guest post from Paul McShane
This is a question I’ve been asked a lot in the last few years. My answer is usually, “Haven’t a clue!” The reason I say this is because my full focus is on playing football. I’ve always believed in not letting outside influences distract you, literally – don’t take your eye off the ball! A football career is often survival of the fittest and I’ve always had the mind-set they’re going to have to drag me off this pitch. So I purposefully would avoid doing certain things that I thought would take my mind off performing. To think about what I’m going to do after football was way too much energy to expend and I honestly believed it would look after itself when the time comes.
I’ve only ever wanted to be a footballer and I’ve been lucky enough to fulfil this. Moving away from home at the age of 16 to a new country to pursue my dream was quite daunting. A lot of people back home in Ireland kept telling me about the low percentage of people that actually made a career in the game and it scared the hell out of me. So I was going over to England like a man possessed. There was no way I wasn’t “making it.” Since then and so for the past 19 seasons I’ve experienced, and am likely addicted to, the nerves, anxiety and adrenaline that comes weekly with ‘Match Day’.
So now that the wolf is approaching the door it is quite a scary thought of living without playing, and what I can do next that will keep that fire burning in my belly. Maybe the enormity of this question was another reason I chose not to think about it.
Along with being a free agent in the summer of 2019 at the age of 33, my mind set towards retirement has somewhat changed. I’ve never been into Star Signs but my wife recently read mine out to me and I couldn’t believe the accuracy. I’m a Capricorn and it said I need to have the feeling of achievement everyday. For me, I need that purpose when I wake up each morning and not having a match day to train towards was making me lose my mind! Lockdown gave me a taste of retirement and not having my everyday structure made me realise I need to be prepared for when the time comes of hanging up the boots.
Naturally, I have considered coaching and have previously completed the UEFA A Licence. Whilst coaching does excite me, am I just doing this because it seems like the natural progression? Is there anything else out there for me? Will I enjoy coaching and managing? What if Hollywood is waiting for me? – With some of the Irish accents I’ve heard in films over the years there’s definitely a market for a ginger Irish actor out there!!
Through the early stages of lockdown I was looking at many different ways to occupy myself. I tried to keep to the usual training routine, but running around a field and doing gym sessions on my own in the house was becoming soul destroying. I needed something else. The webinars provided by LAPS really helped me. I learnt a lot and surprisingly enjoyed the ones that were most obscure, like learning how to create an app and getting the most out of your phone to create video and personal brands. These types of webinars took my mind off football and gave me something outside of football to explore further.
I also did an entrepreneur course that I found through Chris McCready (Player Care at Manchester United) who has set up an MUFC alumni which I’m also finding really useful. It’s great to know there are support groups like this and LAPS for me, alongside other players and athletes reaching the same point in their careers.
Following the advice of career tactician Toby French I now feel like Jim Carrey in the film Yes Man. Basically I’m saying ‘Yes’ to everything that comes my way. The only way to find out what I want to do next is getting out there, stepping out of my comfort zone and trying it. Nothing grows in a comfort zone as they say! Writing this blog is certainly out of my comfort zone and I’m treating it a little like therapy to be honest. Getting the thoughts out of my head and onto a piece of paper feels quite therapeutic. It’s also helping me feel like I’m achieving something – my Capricorn self will sleep tonight!
So, what am I going to do after football? To be brutally honest, I still don’t have a clue but I do feel I’ve made a breakthrough in my own mind and am more prepared for when the time comes. I do know I need to find something that replicates that Match Day adrenaline and in the meantime I’m embracing the fact that I don’t yet know the exact direction and I’m excited about going out there and trying different things. Instead of dreading the end of my playing days, it has turned into an excitement.
Who knows what I’m going to do but whatever avenue I go down, I’ll meet it with the same steely determination I have had throughout my playing career and life. The attributes and skills I’ve picked up in my football career will definitely hold me in good stead. So bring everything on – coaching, managing, punditry… even acting! Whatever it is I’m looking forward to it and whilst my main focus now is still on playing, I’m also much more prepared than I had been before for when my playing days do come to an end. I’ve also realised it won’t be “The End” but a sequel – Macca Part 2: The Next Chapter!