A case of what might have been for Halford

The Olympic Stadium will next year provide the glorious stage for England's first Olympics in 64 years.

Monday, 14th November 2011, 9:00 am
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 7:28 pm

A summer for the nation to revel in a sporting extravaganza which will captivate the majority of the planet.

For Greg Halford it serves as a reminder of what might have been.

Similarly, the moment the All Blacks lifted the Rugby World Cup last month must have been just as poignant.

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After all, back in 2003 that could have been him with England.

At the age of 26, the Blues star has amassed 311 career matches and 41 career goals.

He has transferred for approximately £8m in fees, while he has been capped twice at England under-20 level.

As a multi-talented youngster, however, he had the sporting world at his feet.

And it could have yielded an Olympic medal or a Rugby World Cup trophy.

As a pupil at The Boswells School in Chelmsford, Halford was asked to represent England at both basketball and volleyball.

He also established himself as number two in the country at the triple jump.

He represented Essex at the 100m hurdles and was offered the opportunity to turn out for the district at cricket.

The son of a former Saracens rugby player, he has since been told he possessed the ability to have made the England squad which won the 2003 World Cup.

Then there was the decathlon, an event he was once tipped to compete in at the Olympics.

Such was Halford’s promise, one of his teachers claims he could have been better than Commonwealth gold medallist and fellow Essex boy Dean Macey.

Instead, Halford chose football.

At the age of 18 years, four months and 14 days he made his first-team debut for Colchester – paving the way for a career in the beautiful game.

But the Chelmsford lad could so easily have been representing Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics.

He said: ‘I did a bit of everything at school. I just loved sports.

‘Everyone told me I was a better rugby player than a footballer.

‘My dad, Simon, played for Saracens and I had my first game of touch rugby when I was two. It was the first sport I got into.

‘Then when I was 12 or 13 I chose football.

‘The problem was I was always going to get back into rugby when I was at secondary school at The Boswells.

‘In fact, my teacher, Mike Hopwood, would tell me to concentrate on rugby and athletics rather than football.

‘In athletics I represented Essex at the 100m hurdles – at the time I was too young to do the 110m.

‘When I was in my first year at The Boswells at the age of 12 I was ranked at number two in England for the triple jump.

‘That was as high as I got with that, although I was always in the top 10 every year after that.

‘I recently had a chat with Mike (Hopwood) when I visited his classes at his new school and he reckons I would have been at the Olympics in the decathlon instead of Dean Macey if I had kept at it.

‘Macey is an Essex lad like me. He comes from Canvey Island, which is 30 minutes from where I grew up.

‘But apparently I had the ability to compete in that same event from the 2004 Olympics onwards.

‘Mike also said, 100 per cent I would have been in the England squad when they won the rugby World Cup in 2003.

‘In school I played number 10, I was the fly half and the thinker of the team.

‘I knew the game better than most people and that stood me in good stead.

‘I was actually asked to play for the district team – but it was always football for me.’

Since breaking into the Colchester first team in April 2003, Halford has experienced a chequered career.

After leading them into the Championship, he left for Reading in January 2007.

By the time he landed at Fratton Park on loan last season, Pompey represented his sixth club in just over three years.

However, the versatile performer was outstanding during his loan spell from Wolves, earning him a permanent move this summer.

Now he is a key member of the side Michael Appleton has inherited.

At the age of 26, there are still plenty more years left in his chosen sporting profession.

And he has no regrets over the ones he left behind.

He added: ‘There were other sports I used to play as well.

‘At basketball I actually never represented England but was asked to. The same goes for volleyball.

‘When I was 14 or 15 I went on a school exchange to Kansas, America, where we would play basketball and football.

‘I thought I was a half-decent player at basketball and had been selected to play for England.

‘Then I went to America and lost quite heavily, it was just on a different level.

‘In the football, though, we had two games against these 20 or 21 year olds and were beating them five, six or seven-nil.

‘I was there for two weeks and managed to blag my way to stay for an extra week.

‘We ended up going to school and having classes, it was brilliant. Right up my street.

‘When I was at The Boswells I also played a little bit of cricket. I think I was asked to play for the district in that one.

‘I have never played squash and hockey I wasn’t great at. But I used to love swimming.

‘I still keep in touch with my school teachers now, Mike (Hopwood) and Mike Farmer are the two main ones.

‘They had a massive impact on me.

‘There were one-on-one clubs for basketball before school and I would do classes with them.

‘They would have done anything for me and I would have done anything for them.’