Life Goes On…

1 03 2010

The retirement of Dean Ashton from the world of football at the end of last year was undoubtedly a sad day for him and for the sport. I believe he had all it took to be an England regular, and but for injury this may have happened. It did however bring to the fore the issue of life after football, and what former pros do to get by.

Of course there are many which stay in the game, be it coaching (Bruce, Keane, O’Neill etc) or in TV punditry (Shearer, Dixon, Hansen etc). There are others who take less known roles in the game (Wolves’ fitness coach is Tony Daley, the former Villa and Wolves winger). There are some which do something good with themselves (Glenn Hoddle’s academy in Spain for example). There are a few who remain in public life (Vinnie Jones). There’s even one who’s a political figure in Libya (George Weah).

But for all these there are countless more who fall out of the game early, or at the end of their careers with few discernible life skills and fewer ideas about what to do next. For these the lure of drink and gambling can often be disastrous. SkySports News are running an interview with a former player, Warren Aspinall about his struggles, which came to a head with him trying to throw himself under a train. The interview, which can be watched here, is thought provoking stuff, and clearly hard for Aspinall.

It’s an issue which doesn’t really seem to be going away either, Paul Gascoigne is the famous example of this sort of problem, but add him to the list which includes George Best, Tony Adams and more recently, Matthew Etherington (who is of course still playing); and the picture begins to look a lot bleaker for those professionals who have only known football.

There are ways and means of helping these players out after they retire from the sport, but crucially, as Aspinall refers to, it is the lack of support from people who he thought he could count on which was the hardest thing to take. “Acquaintances”, he called them, “not friends”. That’s perhaps the hard part for the ex-pro. Having a whole world around you disappear overnight. Yesterdays news, no longer the concern of the industry which you have served for however many years. It is not hard to imagine why so many have turned to drink or gambling.

If nothing else there needs to be a greater awareness of this problem. Sky’s work in bringing it to the fore is helpful, but more needs to be done to simultaneously raise awareness and increase the help that those who are suffering need. The PFA is good in what it does do, but I feel that a there is a lack of guidance for people who have only ever known football.

The issue of junior pros released by clubs at a young age is Sky’s next concern, and the video should be available to watch tomorrow. I’d recommend watching it, if only to help you realise that there is a grim reality to football. For every Rooney, there is a young lad who is left high and dry with no skills outside of football. For every O’Neill there is an Aspinall, a person struggling to come to terms with the real world, a world outside of the bubble of organised sport.




One response

22 03 2010

The subject is fully clear but why does the text lack clarity? But in general your blog is great.

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