Carlisle United defender Michael Raynes has insisted that completing a BSc (Hons) in Sport and Exercise Science is more than comparable to any of his achievements as a player.
Raynes who made his senior debut at Stockport County as a 17 year-old, helped the Hatters to promotion to League One in 2008 before moving on to feature for Scunthorpe, Rotherham, Oxford and Mansfield.
“It’s been really tough and a challenge but when I got to the end (of the degree) it’s probably the proudest thing I’ve done in my life, including my football career,” Raynes said.
“Football is a natural thing and something you enjoy doing but (to do) something that you don’t enjoy and have to push yourself through it, it’s probably the most rewarding thing I’ve done.
“Since I left school all I have done is head it and kick it so it was a shock to the system to get my brain engaging and learning again and have the motivation to not just finish training and be content relaxing.
“That’s the hardest thing juggling your time and the balance with family life. It’s been difficult but if you want something badly enough you find the time. There’s enough hours in the day and there were times when I’d finish a game on a Saturday and then be up until midnight or 1am doing University work.”
Raynes, who is now preparing to become a father, let his education slip during his teenage years as he forced himself into the first team picture at Edgeley Park but always had the conviction that he would return to it to enhance his future prospects.
“I’ve always wanted to do something, my career has always been that of a lower league footballer, so you always know that you’ll have to get a job when you finish there’s no two ways about it,” he continued.
“It’s not like the Premier League players who are financially set. We know that we’ll need a job after, so I’ve always had in my mind that I wanted to have the best opportunity to do something that I enjoy and that’s how I looked at it.
“It was an opportunity for me determine where my path after football goes instead of clutching at things and trying to find a job. At the moment I’m thinking that I want to go down the teaching road. I’ve got this degree now so I can do my Postgraduate Certificate in Education, which will be difficult to do while I’m playing full-time but is something I could look at in the future.
“I think every single footballer has the fear of what are you going to do next and if they tell you they haven’t in my experience they’re a liar and it’s one of the biggest fears with footballers. This doesn’t eradicate that fear but it helps you to cope because you’re giving yourself the best opportunity.”
The affable central defender has also widened his experiences and skills, like many professional footballers, by taking part in a number of community based initiatives however he insisted that few things have been as gratifying as working alongside his teammates to help the residents of Carlisle in the aftermath of the devastating floods in the city last winter.
“We were in London playing in the FA Cup and we read about it,” Raynes added.
“A lot of the lads live there and houses were being destroyed and we were sat on the coach on the way back up and we thought we’re going to have to do something.
“We got up there and we saw the devastation of what was going on and nothing could prepare you for what it was like. The water in people’s houses was up to the ceiling. It was scary. When it all cleared we went round and tried to help. The insurance companies had a million and one things to do and for people to clear the houses it could’ve taken days or weeks but if twenty-four lads come in they can get it done in half an hour.
“It was awful but people were still in such good spirits which was testament to the city of Carlisle - there was devastation going on in their lives but people just wanted to talk to us about football and it was amazing.
“It put everything into perspective really. People’s lives were getting ruined and we’re worrying about a game on a Saturday. In the bigger scheme of things there’s a lot more things to worry about.”