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Gareth Southgate says players need more help to prepare for life after football

England v Hungary – UEFA Nations League – Group 3 – Molineux Stadium
(Image credit: Nick Potts)

England boss Gareth Southgate believes not enough is being done to help players prepare for life after football.

Southgate has revealed he struggled to find a “purpose” after losing his job as Middlesbrough manager aged 39.

After a successful playing career with Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, Boro and England, Southgate was pitched straight into management at the Riverside in 2006.

He was sacked in 2009 and then spent four years out of football before being appointed England Under-21 boss in 2013.

In an upcoming BT Sport Films documentary, ‘After The Roar’, Southgate discusses the mental health issues elite sportspeople face when attempting to come to terms with the end of their playing careers.

Soccer – Middlesbrough Press Conference – Riverside Stadium

Southgate managed Middlesbrough for three years (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“My journey was slightly unusual in that, at 31 or 32, I was definitely starting to think, ‘What am I going to do?’ and I had a year left of my playing contract,” the 51-year-old said.

“I got offered the manager’s job so I jumped straight into something with no time to think. When retirement hit me was after three years.

“I lost the job at Middlesbrough and had a period out of football so that was the time when I finally realised, ‘Hang on, there’s no routine, there’s no purpose’.

“I’d been from when I left school, straight in as an apprentice, so I never had that appreciation of what it is to be out of work. That lack of somewhere to go in the morning, a routine, community… I was searching for that.”

Southgate called on clubs and governing bodies to do more to ensure players are equipped to cope after their playing career finishes.

Leeds v Aston Villa celebrate

Southgate (centre) had a successful playing career with Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Boro (John Giles/PA)

“This discussion of what’s next – too many people want to put it off,” he added.

“I don’t buy that all those hours we spend in hotels and on coaches, we couldn’t be studying something or reading something, learning new skills.

“I think it’s a positive to have something else to think about. I think players would perform better.

“I think collectively the players’ union, the League Managers’ Association, the FA and especially the clubs, we should work together.

“I’ve talked with a lot of people recently and those organisations – we’ve still got work to do in that area.”

:: BT Sport 1 will premiere ‘After The Roar’, the latest in the award-winning BT Sport Films series, on Friday, September 9 at 10pm. Brian O’Driscoll explores the mental health struggles he – and other former elite sportsmen – face in retirement.

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