Betfred Sport

The Sebastian Brown column: Planning ahead

First things first, Jason Euell was by far the best singer in our after dinner sing off from a few weeks ago. McNaughton improved but only in the fact he didn’t have to read the words from his phone!

Billy appeared nervous but produced a suitably confident rendition of The Foundations’ ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’. I couldn’t make out what George sang, though he appears to have an obsession with Justin Bieber, so it was probably that!

It is also worth noting the midfielders lost our post dinner quiz too. Unsurprisingly the defenders won, with the forwards scraping second, though they were put off by a rather unsightly wardrobe malfunction from Trev the quizmaster.

This week I volunteered myself as a ‘client’ for a module on the Sport Psychology MSc at Roehampton. I met with the student acting as my psychologist and unleashed onto her an hour of my issues. No doubt prompting her to question why she took this course in the first place!

One factor which came up was the workload of balancing university and full time football, particularly relevant as I had an assignment due the next day! Though being able to talk about it and get any issues off of my chest was of great help and I came away feeling refreshed and looking eagerly forward to our next meeting.

Athletic retirement

The essay which was due, was focused on the negative aspects of athletic retirement. Something which, thanks to my lecturer Caroline Marlow, I find incredibly interesting, despite being just 22.

When footballers and other athletes retire the majority of them aren’t multi-millionaire superstars who waltz into media work or marketing campaigns, most need to find another job in their lifetime.

This can be particularly hard when they may have been earning inflated sums before and often leave with very few qualifications. Lots of pro players desire to stay in the game via coaching, but often find high levels of competition and also a frustration at being around the pitch but not being able to be on it.

There have been several distressing stories in the media about sports people unable to deal with the consequences of their retirement. The latest being Dean Windass, whom everyone sees as the jovial character from Sky Sports or Soccer AM, a guy everyone would love to have as a mate.

Though if media reports are to be believed, he attempted suicide after suffering from depression and also became addicted to alcohol following his transition from sport.

'Black hole'

Substance dependence is common amongst retiring sportspeople, they often find a ‘black hole’ where the adrenaline of competing used to lie, a buzz which has disappeared. This hole is replaced by alcohol dependence, gambling addiction and substance abuse. Ricky Hatton is another sportsman who has fallen victim to this type of behaviour.

Sport, in particular football is cruel. When a player leaves a club or the sport as a whole, there is often very little support. Obviously this is in the case of a regular player who may have played for a few seasons for a club without ever becoming a ‘legend’.

Players therefore have to face going from being adored by thousands to feeling very alone, even finding they can’t confide in friends and family for fear of hurting them. They are forced to forge a new identity, away from the role of athlete, without one of their greatest support networks, their team-mates.

Not always easy when this new role may include introductions on a first day at work such as: “Guys, this is Steve, he used to play for Leyton Orient”.

This is where the poor girl who was forced to endure an hour of my moaning in order to gain her degree comes in. It is such a cliché but talking helps. Despite the stigma and the humour portrayed at sitting on a couch in a therapist’s office unloading your problems, it really does help.

Fantastic resource

It brings a new support network into play, a network which may also be able to improve any problems. Tony Adams’ Sporting Chance Clinic is a fantastic resource for all sports people, a centre where they can go and receive expert help for addictions and other possible repercussions from retirement or just as part of the general lifespan.

Though the fact that the numbers using this facility as a result of retirement issues could be severely decreased, if there was a service in place to help footballers who may be considering or in the process of leaving the game.

The PFA are very supportive, they provide fantastic financial support for players to continue their education and take courses at a discounted price, which is available throughout their life. They also run their own courses through higher education facilities such as the course at Roehampton.

There just strikes me as a final bit missing. Several of the older guys I have spoken too have said they’ve received very little emotional support when it comes to retirement.

Counselling or therapy sessions may be a fantastic use, but other practical ideas such as CV development, transferable skill identification and other educational and professional tools are left untapped.

Surplus to requirements

Obviously when you are required to kick a ball around a field for 90 minutes every week to the best of your ability, these skills are pretty much surplus to requirements, which makes the transition from sport even harder.

A common theme in sports retirement literature is that the focus required to play elite sport is often to the detriment of other activities such as those mentioned above.

It is something I believe is very much worth looking into as hopefully we can minimize stories such as that of Dean Windass and start to see more and more former professional football players dominating different sectors of the working world.

How fantastic would it be if Steve ‘who used to play for Leyton Orient’ was heading up a top banking institution, though as good as any of them were I doubt any of our new signings have a future as pop stars!

Have a lucky weekend.

Ever employed an ex-pro player? What sector? Were there any skills that made them perfect for the position? Let me know on Twitter (@sebbrown1) or by email to

< Back to Columnists