When Wycombe Wanderers’ Jason McCarthy became a Christian, his family, fiancée and teammates thought he’d lost the plot. But thanks to a miraculous goal and a crazy dream, things soon changed


I had an amazing childhood, filled with football. I went through the academy at Southampton Football Club and broke into the first team. Then I went on a couple of loan moves, before signing for Barnsley FC. My then-girlfriend, Zara, and I moved up to South Yorkshire. 

It was the worst year of my life. I got held at knifepoint, I was assaulted in a nightclub, I got burgled. My uncle and grandad passed away in the same week. My dad became depressed, and I started really struggling.

I was 21, and football was my god. It was a release and an escape from what was going on. Then I was dropped from the team. The thing that was keeping me afloat was ripped away. I realised that all my happiness was built on football. 

A secret quest

A guy in the team, George Moncur, was a Christian. He was constantly talking to me about Jesus. I loved being around him because he was so joyful, and we became quite close. George sowed a seed but, at that point, I wasn’t quite there. 

I wanted to move back down south and be closer to my family, so I signed for Wycombe Wanderers. Football was going well, and everything settled down. But I had this anxiety: What if something happens again? One day, I was eating lunch and two lads across from me, Alex Samuel and Ben Frempah, were talking about Jesus. I pulled Alex aside and said: “I’d love to go for coffee and talk to you about your faith.” 

For the next month, Alex, Ben and I would go for coffee most days – but very sneakily! I didn’t tell anyone, not even Zara or my family. Ben and Alex shared their testimonies, talked about the Bible, shared the love of Jesus. I was like: If this is real, it changes everything! I started to pray, but I was still very secretive about it. 

Then I had my Damascus Road moment. I was driving my car and I heard an audible voice say: “Jason, my son, I’m proud of you and I love you.” No one calls me Jason – everyone calls me ‘J’ or ‘Jase’ or ‘Macca’. I felt a warmth come over me, like a wave of love. I’d never experienced anything like it. I pulled the car over and cried. I said: “God, I believe you died for me and now I’m going to live for you.” 

Zealous for God

I went from being ashamed to wanting to tell everyone. I went home and said to Zara: “God is real! He spoke to me!” She said: “What are you talking about?” I was telling people about the gospel in the changing room. My teammates thought I had lost the plot!

Back then, I liked to go out and have a drink, but when I found God, I decided to stop drinking overnight. I stopped swearing. Zara and my parents thought I had joined a cult. Everyone around me was worried, but I was like: This is the best! I feel incredible! 

By this time, Zara and I were engaged and she was six months pregnant. We had planned a big wedding in Barbados in two years’ time, but I knew I didn’t want to keep living in sin. I prayed: God, what do I do? I just felt the Lord say: “Keep praying.” 

I went from being ashamed to wanting to tell everyone

One night, when I came home from church and started telling her about a prophetic word I’d been given, she started crying. She said: “If this doesn’t change, I’ve got to think about things.” I said: “Look, I’m not stepping away from this. This is real to me. But I’ll tone it down.” From that point, she went on a quest to prove me wrong. She started reading the Old Testament and asking loads of questions. I said: “Listen, I’m just starting out with this. I don’t know a lot of these things. If you have a question, ask God.”

She said: “Alright,” and she began to pray. Towards the end of the season, we had a big game that we needed to win. Zara prayed that I would score the winning goal by a free kick. I never score – I’m a defender! But we won 1-0 – and I scored a free kick! After the game, she told me what she’d prayed. I said: “So you believe now, right?” But she said: “No…It might have been a coincidence.” 

Turned around

Soon after, Zara had a dream. A voice woke her up and said: “Ederson 91.” She googled it and found out that Ederson, the Manchester City footballer, is also a Christian and that he has a tattoo of Psalm 91: “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust…A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you” (v2,7).

Zara had a really rough childhood. Her mum is a drug addict and her dad died when she was four. During the first seven years of her life, she was held captive in drug dens – lots of crazy stuff, it was really tough. As she read that psalm, she felt like God was saying it to her. She went to sleep and had a long dream of all the bad things that happened in her childhood. It was as if she was watching a film of her early life, and in every one of the moments when she could have literally died, there was a man with long hair and a robe – Jesus – holding her hand. She woke me up in tears and said: “I believe!” We knelt by the bed and prayed. 

A couple of weeks later, just before our son, George, was born, Zara said: “We’re not waiting two years. We need to get married now.” We spoke to the pastor at the church I had been going to and, two weeks later, we got married. Our families thought we were crazy, but it was the best day of our lives!  

Jason McCarthy was speaking to Emma Fowle