Last month, we launched the #BestManProject. A light-hearted way to help men support each other – sharing and inspiring the collective wit and wisdom of best mates all over the country. Our launch film prompted writer and Football Manager aficionado Jonny Sharples to big up his own best mate, Sam.
The overarching message of the #BestManProject strongly resonated with me, and in particular my relationship with one of my closest friends; Sam.
I first met Sam when I was about five or six years old, in primary school, the sort of environment where you’re forced together alongside your peers with only two vague guarantees of common ground: your age and your geographical location. Over the years that followed, through terrible hairstyles and fashion choices, I got to know Sam and realised that we had a lot more in common than just where our houses happened to be; we would play football together, watch football together, play FIFA and Football Manager together, go to gigs together, and go to the same parties. Our friendship followed us through primary school, secondary school, and sixth form, and we remained almost inseparable when I was at university and Sam decided he would prefer to set out to work.
After I graduated university, Sam and I decided to move in with one another. Living with one of your best mates, especially when you’re in your early twenties, is great fun; we would spend entire weekends watching every football match we could find, from the lunchtime Premier League kick-off to a Major League Soccer game that didn’t kick off until gone midnight, and we’d play hours upon hours of Football Manager. There were also times that weren’t as fun; a lot happens when you’re in your early twenties: jobs come and go and so do relationships, you drink too much, you smoke too much, and you never quite seem to have enough money. Things can be really tough.
I was lucky though, whenever things got difficult I could always rely on the love, support and friendship of Sam. I knew I could come home, sit in one of the armchairs in front of the television, and tell Sam whatever had gone wrong that day. There were times when the roles were reversed and I could lend a hearing ear to Sam, too. And in the worst times, we’d always do the same thing: we would make one another tea and toast.
After a couple of years living together, Sam and I needed to go our separate ways: I needed to be closer to my job in Manchester, and Sam decided to join the Royal Air Force. Having known Sam for twenty-something years, I was immensely proud of what he achieved and remain so to this day but the thing with joining the RAF is that Sam needed to move to the other side of the country, and there has been times since where he’s been on the other side of the world.
Sam was one of the first people I told the news to and while I was still struggling to come to terms with what had happened. Sam’s reply was swift and simple, “I don’t know what to say, I just wish I could make you tea and toast”.
That was the case when, on 21st December 2014, my older brother Simon took his own life. He was 36 years old. Simon had been part of Sam’s life too; being in the family home when Sam came over to play FIFA, being on opposing teams when we would play 7-a-side, and helping us move our furniture in and out of the house Sam and I shared. Sam was one of the first people I told the news to, texting him just hours after I had received the news myself, and while I was still struggling to come to terms with what had happened. Sam’s reply was swift and simple, “I don’t know what to say, I just wish I could make you tea and toast”.
And that’s the thing, Sam did know just what to say.
Those simple words were just what I needed to hear, to know that one of my closest and oldest friends understood - he wanted to be there for me even if he was hundreds of miles away.
I am incredibly lucky to have Sam in my life, and other people just as caring and understanding as Sam, that I know will listen when I need to talk. That will give me the advice that I need when I need to hear it. That no matter where they are in the country, or in the world, they will take the time to speak to me when I need to reach out and have a difficult conversation.
If you have a friend who is struggling, if they’re going through a hard time, if they’re not the person you know them to be, then reach out. Offer them support; emotional and practical. Listen to them. Let them know you’re willing to understand and support them. Be there for them.
Make them tea and toast.
Join #TheBestManProject for tips and tricks on being a better best mate