HE has made a career out of stopping rather than scoring goals.
But Matt Hill, the Sheffield United defender, revealed last night how only an unexpected twist of fate dashed his dreams of emulating childhood hero John Barnes.
“I started out as a striker with Bristol City and he was my hero,” Hill, referring to the former Liverpool and England star, said. “I tried to do my hair like him too but I can remember walking into the dressing room one day and everyone reckoned I looked more like Mark Walters so that stuck.
“I was playing up front for the youth team and one of our lads at the back got injured so I had to slot in at full-back. I had a pretty good game and the coaching staff told me that’s where my future could be.
“Then, after being forced to cover at centre-half soon after that, I did well again and they told me that settled it.”
“I wasn’t very happy about it at the time,” Hill added. “But one or two rows later I accepted it and I’m glad now that I did.”
Despite impressing staff at Ashton Gate with his attacking skills, it has been 20 months since Hill found the back of the net in professional competition.
The 31-year-old, whose contribution both on and off the pitch was again praised by United manager Danny Wilson earlier this week, admitted it would be nice to end that barren run when Portsmouth visit Bramall Lane on Monday night.
But he insisted: “Keeping a clean sheet is as good as scoring a goal for me now.
“It would be nice to get one, though, because it has been a while.
“I must have been okay when I played up front because I was considered for Lilleshall and came pretty close to getting in.
“We used to play against teams from there representing the south-west.”