As an Arsenal fan, I’ve read Fever Pitch far too many times. It contains many fine lessons, but the one I always remember is that there is no such thing as destiny.
The passage that mentions this talks about an Arsenal defender called Gus Caesar. He was basically a figure of fun (and target of boos) for Arsenal fans and was recently voted number three in a poll of the 50 worst players ever to grace the top flight. But, as Hornby points out, he was almost certainly the best player in his school by a long way, then one of the best in his district and county, then got in at Arsenal, making a bright enough start to be selected for England U21s. Unfortunately, though, he was prone to errors, including one which cost Arsenal the 1987 League Cup. He barely played for the Gunners after that, leaving on a free transfer a few years later, ending his career playing for teams like Colchester.
Here’s the passage from the book:
“To get where he did, Gus Caesar clearly had more talent than nearly everyone of his generation… and it still wasn’t quite enough. […] Gus must have known he was good, just as any pop band who has ever played the Marquee know they are destined for Madison Square Garden and an NME front cover, and just as any writer who has sent off a completed manuscript to Faber and Faber knows that he is two years away from the Booker. You trust that feeling with your life, you feel the strength and determination it gives you coursing through your veins like heroin… and it doesn’t mean anything at all.”
The reason I mention this is because there is also a flipside to that.
Even if you appear unlikely to set the world alight as a youth, there’s no reason why you can’t do it later in life. Plenty of people have had their most productive periods when they found the time and place that was right for them to flourish.
Nothing’s been decided yet. Just because you’ve failed, doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t succeed.
In fact, I believe the above passage illustrates the career trajectory of Mr. Hornby himself. I don’t suppose that in his most depressed days of the late eighties that he thought he’d be an Oscar-nominated, multi-million-selling author.