Not many teenagers leave school and a year later decide to return to carry on studying. But then Jon Crawford was never likely to be an ordinary teenager.
At 16, having left Wolverhampton Grammar School after GCSE’s, Jon failed to secure a professional contract at Wolverhampton Wanderers, the club he joined as a nine-year-old.
Determined to pursue his dream of top flight football Jon joined Bristol Rovers as a Scholar where he trained with the First Team and played for them in pre-season. But then an unexpected leg injury saw him side-lined and by the time he returned to fitness a new manager was in place.
You always hope to be picked, but the longer you don’t play the more difficult it is to prove to the manager you are good enough."
After going the whole season without a game Jon was mentally worn out and decided to swap studs for studies and return to school.
I spoke to my parents and my old Head Teacher, Mr Darby, and told him I wanted to return. Mr Darby said they’d have me back in a heartbeat."
But Wolverhampton Grammar School is an independent fee paying school where current fees are over £4,000 a term. So Jon applied for, and won, the first ever Wolverhampton Grammar School Sports Scholarship awarded to a student who had played professional sport, or demonstrated strong sporting ability, through selection for county, regional or national level in their chosen sport.
It was a bit odd at first. My classmates were all a year younger but I just decided to be even better at what I did."
What he did included studying for ‘A’ Levels in Design Technology, Art and Physical Education (PE) and setting up a school Sports Association to improve facilities and show fellow students the value of sport at school.
Many people at private school think playing sport can be detrimental to their studies but I wanted to prove it could be a benefit."
Jon asked for student applications for his Association interviewing each applicant before appointing a group of co-leaders. Together they would meet weekly to decide where they could make changes for the benefit of all.
They began with the gym which was in urgent need of renovation and, with £14,000 donated by friends of the school, managed to transform the space. A new floor was fitted, brighter lighting installed and new rowing and running machines and a multi-gym put in place.
By the time Jon left in the summer of 2014 with two A*s and a C in his ‘A’ levels, he had more than left his mark. He also had five offers from each of the Universities he applied to.
Now in his third year at Coventry University, well into a four year Masters course in Automative Design, Jon is able to look back at his time in football and what he learnt.
When I was at Bristol Rovers I could have walked out, but I got in touch with the PFA and they told me how to leave correctly."
Jon also met up with the PFA’s Terry Angus who was instrumental in his transition from player to student.
He was very motivational. He reminded me not to give up. You really need that when your dream of playing professional football for a career comes to an end."
The PFA also helped financially and each year Jon has enjoyed a grant of £1250 towards his studies.
It really helped. On my course the materials are very expensive. You can spend £200 on pens. Without the money I couldn’t fully fulfil what I wanted to be."
Or, perhaps, be in the position to inspire other young players who find themselves in similar situations.
But then, after all Jon’s already done, we’d probably expect nothing less.
This story first appeared on the PFA website - https://www.thepfa.com/news/2017/3/15/jon-crawford-swapping-the-pitch-for-pens