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IAN LADYMAN: YouTuber boxing? Wayne Rooney could end up flat on his back… Why the England legend must avoid the crushing void now the football carousel has stopped


Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook has possibly the most unlikely name for a rugby league player but he was very good at what he did. During a 17-year career at the top of his profession the St Helens prop forward won five Super League Grand Finals and played for England. And now he is training to be a fireman.

Writing in his column for the 40:20 magazine this month, McCarthy-Scarsbrook touches on the way his life works since his retirement at the end of last season.

‘It’s nice having a couple of Friday pints after a hard week’s graft,’ said the 38-year-old.

‘On my weekends I am catching up on the football on my phone while at the bowling alley with the kids.’

This is called the real world and is a place many sportsmen and women have to live in once the lights are turned off on their career. Some cope but many others do not.

Wayne Rooney (pictured with his wife Colleen) will once again have to work out how he plans to navigate the choppy waters of retirement from playing football

Wayne Rooney (pictured with his wife Colleen) will once again have to work out how he plans to navigate the choppy waters of retirement from playing football

Rooney was sacked by Birmingham City in January following a brief but turbulent stint in 2023

Rooney was sacked by Birmingham City in January following a brief but turbulent stint in 2023

Rooney (right, pictured with Paul Smith) is a life-long boxing fan

The former England star previously shared a picture with himself and Amir Khan

A long-term boxing fan (pictured left with Paul Smith and right with Amir Khan) news broke this week that the England star might try a few bouts of YouTube boxing

Not all professional sports provide lifetime financial security in the way football does. Regardless, the transition is always the hardest bit. They all say it. And I couldn’t help but think about it when I saw the Daily Mirror report that Wayne Rooney is considering a couple of YouTube boxing bouts.

Rooney, also 38, has not stopped moving since he played his last game for Derby County at the back end of 2020. Manager at Derby, manager at DC United in Washington and then, until he was sacked on January 2, manager at Birmingham City. In that three-year period Rooney was without work for about 22 days.

And then, suddenly, the carousel stops and he, just like everybody else in his position, has to get off. The impact can be crushing and there is no shortage of struggling former professionals willing to tell the tale.

Last year for example, I went for a walk in the Peak District with one of my favourite people in football, the former Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Mark Crossley.

Crossley played under Brian Clough and does a brilliant impression of the great man. His after-dinner schtick is marvellously funny. But life after playing and coaching left him flat on his back.

‘I had done more than 30 non-stop years and thought I was ready for a break,’ Crossley told me.

‘But when it came and all my life’s structure was taken away I hadn’t a clue how to handle it.

‘I was just locked in the bedroom. Absolutely lost.’

Crossley dragged himself out of his funk by working and by walking. Every day he goes out with his dog Roxy from his home near Barnsley. Along with other footballers who have suffered similarly – men like former Liverpool goalkeeper Chris Kirkland and ex-Hull City forward Dean Windass – Crossley now walks to raise money for charity. They called their group ‘Walking’s Brilliant’ and for them it has been simply because it has saved them.

Since retiring as a player at Derby County in 2020, the former England star has only been without a job for about 22 days

Since retiring as a player at Derby County in 2020, the former England star has only been without a job for about 22 days

Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook (left) is retraining as a fireman after a career playing rugby league

Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook (left) is retraining as a fireman after a career playing rugby league

For many others, it takes longer and is harder and more complicated. There are only so many coaching jobs, only so many openings in the media. Divorce rates among retired footballers are astonishingly high. The PFA does its bit to try and prepare its players while the PlayOn venture launched six or seven years ago by former Manchester United and Arsenal defender Viv Anderson was one of several to endeavour to provide a route to fulfilment after a life in football had ground to a halt.

Still, though, there is absolutely no solution to the problem and it seems to me that the more money swills around the professional game, especially at the very top level, the harder it becomes to bridge the yawning gap between elite sport and the humdrum nature of life on the outside.

Many of us would love not to have to work. To retire at 40 would represent some kind of nirvana to many. But that’s not the way the mind works. Everybody needs stimulation. Everyone needs a purpose.

If Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook finds his in the Merseyside fire service, that’s a wonderful thing. And if Rooney finds his in the boxing ring while he hunts his next coaching opportunity then that’s fine too. But I can’t help but wonder about that one.

Former Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Mark Crossley took to walking in a bid to beat his inner tumult after giving up playing football

Former Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Mark Crossley took to walking in a bid to beat his inner tumult after giving up playing football

Viv Anderson's PlayOn venture seeks to prepare ex-footballers for life after their days on the pitch are over

Viv Anderson’s PlayOn venture seeks to prepare ex-footballers for life after their days on the pitch are over

Victoria Pendleton, the GB Olympic cyclist, has raced horses and attempted to climb Everest since she stopped competing. Bradley Wiggins tried rowing. Rio Ferdinand boxed. So did Andrew Flintoff. Chasing that high. Looking for purpose.

Rugby league is a minority sport in this country. Only the marquee players earn well and McCarthy-Scarsbrook, for all his medals and achievements, was not one of them. He has not had that hard to fall and would appear to have landed well. For footballers it sometimes takes longer. Indeed I recall a chat with a manager in his mid-60s who had just taken another hiding-to-nothing job during the Covid pandemic.

‘Why have you done it?’ I asked him.

‘I just needed to get out of the house,’ he said.

What will power-sharing look like at Old Trafford?  

We are led to believe Dan Ashworth wishes to leave Newcastle for Manchester United because he wants more control of a club’s transfer policy. Too many layers of command to wade through at Saudi-owned Newcastle, apparently.

It is worth noting here that Manchester United, for all the clear and admirable intent of Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his INEOS group, are still owned in the main by the Glazer family.

For the best part of two decades, the Floridians have insisted on sign off on absolutely everything, from players to commercial deals to toilet rolls in the away end.

So as a new dawn breaks slowly over Old Trafford and we listen to talk of great change, we will watch and we will wait on this one…

Sir Jim Ratcliffe will take over football operations at Manchester United but the Glazers have always insisted on signing off on everything

Sir Jim Ratcliffe will take over football operations at Manchester United but the Glazers have always insisted on signing off on everything

Bees play by the rules 

Brentford’s financial figures for the year ending 2023 reveal a club operating within its means. It seems that even in the Financial Fair Play age success and sustainability do not have to be complete strangers in the Premier League. 

Everton and Nottingham Forest may or may not choose to take note.

True fans know when enough is enough 

To be a home and away football fan has always taken a rare combination of money, love, commitment and patience. Not every game is played on your own doorstep. Nor at the time you would necessarily wish it to be.

It’s even harder these days, though. It’s much more expensive and you are forever at the whim of fixture planners and TV companies who simply don’t care about you. Facilities at some stadiums can continue to underwhelm, the beer is usually rubbish and so too the food.

Scores of fans deserted the London Stadium during West Ham's drubbing at the hands of Arsenal over the weekend

Scores of fans deserted the London Stadium during West Ham’s drubbing at the hands of Arsenal over the weekend

So spare me the debate over whether a true football supporters should ever leave a game at half-time as some of them appeared to at West Ham last Sunday.

Anyone who commits hundreds of pounds a season to a football club – not to mention all the time and emotional investment that comes with it – has certainly earned the right to decide when it is that they have had enough and are ready for home.

Third time might be a charm for Clough at Mansfield 

Nigel Clough and Manfield lost in the League Two play-off final in 2022. Last season they missed the play-off positions by a single goal on the last day.

All of that can take it out of you. It’s easy to make changes. To try a new direction.

Nigel Clough has missed out on promotion with Mansfield for two seasons - but will push again this term

Nigel Clough has missed out on promotion with Mansfield for two seasons – but will push again this term

But Clough and Mansfield’s owners John and Carolyn Radford decided they liked what they had and decided to give it another spin of the wheel.

So the day after last season ended, Clough was given a new contract and on Tuesday of this week Mansfield beat Harrogate 9-2 at Field Mill to stay second in the league.

If they do get up this time, few will have deserved it more.



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