Tony Allen: And finally … Ten things I would tell my teenage self

Mar 15 | 2023

If only we could all have a word in the ears of our younger selves. What would we say? I think I know.

Tony AllenOne. Get your hair cut!

Two. Somebody once described being a teenager as: “There’s a party going on and you’re not invited”. Almost everybody can empathise with this sentiment. You can’t expect everyone to like you and you can’t expect to like everyone. People tend to like people who they think like them. So don’t set out to make people like you, try to take an interest in them instead and they are much more likely to accept you.

Three. Familiarity definitely does breed contempt. If ever you become a manager of something or other, just don’t think that you can circumvent this rule, there’s no mileage in becoming the most popular failure. It doesn’t mean that you have to be a tyrant – that’s equally mistaken – just try to establish mutual respect. In addition, be prepared to admit your mistakes as nobody likes a ‘know all’.

Four. To repeat, nobody likes a ‘know all’.

Five. Try to be good at something, develop a skill, learn a musical instrument for example. We had a piano at home when I was young. My mother attempted to learn to play Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered and to be frank, this only served to accurately describe the state of mind of the rest of the family when she was playing. I slowly taught myself to play this neglected instrument, but only just enough so that I could instigate a sing along when required. I must say that this has served me in good stead over the years. So, in summary, find yourself some kind of talent and work at it. You never know how useful this might be one day.

Six. Value your friends, they are among your most important assets. I’ve got a group of friends whom I have known since school days. They won’t ever let me get too big for my boots – not that I ever would anyway. In addition, never stop making friends, if anything, they become more important as you get older. Just by definition, a friend is someone who you can phone at 4:00 am who feels quite comfortable in telling you to bugger off.

Seven. It’s most important to value your family, they are yours and you can’t change them even if you wanted to. Remember that you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family, so make the most of them. When I was younger my father used to drive me bananas, now my son has a full bunch of his own bananas. Wisdom is like a good cheese, it’s a quality that matures with age.

Eight. Don’t think that you are never going to get old. When you come to think about it, to do so is actually a bonus, not a curse. I remember an uncle of mine being asked on his 80th birthday “What was the good thing about reaching this advanced age?” and him replying: “Knowing that you’ve made it that far!” Life is just as important at the end as it is at the beginning, so prepare for your future on the basis that you won’t feel any different to the way that you feel now. One day when you are the star of an 80th birthday party that you were supposed to know nothing about, you’ll say to yourself (yes, you’ll be talking to yourself by then) “Blimey, where did all of those years go!”

Nine. I will repeat to you what my father said to me when I was your age. He said that unless you are prepared for a lifetime of anxiety, whatever you do, don’t support West Ham United Football Club. I failed of course.

Ten. At your age living for today seems to be the name of the game, so remember to try to value each and every thing that you do, and please try to keep fit and eat healthily, it will put you in fine fettle for the future; although I’m quite sure that at your age you will be reluctant to heed the words of somebody who uses words like ‘fettle’, but why not try.

Most of all please stop spending so much time on Facebook and such things and, finally, remember that there really is more to life than a doner kebab on a Friday night … I don’t know though!

Photo: Tony Allen.