Not all former players find it difficult stepping away from the solace of the football pitch.
Having been rejected by his boyhood club Coventry City as a teenager, Terry Angus’ route into the professional game would come via the backwaters of non-League football following time at Coventry Sporting and VS Rugby.
Northampton Town would give him his big break, before the defender took residency at Craven Cottage in July 1993. He would make 137 appearances for the Club, shedding both blood and tears as the Team fought its way from the foot of Division Three to automatic promotion.
The player readily admits that he may have lacked some of the game’s finer attributes, however, few could match his commitment and passion. But when that passion waned, Angus knew it was time for a change.
As a bright new era opened on the banks of the Thames, the terrace favourite would reject the chance to extend his career, deciding instead to follow a different route.
Although he remained in the game at non-league Level, spending time with Slough Town and Nuneaton Borough, it was a path that took him well and truly outside of what he calls the ‘football bubble’.
“In many ways I felt better out of the professional game,” admits Terry. “Naturally, people think it was a difficult decision for me in deciding to walk away from the professional game, but it wasn’t. By the end of the 1996/97 season my contract had come up for renewal, but while I wanted to sign a two-year deal the Manager, Micky Adams, only offered one.
“That’s fair enough I suppose, but it wasn’t for me. I think he and a lot of others were amazed when I turned it down and said I would find a job outside of football. It was a totally different era back then, certainly for a Fulham player, so it wasn’t like I was earning a huge wage.
“I had to look at the long-term picture. I could have signed a one-year deal, but in 12 months time I would have been faced with the same problem. So I decided to address the situation sooner rather than later.
“So I went back to the Midlands and walked straight into my local job agency. Having signed for Slough I would have a little money coming in, but to survive I would need more. It was a real turning point for me, and I still remember the lady that dealt with me, Lauraine was her name.
“We went through a list of possibilities, and then all of a sudden I said that I could see myself doing what she does - I’ve always liked meeting new people and helping others, so it seemed like a good fit. As it goes, there was a job going and I started the next day! In no time at all, I’d gone from playing professional footballer to working a nine to five recruitment job.”
Angus would spend a year helping others find work, before taking a role working for the Prince’s Trust at Solihull College delivering personal development programmes for underachieving young people. Reminiscent of the kind of determination he showed out on the pitch, the affable Coventrian met every challenge he faced.
Thirteen years later he now works for the Solihull youth offending service, where he assists in the rehabilitation of juveniles that have strayed off the straight and narrow. In many ways it appears he has found his calling.
“It’s a job that has certainly pushed me, I’ve had to overcome so many tests,” he says. “But if you can understand where these youngsters are coming from, where their life is at and let them understand what they need to do to change their ways then you’re halfway there.
“Make no mistake; it can be an eye-opener and a long way away from the football pitch. As you can imagine from working in an environment like that, there have been some good cases, and some very, very horrible ones. After so long, I like to think I’m good at what I do - I certainly enjoy working with young people and trying my best to have a positive effect on their lives. In many ways it’s made me understand a few things too.
“Even though I work with a lot of young lads, I never mention that I played football. Some would say that it would be an easy conversation to help in getting them onside, but I want to use my skills as a person rather than what I used to do out on a football pitch.”
Angus has undoubtedly taken to his new life and surroundings, but it’s an adaptation that many of his peers have unfortunately struggled to meet.
“Why do so many fail to make that transition? It’s a difficult one to answer because every individual is different,” explains Terry. “I was at an FA seminar last year and it’s a growing problem and it makes me very sad especially when you see former players turning to drink or drugs as they try and replicate the highs that football gave them.
“Take away the training, the camaraderie and the support - and suddenly they find themselves in a very daunting situation. When the bubble bursts it can be a real culture shock for some, but thankfully, work is now being done to address these problems. In my day, we had very little option. I don’t think clubs are to blame though; a lot of it is down to the individual, because for me, players rarely take up the opportunity to learn life skills outside of football.
“It’s all about educating players from a young age, and I know this is something that they do at Fulham. The young boys are schooled in close proximity to the training ground, while the 16 to 18-year-olds are enrolled on educational programmes. If a career in football doesn’t work out for them, then they have something to fall back on. As I’ve said, that’s something my generation didn’t really have.
“I still think more needs to be done for the ones that step up from the academies, the ones in their late teens and early 20s. Life outside of the game seems a long way off at that point, but in reality it really isn’t. Again, I’m aware of the work that Fulham do with the boys that are involved in the Development Squad or the Under-21 group as they are now known, and that’s good to see. These steps will hopefully help future generations make a smoother transition.”
Having been a Craven Cottage favourite during a very difficult time for the Club, fans of that era will be pleased to note that Angus has lost none of his fabled charm. On and off the pitch, player and person share many of the captivating attributes that made him such a popular figure.
At 42, the former defender is still an intriguing mix of fun, honesty and contest. Thinking differently to most, he offers an interesting take on the game.
“I’m a strange character, I know that,” he admits. “I’ve always been a bit different. Perhaps that’s why, unlike most, I don’t miss the game. I go and see Coventry when I have the time, and will watch my boy, Dior, play too.
“I still love watching a good game, but I’ve never been someone that has lived and breathed football. I believe there’s more to life, and perhaps that outlook helped me step away? I think you have to move on, it’s important because you can’t keep looking back towards the past.
“Maybe it’s because I wasn’t a superb player, I know I had my limitations. Had I been a world-beater, then I might have thought differently and struggled to let go with the ease I have done.
“Some play for the money, some play because they see it as a job, while some play for the love. I fell into that last category, but once that love started to lose its strength I knew it was time to move on.
“I came into the game at 24, which was late. Of course, I appreciated the opportunity that I had been given as playing football was the dream growing up. But I didn’t have time to get too settled, I never allowed myself to get trapped in the football bubble.