Boreham Wood’s FA Cup fairytale is not just a sporting success. For midfielder Adrian Clifton it is personal too.
Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker.
One story every day to make sense of the world of football.
Today, How did Ian Wright – and Boreham Wood’s FA Cup giant killing – give midfielder Adrian Clifton some hope in his life?
Each year, the FA Cup delivers some of the very best stories in football.
It’s usually a small team that pulls off what seems impossible, when they beat a team several leagues above them.
And last weekend gave us one of those stories.
“That is extraordinary! Fifth tier Boreham Wood have made it through to the fifth round of the Emirates FA Cup with a fantastic performance at Championship Bournemouth. 74 places between these two clubs in the football pyramid in England. And it matters not one jot…”ESPN FC
Boreham Wood became the first non-league side to reach the FA Cup fifth round in five years and they were rewarded with a tie against Premier League Everton away at Goodison Park.
But the team’s victory over Bournemouth had more than just a sporting significance for one of Boreham Wood’s players.
In 2009, Sky aired a documentary series called “Football Behind Bars.”
It followed former Arsenal striker Ian Wright as he set up a football academy in one of the UK’s toughest youth offender institutions, Portland in Dorset.
He had spent two weeks in a prison cell himself as a youngster, for driving without tax or insurance. So, after a successful football career, he tried to give something back.
And in that series he met a promising player called Adrian Clifton.
“So what are you in for, Cliff?”
“I’m currently in here for supplying Class A – possession and intent. And I‘ve been in prison twice before. I used to play for Arsenal academy…”
“How old was you when you done that?”
“Started at 11, got released at 15.”ITV Football
With the support of Ian Wright – both during the series and after it had finished – Adrian Clifton turned things around.
“I was like huh? Ian Wright thinks I’m good at football? I remember walking off and you must’ve patted me on the back. That pat on the back…was mad for me. That was mad!”ITV Football
After his release Adrian Clifton trained as a gas engineer.
He put thoughts of rejection at Arsenal out of his mind, joined a club in the eighth tier of English football, and worked his way back up. And in 2015, Adrian Clifton played in a World Cup qualifier for Montserrat.
He’d gone from jail to international football, in just a few years.
Today, Adrian Clifton plays for Boreham Wood in the National League and he will soon be playing at Goodison Park in the fifth round of the FA Cup, with Boreham Wood pushing for promotion to the Football League this season too.
So, after that incredible win over Bournemouth, Adrian Clifton had an emotional message for his former mentor.
“Thank you. Thank you. What more can I say? Thank you. And erm..there’s hope. There’s hope. You know, when someone like Ian comes into a young man life myself’s life…and shows belief…you can see how far it can go.”ITV Sport
Thanks to Ian Wright, Adrian Clifton found some hope in his life.
And that’s why this was more than just another FA Cup giant killing.
It was a story of mentorship, of making a difference, and of never giving up.
“I was reading a lot of stories about…success stories of the FA Cup…success stories of this…but for me it’s a success story in turning my life around.”ITV Sport
Today’s story was written by Chloe Beresford, and produced by Gemma Newby.
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