Photo courtesy of Alan Mahood
Some people are lucky enough to make the decision on their own, others less fortunate have it made for them. Then there’s the guys in between who know it’s time but can’t let go due to the love of what they do or fear of whats to come.
When people in other walks of life talk about the “R” word, it means leaving a job well into their 60s when they collect their pension, then think about much deserved time with grandchildren or a sun soaked beach to while away the hours.
When you start out on your journey as a footballer you know it’s a short lived career, hoping to play for 20 years if you’re lucky enough to avoid serious injury, but why worry about it? That’s way ahead in the distance.
Then it seems like in the blink of an eye it’s over, nobody wants you, no more going in to kick a ball about with your mates and getting paid for it.
So now what? Some will be fortunate enough to have made enough to give them a good lifestyle for the rest of their days. Some will have invested their money wisely in property or shares and be reaping the benefits. Some will even have spent their afternoons going back to education to improve their knowledge and chances of getting a job when they stop playing. Then theres the rest of us that went to the snooker hall after training, bite to eat then up the road before everybody else had even finished their 9-5 dayshifts. Did we plan for the future? Nope!
We lived in our wee bubble thinking the day would never come. But it did. And with a BANG! Reality! What next? The real world.
Nobody to tell you what time to be somewhere and what colour t-shirt to wear that day. Nobody asking what you want to eat before telling you whats expected of you when you cross the white line. Your’e on your own. And even worse,have to think for yourself. How do I survive? How to I get a job? Where do I even start? Fortunatly nowadays players are better informed helping them to be prepared to make the transition as smooth as possible, with mental health and personal well being a big factor in this.
The big decision for every player is when do you call it a day? The easiest answer is your body will let you know, and with bells on! Your heart will think your legs can cover the ground,can go box to box, recover as quickly as you used to. Your head will tell you different. Your legs will ache after training nevermind the games. Young pups will be running past you the way you done to older pros when you were coming through. Its starting to sink in. When you start to think about it, then you know its around the corner. You will speak to loved ones, trusted allies, people you respect in football, looking for them to tell you to play as long as you can, you’ll regret chucking it too soon.
All kind words, but deep down,you know theres only one decision to make, the one you’ve been dreading since it first entered your mind. The one you know means the dream is over. But deep down you know your body better than anybody. Sometimes the hardest decisions are the easiest to make.