvas to beat him.

"I think he could have been British Champion."

'There are times when I sound like Brendan'

WHEN the gangs in the hoodies roam menacingly around Meadowhall there's only one man to call -

Wayne Windle.

Not because he's supercop or trained in crowd dispersal but because he knows how to talk to people - and he used to hang around with kids like that when he was young.

Wayne is Duty Manager at the shopping complex and he learned his people skills from the master.

"Brendan tought me a lot. He was educating us all the time. Going down to London on fights he would talk all the way down and back - even when you pretended to be asleep!

"Being with Brendan taught me people skills - how to talk to all kinds of people and get on with them. It helps me to talk to the lads who hang around in Meadowhall. One minute I can be talking to the manager of Marks & Spencers about an issue he may have and the next minute I'm talking to shoplifters.

"The kids coming to Meadowhall are sometimes seen as a problem but I try to talk to them and give them advice and I tell them about Brendan's gym. I talk to them about behaving themselves and if they're coming in to do some shopping and look around, that's fine. I remember being that age and although I was never in trouble I knew other kids that were and what I learned through Brendan helps me to deal with kids now.

"It's all about how you talk to them, if you treat kids in a decent way they will usually respond. You can see them thinking that you're right in what you are saying.

"Sometimes, when I'm talking to them I can hear Brendan's voice in what I'm saying. I can hear it when I talk to my own kids as well."

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