Credit: Callum McFadden. Photograph taken in February 2020 before Covid restrictions changed our lives as we know it.
You’ve made the decision. Or you’ve had it made for you. Either way, it’s over. You grow up playing every minute you can, ball under the arm 24/7 taking every opportunity you get to get a touch of your clubby. You’re anybody you want to be. Dalglish. Souness. Your choice. Anybody. Anywhere.
For me, hours spent battering the ball off the cul-de-sac wall in our street till streetlights came on or shouted in for dinner or if weather dictated, in the living room with the threat of a slipper off your backside if you broke any ornaments. It didn’t matter. You were playing. The living room carpet was Wembley. It was Scotland v England.
My Mum standing putting her make up on at the big mirror over the fireplace was the England centre half (totally oblivious obviously as never even made an attempt to put a tackle in, even though my running commentary should have gave her a clue) and my Dad sitting in his chair eating his mince & tatties was the Auld Enemy goalie. I was living the dream…..all you ever dreamed of.
Fast forward 30 plus years, it’s all you’ve ever known. Then, nothing! What’s next? In my case football was all I’d known. Joined Morton on a YTS from school and 16 years later the journey had gone full circle as I called it a day back at Morton. Plans? None. Next step? No idea.
My family encouraged me to “sign on” until I got something sorted. Why not? I was entitled to? I never done it for a few weeks. Why? Pride? Embarrassment? Not knowing what to expect? Who knows? But I did, eventually. The girl was lovely and very understanding. Then the big question “what is it you’re looking for?” “Ehhhhh…” let’s be honest,not many clubs will advertise on an employment website they have a vacancy for ex players looking to stay in the game in some capacity as it’s all they know.
Plus, the amount of players who get released at the end of each season is staggering,and if most, if not all, in the same boat, it’s a lot of bodies vying for the same thing.
Getting my coaching qualifications while I was still playing was something I was encouraged to do but something that I wasn’t too bothered about. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing but for me I was always of the opinion it was who you knew,what pals you had in the game. Obviously with the flood of offers I got when I stopped I had loads! In all seriousness if I’d had my badges things might have been different. Who knows?
I had fallen out with football,went in a bit of a huff if honest and needed something different. I tried a few things, people I knew trying to help me out, look after me. Nothing filled the void. Nothing ever will. The hardest thing is getting your head round that. It’s gone,it’s over,time to move on!
So football dragged me back in again. I done a bit of part time coaching for Inverclyde Council through ex teammate Stuart Rafferty and through a chance meeting,some part time stuff with Paul McDonald ex Hamilton Accies, who was Head of Community Department at Kilmarnock. Both part time roles so managed to combine both but it wasn’t enough to keep the wolves from the door.
Then, a stroke of fortune. Paul needed somebody to become his number 2, interview went well and I was in full time employment again. Relief! That was 14 years ago. Since then I have been in and out of various jobs for 1 reason or another,but the common theme all the way through is football. Whether it’s in a full time capacity or having another job away from football and helping out at the Juniors or taking a Youth team in Killie’s Academy, it’s a drug that you need. It’s in your blood.
I have recently left my job, reluctantly, as Head of Recruitment for Kilmarnock’s Academy where I took the Under 13’s too,and took up a position in residential childcare. I love it.
It’s different but it’s still working with children, trying to use what you’ve learned along the way to help them and encourage them to be the best they can. Still coaching, just not on a football pitch. I have no doubt after a break away I will get back in somewhere in some capacity. Even if it’s to help out a team off the pitch in someway I’ll be somewhere.
The football drug. Lets you take a break for so long…then comes looking for you again. Can’t wait!
PS Peter Shilton (my Dad) had no chance! Scotland 1 England 0.