guest post from Paul Connor, former Footballer turned Podiatrist
Like a lot of young boys my dream from an early age was to play professional football. My grandad was a pro and won the 1st division (now the Premier League) with Portsmouth FC, I idolised him and wanted to follow him into the professional game. I was so single minded to make the grade all I would do was practice with a football every night and at the age of 14, I was spotted by Middlesbrough FC.
I’d been scoring goals at junior local league level and signed a deal which included 2 years of schoolboys, 2 years scholarship and 2 years as a professional. It was a dream come true.
I knew that if I worked hard I had a career and contract in the game taking me up to 20 years old. As a 14-year-old that had a downside. Although my parents stressed the importance of sticking in with my schoolwork in case something went wrong, my mind was 100% focused on football and led to a decline in my academic results. I eventually left school to follow my football journey with no qualifications behind me, but I did not care. I had no doubt I would have a long career.
My career at Middlesbrough started out with a bang, scoring goals in the youth team making the reserve team at 16 then eventually getting called up for the first team squad a year later. As the club progressed and more expensive signings came in, I realised my path was being blocked and my progression halted.
After various loans I was released at 19 and determined to have a career, I signed for Stoke City. This is where I really found my career had begun, moving away from home and making new friends really grew me as a person. I remember one of the older pros saying to me, “Make sure you plan for the end of your career as it goes in the blink of an eye.” I just laughed and thought yeah ok I have loads of time!
I was lucky enough to have a 19-year career for some great clubs and I class myself as very fortunate but before I knew it I was 33, clubs weren’t queuing up to sign me and guess what, I hadn’t planned for the end of my career.
I decided to drop down to part-time football to try and plan a career outside of football and in all honesty, I did not have a clue what I wanted to do and that was a scary feeling after nearly 20 years of doing the same thing.
Coaching wasn’t for me although I did try it. I did a personal training level 3 course and a diploma in human performance and although I had no interest in becoming a PT, the course stood me in good stead for things to come. A friend asked me if I wanted to work for him in a sales job and I said yes. It gave me new skills in dealing with people and my transferable skills from football such as teamwork, determination, resilience, and hard work helped me adapt.
After some thinking I realised my passion was the human body and sports injuries.
I was suffering from an ingrown toenail and made a visit to a podiatrist. It was here he spoke to me about the profession and the different career paths it can take you and from then on, my mind was made up. I enquired about the degree at the New College Durham School of Podiatry and was invited for an interview. I was offered a place on the programme.
It was a 3-year degree and it was the most challenging but most rewarding thing I have done.
I felt for the first time I had a direction in life after football.
The course covers areas such as biomechanics, human gait, anatomy, and lower limb conditions. I felt my football career had given me a head start in knowledge of the human body from injuries I had suffered in my career. I eventually graduated from the course with an upper 2:1.
I have now started a career in the NHS as a podiatrist and it’s the best career move I could have made. I get to help people recover from lower limb issues and use the knowledge I have gained on the programme which is an unbelievable feeling.
My advice to anyone coming out of the game is to find something you are passionate about and go for it; I found mine in Podiatry and haven’t looked back!
You can connect with Paul here:
LinkedIn: Paul Connor
Twitter – @Conns23
LAPS Members can discuss Paul’s post on our Community page.