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Shane O’Connor Column: Chasing The Dream

Former Liverpool and Ipswich Town player Shane O’Connor gives an insight into the mindset of an aspiring footballer and the problems they often face if they unfortunately find themselves without a club.

It is every kid’s dream from the first time they lace up their boots to become a professional footballer in England. For the lucky few that do get a contract from a club overseas, the dream then becomes a reality.

Irish players going over to England are at a disadvantage from day one. All the players there will already be integrated into an academy and used to the environment they live in, whereas we have to not only adjust to everyday training, but also to our new surroundings and living away from home.

These are problems every player will face and have to work extremely hard to overcome. When you are playing in the team you have to constantly fight-off other players coming in on trial and try to win a new contract for yourself .

It is what happens next where I feel players need to be looked at closely.

For the players that aren’t offered new deals, once their contract expires and they have found that no other club is willing to take them on, they need more assistance in dealing with the disappointment.

Whether you are a teenager or in your twenties, the disappointment of being told that you are no longer in line for your dream is tough to take. Also, due to the fact that most players leave school before they finish their Leaving Certificate, they feel they then have nowhere to turn.

From a personal point of view, this is exactly how I felt. I did leave England and I came back to play in Ireland but unfortunately not having the right frame of mind and the battering my confidence took from being away, I was unable to show what I could really do.

Many people would tell me that I have changed a lot over the years. When I first left for England I was very happy and confident and loved interaction with people. Since the disappointment with England I find myself going into my shell, lacking confidence and not wanting to be around big crowds.

I feel that if players were allowed to finish their education at least, the bad news of not getting their contract renewed would be easier to take if there was a Plan B instead of soccer being plan A,B and C. I understand it is difficult to tell an aspiring footballer to knuckle down on his studies while he is trying to chase his dream but would a few afternoons/evenings a week really be that much to ask, considering how much help it could be in the future.

I, like so many of my friends, partook in the NVQ in Sporting Excellence course (two years), which I now feel would have been far more beneficial had I been able to do my A Levels (the equivalent of the Irish Leaving Certificate). That way, once I knew football wasn’t working out I would have had something to to turn to instead of a blank CV.

The one thing I have believed since I was able to walk is that soccer was everything and life without it wasn’t possible. It still hurts to this day that I was unable to really make it over in England.

However, finally I am beginning to realise that there is a world outside of playing football and once the contracts, the money and the constant worry they all bring is taken away, then I am able to once again appreciate the game for what it is.

Playing a game of ball, just because I love to.

Shane O’Connor, Pundit Arena

Stephen Craven [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.