Marc Guéhi: Football, family and faith
Marc Guéhi on his journey from Grove Park in Lewisham and Cray Wanderers to becoming an England international
My first memory of football would be from when I was around 5 or 6 years old and playing for Cray Wanderers.
I grew up in Grove Park, Lewisham, so Cray Wanderers was one of the nearby teams in south London. I remember our bright orange kit and I really enjoyed my time playing there.
Grove Park might not be considered the nicest neighbourhood but it helped me grow up a lot quicker and it helped me be a lot more aware of my surroundings which was good for me.
There were loads of cars going around so we would play football anywhere we could really, against the wall, in the street or in the park.
I moved to England when I was one from Abidjan in the Ivory Coast. My mum and dad are from different villages so it is unbelievable that they met really.
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My dad was a minister so faith is massively important in my life. I still go to church on Sundays when I can and it's played a big part in both my football and my life in general, with my morals, my values and who I put my trust in. My faith is something I value very highly in my life, for sure.
Church was also where I used to play the drums! We didn’t have a set at home so it was the only time I could play. It was nice to just be free and enjoy it and it was an enjoyable part of growing up. I'm not up there with the greatest drummers in the world but I’d like to think I’m okay at it!
As well as faith, another big part of my life is my family. I've always been close to my family, especially my younger sisters Lois, Joelle and Shirel.
Having them around has been great for me, particularly in football. They support me everywhere I go, coming to my games. The fact they enjoy football as well has helped me a lot. We’ve always been very close and it is something that I don't take for granted.
I think my parents saw football as a way for me to get out and do something. That's how it started, really.
I started playing for Cray Wanderers when I was around five or six and was there for around two or three years.
My coach at Cray Wanderers, Steve, was involved in the scouting system at Chelsea in some capacity and then through him, I went to one of the centres where lots of kids would come and play to see what happens.
From there, I went on to join Chelsea at the Under-8s at the age of seven or eight, so Steve definitely helped me a lot in terms of my career.
I'd say the person who helped me the most was definitely my dad though. He drove me everywhere I needed to go and was always there to help me.
My dad and the support system around me was invaluable and my dad also played a big role when it came to my faith, which has really helped me in life.
A lot of other defenders started playing higher up the pitch but I've never moved from defence. I've always been at the back somewhere.
I've never been one for wanting to be up front in the limelight or at the back as the goalkeeper. I don’t harbour any desire to be the next Harry Kane or anything like that. I am very happy where I am!"
Obviously being from the Ivory Coast, one striker we did love was Didier Drobga. He was someone I looked up to growing up, especially considering he played for Chelsea too.
I've always loved football, but it was not something I thought of as a long-term commitment initially. I never thought past just that initial enjoyment and how much I loved it.
I'd say neither did my parents, really. For them, it was more about education: go to school and make sure you get your education. That was the main priority.
Then as I progressed through the Chelsea academy system, I started to realise, 'Okay, this is going quite well.' That's when it dawned on me that this could potentially be a career.
But education was definitely the number one thing though and I'm glad that my parents directed me in the right path. They knew what the priority was first and foremost.
When I look back at playing football in those early days, it was never something I took too seriously. It only got serious a little later.
It was just about the enjoyment, playing with friends and doing the thing that I loved most, which was amazing. And when you think about it, I still get to do that now!
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