What is your playing history?
I started at Bradford City in their Centre of Excellence when I was eleven and then got picked up by Manchester United when I was thirteen. I spent two years as a schoolboy, two years as an apprentice and one year as a professional. During my time at United I won seven caps for England at u16 and u17 level.
After I got released at Man United, I spent two years in the development squad at Derby County, before signing for Burnley where I am currently contracted. Since joining Burnley I have spent time on loan at Hartlepool United, York City and Kilmarnock FC.
What led you to deciding you wanted to do a degree?
Jason Lee, a PFA representative came into Derby and ran a presentation in front of the u18’s and u21’s.
At the time, I had a feeling that my contract wasn’t going to be renewed at the end of the season by Derby and I knew how difficult it is for young players to get clubs after being released.
During the presentation, the Sports Writing and Broadcasting degree appealed to me as my Dad has worked in the media since he retired playing professionally. I have always followed him around to watch games while he has been commentating on the TV or radio. I have always had an interest in the media side of sport.
How have the PFA helped you?
If it wasn’t for the PFA then I wouldn’t have known to do this course. I will always be thankful for their help putting me on the right track. Now I have the degree; I’m interested in considering other courses which might help me in the future.
The PFA have set up the course and help subsidising the university fees which made it easier for me to complete the course knowing that they would cover a large chunk of the tuition fees.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Hopefully still playing in the professional leagues at the highest possible standard. The past couple of seasons have been good for me in terms of getting out on loan and experiencing first team football, so hopefully that experience can stand me in good stead for the future.
I am also interested in coaching and I want to do my coaching badges. Hopefully in the near future I will have my UEFA B and potentially my UEFA A licenses.
What do you want to do after you finish football?
That’s something that I’m not 100% sure about just yet. Who knows what will happen in the future but now I have my degree I am a lot more confident about making the transition in later life.
I might need my degree next week or I might not need it until another fifteen years, but now I have something, I feel a little bit more relaxed about the future.
Do you think other players should think about education more?
Certainly. I have seen it before, even when I was still at school, people would put their eggs all in one basket thinking that they were going to be professional footballers and letting their studies suffer as a result.
I was quite lucky when I was younger that my parents always put my schoolwork before my football. Looking back, I think this is the right mentality to have as there is such a small percentage of players who go on to have long careers in the game.
Even since I have done my degree, I have tried to recommend the course to as many professional players as I can. I can’t speak highly enough about it.
What advice would you give to players who don’t know about the PFA’s services?
The PFA set up regular presentations about the various services they offer. I’ve had meetings in the past about education, insurance, pensions and agents. They really do help with a wide range of things to help benefit you as a player.
You only have to spend ten minutes on the PFA website to see how much they do to help.