Forced to quit the game at 30, Ryan France fell back on his maths degree and carved out a career in finance – mainly thanks to his transferable skills as a footballer…
Tell us about how your playing career came to an end…
You can go back to 2007 when I ruptured my cruciate knee ligament playing for Hull. It was a very difficult period but I stayed positive with my rehab, came back and played in the Premier League. I got back to full fitness, full strength but I don’t think my knee was ever 100% after that. I signed for Sheffield United and was involved nine or 10 times but after a couple more operations and months of not being involved, two surgeons said I should call it a day if I wanted to walk in later life. With two young children to consider, I had to stop playing in 2011.
How did you get started in football?
I was released by Sheffield Wednesday at 16. At the time I was really small and Wednesday didn’t see me in their plans so I decided to get my studies and went to college – I’d always been quite academic through school. Then Alfreton Town came in when I was 18 and playing in a five-a-side tournament. The manager asked me to train with them. That was the start of it and getting a bit of men’s football really helped my game.
And then the bigger clubs came knocking?
Two years into my three-year university course I had a trial at Coventry City under Gary McAllister. He really liked me and offered me a two-year contract, which blew me away. 99 out of 100 people would have gone to Coventry – and who knows what would have happened with my career then. But I couldn’t know how my career would go after that contract had finished and I didn’t want to start my degree again.
Couldn’t you have put your contract on hold?
I asked Gary if he could wait a year while I finished my degree but you never know what’s around the corner in football and he said ‘no’. I had to take that on the chin and carry on with my studies and at Alfreton.
Any regrets about that decision?
I have regretted it but I’m a positive thinker. Gary McAllister was a really good coach and I really believed in him. But it could have been just two years and then back to square one. And after being forced to retire early, I certainly think I made the right decision.
Why did you get into wealth management?
I set up a sports massage therapy business, which the PFA helped me qualify for, as well as helping me through the transition process. But it wasn’t something I had my heart in. I talked to a neighbour who always seemed happy. He was a quantity surveyor. He said his brother-in-law was even happier than him – a guy called Rob Steele who works at St James’s Place Wealth Management. I had a chat with him and it was right up my street. It’s financial advice, problem solving, helping people out. It’s using my brain again, which I haven’t used in a long time – and I like using my brain!
How did your football background help you get a job at St James’s Place?
When I first sat down in my interviews, that was one of the things on my CV. I had a few promotions, I played in all four tiers of the English football league but there wasn’t anything about project management or different jobs. You can imagine my CV wasn’t glowing, but I have transferable skills.
What are those skills?
As a footballer, or a sportsperson in general, you have skills that make you want to become the best in whatever you do. You’re dedicated to it. There’s so much desire and self-motivation. Footballers have to be absolutely focused on becoming the best they can be and have to be so mentally strong. That’s what I said in my first interview – here are my transferable skills. Whatever career you go into, as a sportsperson if you find something you like doing you will strive to be the best in that.
How’s your career going?
I’m still learning and will never stop learning. I appreciate I’m not the most experienced financial adviser out there but it just feels right because I can use all of my strengths – I care, I want to help people, I am driven by the right things, and I work hard. I want to be successful but I want my clients to be successful and that is the be-all-and-end-all. As long as I keep believing that, I know my career will get better and better.
Do you work with footballers?
I’m having quite a lot of success in the football environment because I understand that world. I’ve been in their shoes. But I don’t just want to work with footballers all the time – I like dealing with successful people in whatever career they do.
What advice would you give to a player who retires early?
I was in a different situation to most as I already had my education. Maybe looking back I thought ‘after football I’ll walk into a job as surely somebody will want someone with a maths degree’, but it’s not as easy as that. I look back now and wonder if I could have done more studying while I was playing. Football needed my 100% attention outside family life but I do think one or two other things on the side can keep your mind going and take you away from the stresses of being a footballer – as well as preparing you for what comes next. But I would always say: make sure you put something away financially. That’s the best advice I can give.