The life of a footballer is often short and can sometimes leave footballers worried about what they are going to do after the game. It is all about the timing and when they feel it is right to retire from the beautiful game. However, when is the right time?
The average age of a player retiring in the Premier League is 35 years of age, and it is not a decision to be taken lightly. The old cliché is “you know when you know” footballers claim to feel when their time is up in the game. Former England and Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman said he knew when he to retire, at the age of 40, playing for Manchester City.
“We were playing away at Wolves; the ball was down the other end, and I was stood there watching, and I had this feeling of ‘what am I doing?’ and that was the first time I ever had any feeling about calling it a day. I thought that was a sign”.
Many other players have experienced that “feeling” when they know that things are not working out for them on the pitch anymore. They essentially cannot do the things that came naturally to them as easily as they used to do. Peter Crouch said that he would wake up sore after games, and it would take him an age to get out of bed. Alan Hansen said he lost that vital yard of pace against forwards, and Ryan Giggs put it down to not playing as much as he wanted to.
There are many factors that can influence a decision, but players rarely regret the decision to retire if they are able to make a choice themselves.
There is no right time for a Premier League to retire, and sometimes that choice can be taken away from them through injury. Players such as Dean Ashton (who had to retire at 26), Jack Collison (aged just 27), and Ledley King (aged 31) did not have a choice in the matter of when they were to retire as they were forced out of the game through injury. However, all these players tried and wanted to carry on playing the game. It was stated that King would miss training sessions so that he was ready for the game at the weekend.
However, ultimately you sometimes do not have a choice, and as much as you try to recover, it can be taken away from you. The most famous example would be Fabrice Muamba, who suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch at the tender age of 23. He had to retire from the professional game and start his life again despite planning out his next few years playing for Tottenham Hotspur.
Can it affect a player’s mental health?
Of course, it can. Just like in any job, you have the stresses of your life and have to make decisions that will impact your future. Players have to make the right decision and one that will drastically change their life. They are taking themselves away from seeing a group of people they see and work with every single day where all their comforts are taken care of.
The camaraderie of seeing a group of players each day and having such a high team spirit cannot be replicated after football, and it can send players into some dark thoughts.
It also makes you question your mortality. Players go from someone who not two minutes ago, in their mind, were breaking into the first team and having the feeling of invincibility are now no longer required, and many clubs, despite your years of service, can be quite cutthroat about their decision to not renew a contract or release you before one is up.
Is it all just a money thing about when to retire?
Footballers are often portrayed as selfish individuals who are only after money, and sometimes that could be the case for some footballers who are looking to get as much out of their career. However, sometimes the two go hand in hand, especially in the Premier League. The average wage of a footballer in the Premier League is £240,000 a year, and the average life for a footballer is just 8 years, not always in the topflight. So, can footballers not be as selfish as they can to try and make as much money as they can in their careers? It is the case for many other people in their careers.
But many footballers who have played in the topflight often state that the money is incredibly beneficial, but playing football is their real passion, and no amount of money will come close to it. They are stating that money is a driving factor, but that comes with playing at a higher level and the highest level that you can get to.
So why would a footballer not make as much money to make retirement easier?
What do footballers often do next?
There are many stereotypical routes for players to go down after they retire; unless you are Peter Crouch and advertise for betting sites in the UK. Many gain their coaching badges and either become a coach or a manager, or may decide that punditry is their cup of tea. One of those players was former England and Liverpool full-back Stephen Warnock. He knew the time was right to take the next step without telling anyone else,
“I was in the car with my wife and kids, and I got a phone call from one of the media outlets I was working for asking if I was interested in any more work for the following season. I was enjoying the media side, and I thought someone would take this opportunity if I don’t. So I said, “Yeah, I am going to retire,” just like that. ‘My missus and kids were looking at me like what have you done?’ but I knew I had made the right decision”.
Ultimately, players have to retire due to age, and they are struggling to keep up with the physical demand of possibly the most entertaining league in the world. However, there is no right time, and it will never be easy. If a footballer had their choice, they would probably keep playing until they were in their 70s, but for now, their inspiration will just have to be the likes of Teddy Sheringham, John Burridge, and Alec Chamberlain.