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`I MADE A CRUNCH TACKLE ON THE LADY IN FRONT!' I'LL NEVER FORGET...MY FIRST CAR; He can afford the flashiest cars on the road these days but high-riding Wimbledon striker Dean Holdsworth will never forget his modest Metro, as he told JOHN DILLON...

It's an exciting and glamorous life being a Premiership footballer, particularly if you're a striker like me. I'm very happy and well-rewarded playing for Wimbledon - even though I'd had my very public differences with the club in the past!

One of the biggest treats I'm able to afford for myself is my gleaming, dark blue BMW CSi 850 - a magnificent set of wheels.

But none of us makes it to the top in the game without serving a long, and low-paid, apprenticeship.

I started as a pounds 25-a-week trainee at Watford back in the 1980s when Graham Taylor was manager at the club.

And my very first car reflected the size of my pay packet.

It was a battered old black Metro and it meant the world to me. I saved up for a whole year after I passed my driving test at 17.

Basically, I needed a car to make the long journey from my family home in Essex to train every day with Watford.

It was a tortuous trip by public transport but, to be honest, I didn't really care because I was so desperate to make it in football.

My twin brother David, who's a defender, was also with Watford and at least we could make the trip together.

He ended up playing for the club for 10 years and becoming captain, although he's just joined Sheffield United.

We often got lifts from family and from club scouts who lived in our area but it was great to have my own car - and I got a real sense of achievement because I scrimped and saved to get together the pounds 1,000 it cost.

It was great to be 18 years old and out on the road by myself - master of my own destiny.

Hmmm...that was OK until the day I got stuck in traffic driving along Watford High Street in a downpour.

My Metro's sun roof was great for letting in the old rays.

Unfortunately, it was then that I discovered it was equally good at letting in the rain.

I was getting soaked. And then my eyes spotted a screwdriver lying on the dashboard. Don't ask me what it was doing there. I'm not the type to carry one around in case of emergencies.

But fate did its bit and there it was, just inviting me to get myself into trouble.

My brainwave was that I would tighten up the screws on the sunroof and save my beautiful car from being flooded.

Of course I could manage it while I was driving along...

Wrong!

A loud crash and a jolting thump suddenly put paid to my idea. I had smacked straight into the car in front because I wasn't watching the road properly.

The lady who was driving obviously wasn't too pleased.

But at least there was little damage to her nice, big car.

My lovely Metro had a crunched-in bumper with dents all around it - and I couldn't afford to get it repaired.

Instead I had to drive around with a permanent reminder of how to drive properly with due care and attention.

My wages went up soon afterwards and I was able to swap the Metro for a nice Golf GTi.

As I moved on to play for Brentford and then got the big transfer into the Premiership with Wimbledon, I treated myself to lovely cars.

Don't get me wrong. You won't find me tinkering under the bonnet on a Sunday morning.

I just like a nice vehicle for getting about in and I'm lucky enough to be able to afford them.

I still have a long journey from Essex when I go training with Wimbledon in South London so its important that I can do it in comfort. I've had a Porsche 911 and a Mercedes convertible. Beautiful.

And now, as well as the BMW, we have a Jeep and a Shogun - which are used by my wife Sam.

They're all great cars.

But I'll always have a soft spot for little, battered old Metros.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Dillon, John
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Dec 1, 1996
Words:674
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