Life After The Pitch

By Guest writer, Fri 03 July 2015 12:50


Life After The PitchWhat happens to footballers after they retire?

Football players spend a lot of time in the spotlight and the best of them are known worldwide, but even the best things eventually come to an end. They need to make the most of their career, because retirement comes early in this line of work and it’s essential to have something going for them after they hang their boots.

Contrary to popular belief, not all of those who start playing football become coaches, even though the vast majority of successful players don’t stray too far from this niche. Many fans assume that the logical next career move for players is either in coaching or presenter roles. While this is true for many, the truth is that there are far more players than jobs in either of those categories.

It is only natural for them to choose this career path after they are too old to play or when injuries make it impossible to compete at the highest level. All the experience earned as footballers comes in handy and having an impressive career as a player definitely helps at motivating players and keeping them in line. Manchester City had plenty of football players who decided to stick to the club after their careers ended, or put their coaching skills to the test elsewhere.

Alan Oakes is a shining example of a football player who made history in England and his famous goal against Middlesbrough is still fondly remembered by the fans. He was one of the few players who continued his career as a player/manager at Chester City where he returned a couple of years later as an assistant to Graham Barrow and John Hinnigan.

When on the pitch, he was the informal leader and players instinctively followed his instructions, as he had a cool head and kept his composure under pressure. In a team game such as football, there is no shortage of hardheaded and plenty of strikers feel like celebrities, which makes it hard to handle them. Diplomacy is one of the skill that separates regular footballers from leaders and this ability is just as useful when coaching a football team or running a business with dozens of employees.

He put his experience to good use and helped the team promote to the second division, with Manchester City fans celebrating his success. Even though he chose to coach another team, the dedicated supporters of the Blues didn’t hold it against him and acknowledged his contribution to the club. He holds the record for most appearances for Manchester City, with 776 selections which ranks him seventh in the all-time record list.

The transportable skills that Oakes brought to the table are readily apparent. A look at which football skills are have real world applications is actually very impressive. Most look at a footballer’s physical ability, but they should look at what the game imparts in terms of mental toughness and conditioning.

Christine Riordan, a dean at the University of Denver, describes mental toughness as having six key attributes all of which are learned on the pitch:

  • Flexibility
  • Responsiveness
  • Strength
  • Courage and Ethics
  • Resiliency
  • Sportsmanship

These skills are critical to all businesses but especially in those such as sales, consulting, investing and entrepreneurial efforts. Professional Football Association Director of Education Pat Lally also notes that “We have former players who are now qualified surgeons, forensic scientists, teachers, lawyers, accountants, dog groomers, wine tasters, plumbers and electricians.”

A springboard for business ventures

Not all football players have what it takes to become great coaches and sometimes even exceptional players find it hard to adjust to this new role. On the other hand, some players manage to incorporate the skills learned on the pitch in more complex endeavors and succeeded on multiple levels. Midfielders and forwards need to think several steps ahead in order to be successful at building dangerous goal-scoring situations. They need to anticipate and prepare for the worst to stay ahead of the curve. This is the type of thinking that allowed Starbuck’s CEO Howard Schultz to correct the company’s downward spiral a couple of years ago, and the type of thinking that has led many players to success after football.

Mike Summerbee played as a right-wing and forward for Manchester City, so he required a lot of creativity to find ways to penetrate the opponents’ backline. With defenders blocking his way, he had to use strategy in addition to sheer force and speed to be successful. The ability to prepare for anything is also a key ingredient to success in businesses, so it comes as no surprise that he chose to get involved with a number of business ventures.

Even though he was not as successful off the pitch as he was back in the day when he played for Manchester City, he did a fine job. He worked closely with George Best, another remarkable football player who is widely regarded as the best to ever wear the green shirt of Northern Ireland. Both players were highly intelligent and used their intellect on the pitch, so it was only natural for them to succeed as businessmen as well. Today, Mike is the Cub Ambassador for Manchester City.

Rio Ferdinand serves as example of combining the skills learned in the game along with his love of the game to launch several businesses including an Italian restaurant, an online magazine, and a clothing line, all while still an active player. 

A life dedicated to football

Frank Swift ranks high on any list dedicated to Manchester City players, as he is widely regarded as one of the best English goalkeepers. After his illustrious career concluded, he went on to run his own catering company by using the same set of skills that helped Mike Summerbee and George Best. After serving as a director he once again built on the experience accumulated on the pitch to take up a career in journalism and covered the beautiful sport until the last day of his life.

A great goalie is more than a fireman running from one incident to the other and he needs to anticipate the threat. The skill of identifying a problem before it becomes an emergency is just as useful when defending the net and running a lucrative venture. Swift had this ability and in most cases he was one step ahead of opposing striker, which made it hard to catch him off-guard.

Frank found the time to act as a president of the Supporters’ Club as Manchester City and followed the most important English teams all over the world. He showed the same tremendous potential as a journalist as he did back in the day when he was wearing the blue shirts of the club. Unfortunately, his newfound passion ended abruptly as he died at 44 years old in the Munich air disaster, in which many members of the Manchester United team perished.

Other players that have followed in somewhat the same vein include Newcastle’s Philippe Albert who runs a fruit and vegetable business and David May who runs a partnership that imports South African wine.

Former striker Marco Gabbiandini no doubt relied on the vast amount of time he spent on the road with Sunderland and Derby County in opening Bishop’s, an award-winning guest house in York.

Patience and Mental Intuition go a long way

The difference between good and great football players is that the latter don’t rely exclusively on their talent, but are also known for patience, perseverance and their mental strength. These two qualities go hand-in-hand not only on the football pitch, but also in virtually all forms of gambling, particularly in poker. Nowadays when the game has gained a lot of traction online, there is no shortage of players signing deals with major poker rooms to promote the game over the Internet.

The choice is not capricious or arbitrary, because there are plenty of skills learned on the pitch that can be used at the tables. Identifying weaknesses, being disciplined and believing in yourself are just a few factors that make up the poker mindset, but they also translate easily to the pitch. It’s no surprise that many footballers such as Ronaldo and Teddy Sheringham have taken to the felt after retirement.

Poker has been accurately called “a people game played with cards” and all of Riordan’s six elements are called upon. Patience is also a major factor as players need to wait for the perfect opportunity to strike whether they try to send the ball in the net or shoved their chips in the middle. Passing too early or clinging to the ball for too long will almost invariably result in a missed opportunity, just as raising too much or too little can jeopardize any hand at poker tables.

One of the key differences between football and poker is that the sport presents you with a second chance even when you commit mistakes, because you have the entire team behind you. At the poker tables, players frequently feel alone and this is an accurate sensation since they are all by themselves and the outcome of each session depends on their ability to stay focused and make the right choice every time.

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