My time at West Ham came to an end in May 2014. After nine years of extreme highs and painful lows, I was out of contract.
For the first time as a professional, I was without a club.
I dealt with it the best way I knew how. I wrote. All through my career, I’ve found that writing stuff down helps to clear my mind. If I can see it on paper, it helps me to process it. To see it for what it is.
So one night, I sat down and started writing a letter to the West Ham fans. At 2am, I finished it. Almost 3,000 words had poured out of me. It felt like a good way to close the book.
Over the next 12 months, it started to dawn on me. This could be it. I could be done here.
I’m going to have to find something else that I’m passionate about.
I chucked myself into a few things. I set up my own soccer school and started a degree in professional sports writing and broadcasting. I wanted to do things that might take me out of my comfort zone.
“One day I was in the changing room with the first-team boys at Peterborough. The next I’m trembling in front of the club’s Under-18s”
I had to give playing one more go, though.
Actually, I gave it two. First, I went to Ipswich. After three months there I left without playing a single game.
I tried again. This time at Peterborough, where I gave it a really good go. It was important I did that. If I hadn’t, I might have had regrets. But my body still wasn’t right. I wasn’t doing myself any justice on the pitch.
In February 2016, I retired from playing football. I was 27.