Heading into a new season without a club is every player’s nightmare but as Bradley Pritchard explains, his forward planning and commitment to education are about to pay off...
- NAME: Bradley Pritchard
- BORN: Harare, Zimbabwe , 19 December, 1985
- CLUBS: Carshalton Athletic, Nuneaton Borough, Tamworth, Hayes and Yeading United, Charlton Athletic, Leyton Orient, Stevenage (loan)
As it stands you haven’t got a club, are you worried about the season ahead?
Yeah, without a doubt. I worry about not having a club or playing non-league.
But you’re not panicking?
I would have been more panicked if I hadn’t made plans and provisions for this type of situation. That’s not to say I feel comfortable – I don’t. I definitely worry about the unknown but maybe a bit less than if I didn’t have anything else out there.
You’re studying law so as the summer progresses without any opportunities in the game does it reach the point where you have to change your focus?
I’ve been looking around to see what’s out there. Nothing has materialised that I feel happy enough to go for, so I guess at the moment that is the situation. I’ve been offered a job within a law firm which will give me the experience I need and allow me to do my course and – if I’m in a transitional phase – doing something like this may be the step I need. I thought this would happen in two years time. But because I put a rough plan in place I’m able to cope with the change in circumstances.
What would you say to those players who haven’t planned ahead and find themselves in this position?
Anyone can decide to plan ahead. It just requires the right type of thinking to accept that football will come to an end at some point and when that happens you have to be as prepared as you can be to achieve. It’s like if you go into a game and haven’t prepared or done your homework on the team. It’s not to say those teams or players who are well-prepared and understand what they are going into are going to be 100% successful, but it definitely gives them the best opportunity to succeed.
Why did you decide to go into law?
I wanted to do something that still had a good reputation and was going to make a difference not just to myself but to other people. But also something that would be a challenge. I wanted to challenge myself to go into law. I found it interesting and, I guess as with playing football, you find it’s something not many people can do but lots of people would love to have the opportunity to try it – I like the thrill of attempting to achieve that.
How far are you off qualifying to practise law?
I will be qualifying next year, hopefully. I’ve been doing this for three years. I had to do a conversion course for two years and specialise as a solicitor for two years. I’ve got one more year to go.
What will you do when you qualify?
As a solicitor you go through lots of different skills so right now I am learning about criminal litigation, employment, immigration and other areas of the law. With my background it makes sense to go into sports law but there are other areas that interest me. It’s trying to find out what I enjoy and where I can be of value.
You were born in Zimbabwe, when did you move to the UK?
I moved here in 1995 with my family. We came over because my dad was doing a PhD and to finish he had to come to England as part of a project between the University of Zimbabwe and a university here. After he got his PhD we ended up staying because of the way the situation was going in Zimbabwe.
Your dad must have been a strong influence impressing on you the importance of education?
My parents definitely were an influence. I’ve grown up in an environment where there is a focus on education as a means to achieve success and be comfortable in life but also to try to help people. They’ve always said that you have to put yourself in a position to do that.
Were you ever at a crossroads where you had to choose between football and education?
My parents were focused on education but they were always really happy about me doing both. When I was younger I didn’t play for professional clubs so I was never in a situation where a club was saying ‘we need you to come out of school to play’. It was education first and foremost and I played football on the side until I was at university. I had gone on trial at clubs but never got anything professionally so it was just a natural progression I would fall into university.
So education was your priority?
Yes, education was my plan ‘A’ and it was what I could see myself being successful in – at what career, or how, I wasn’t sure. With education I thought at least I’ll find what I’m good at by giving myself the best opportunities. Nothing had materialised from football so I was never conflicted.
What did you study during your first spell at uni?
I went to Loughborough and did English and Sports Science and then a Masters in Sports Science. After that, when I finished in full-time education, I was looking for a job and I started working at Charlton Athletic while playing semi-professionally for Hayes and Yeading. I was working voluntarily – on an internship – as a performance analyst. I was doing quite well at Hayes at the time. Chris Powell was the Charlton manager and asked if I wanted a one-week trial. I did that and he offered me a one-year playing contract.
Is it important for footballers to take education opportunities?
Education is important but the older you get the more it maybe moves towards work experience and understanding the industry you want to be in. A lot of players leave education quite young and it’s difficult to get back into it when you have a family, a mortgage…
It can be tough taking three years out, especially if you’re not sure the course will get you where you want to go. So it’s important to think about your second career as well – not just education but what you want to get out of it and focus on that. If you find what you like then it helps as a distraction from football. Because the pressures of the game are so great, it’s important to have something else to think about.
Is it easy for players to switch careers?
We undersell ourselves and maybe we feel we can’t compete when we are doing CVs or are going for a job. But what we have that makes us good footballers is something employers would love to have – it’s about letting them know that. It’s something I want to help other people do. I think I can help others in the game.
So you can give back through that help?
It’s something I’m doing with a couple of ex-teammates and hopefully it’s something we can get going with the PFA. It’s important for players to give back to players and the industry. Let’s make it our responsibility to help each other as opposed to other people doing it.
My Top Tips
Bradley shares his key advice on making the move to a career outside the game
USE THE PFA
The PFA helped with my decision to take education alongside my football and they will give you lots of options for transition. Their support was really valuable and they contribute to fees as well, something many players might not be aware of.
No-one is saying your career is going to end but it’s about being aware that it could. And you don’t need to sacrifice your career for education – there are things you can do that won’t impact on your football, or you can even do it in the off season.
MAKE SOME NOISE
Try to let the corporate world know you are available. Businesses would love to have footballers as employees because we have such unique skillsets. Don’t be afraid to network and make yourself known to people.