Welcome back for our second instalment of life after professional football. Last week, I got Andrew Cartwright’s thoughts on the matter and how he has moved on with his new career in coaching.
Andrew signed for Sunderland at an older age, coming on trial with the club at 14 but not signing until he was 15. A late developer some would say, but it was more to do with his love of playing for his boy’s club Wallsend and his father’s decision to let him enjoy football without the pressures of an academy institution at a young age. Speaking from my own experience playing with Andrew, I can honestly say that I have never seen a player with as much energy and desire as he has. A box to box midfielder in his early playing days for Sunderland which were hampered with a torn ACL playing away at Everton as a u16 player. This side-lined Andrew for over a year.
After the long gruelling battle of returning to full fitness, Andrew received his two-year scholarship and joined a special few who can say they played football full time. Andrew featured regularly for the u18’s playing in mid-field and at full back. Always with an energetic, vocal performance. He wasn’t a luxury player of any sort but you wanted him in your side. A true competitor with a lethal desire to win and covered every blade of grass. Andrew received his professional contract and remained at Sunderland for another 3 years, playing week in and week out for the u21’s. He was now a converted right back, playing for one of the best u21 teams in the country contending with big budget teams for the league title like Chelsea, Manchester city and the list goes on.
Andrew featured in a handful of first-team exhibition matches and scored in one of his appearances. However unfortunately, like most young footballers, Andrew wasn’t going to have a career at the top level. Young players must understand that after ability, you need a lot of luck and a chance to prove yourself.
In 2015, the dream was over for Andrew and this was his last full-time professional contract. He had achieved what many young players would have hoped to and he holds that close to this day.
Andrew told me he expected this decision and was fairly honest with himself, describing that he always thought he was technically behind the rest. Deep down, he always knew that he wasn’t going to play in the premier league but had hoped for a professional career in the game. Being very self-critical of himself at the time, he had already started putting into place the next steps of his life. Andrew was very forward thinking and had plan B, C and D lined up. As a professional, he had done further college courses as well as volunteered one night a week with the academy. During his volunteer work, he was able to observe and support the coaches with the next generation of players. He was eager to learn from the coaches who had helped him and utilise the resources he had available. He believes this triggered his love of coaching.
After losing his contract with Sunderland, Andrew had a short spell on trial at Sheffield United before he made the decision to step back from full time football. He moved into playing part time football and began the steps of his new career. His thoughts during this time were that every contract earned was a bonus but that he knew he would have to face the real world sooner or later.
Andrew doesn’t believe in being stagnant or not progressing whether that be in football or in any walk of life. He doesn’t really blame anyone for what happened, but explains that for him he had to move on. He wanted a new challenge for himself and he wasn’t going to wait around to see if something would happen. Andrew did just that by starting his new career path in coaching. He attended Northumbria University and achieved a degree in sports management, alongside completing a number of coaching courses. He is now a UEFA B qualified coach.
Andrew took it all in stride and is now excelling in the North-east of England with his own football coaching company, providing an enjoyable and positive environment for young players to learn the game they love. Andrew says he tries to use his experiences of playing and operating in a professional environment, alongside all his coaching experiences over the last 5+ years.
Topping his list of experiences, Andrew speaks highly about his time at Sunderland and the values that were instilled in him at the time. He regards this as one of the biggest things he can take from his playing career. He believes Sunderland not only creates good players but good people as well. Players he has bonded with and still keeps in touch with today. He continued to say he has no real regrets from his time as a player, saying it was a dream. A time in his life to remember and cherish. Going from football in Skegness with his friends to playing football all over the world as an elite professional. Only suggesting that he should have gotten into better habits of stretching and maintaining his physical maintenance as he’s now beginning to suffer the affects.
When I asked Andrew about what advice he would offer to young scholars today, he said to do everything you possibly can to improve as a football player. That being said, when you’re not doing that, look at how you can improve yourself as a person. Most footballers leave the training ground at 1pm and do nothing with their time.
Why not do 3-4 hours of planning for your life after football? Take a course, volunteer to coach. Do anything that will make every hour count and be as productive as you can with your time. As Andrew thinks back, he believes he could have done even more. Perhaps he could’ve taken a different course or volunteered more days of the week, but hindsight is a beautiful thing.
Andrew continues to play in the Northern Premier Division, maintaining his love of playing football and keeping his technical skills sharp for coaching. He shared a great memory and insight which I’m very happy to share with all the young footballers.
“I will never forget sitting in a meeting with our psychologist Greg and he asked me what my goal is in football. My reply was ‘to make a career in any form of football, whether that be playing, managing, coaching.’ We agreed that before every match I played I would run to the corner flag, touch it, clap twice and say to myself “stay in the game”. To this day I still do it in every game I play and I am lucky I have stayed in the game.”
I love this sentiment and am so happy Andrew shared this as there are lots of different ways to remain in the game that young footballers should keep in mind today.
Overall, the key takeaways from Andrew are to enjoy football, love the experience, be prepared for the next chapter and stay in the game. A very rationale and realistic account of the game and one that should be a refreshing insight for young footballers out there today. This is the reality that you don’t see on Sky Sports.
A big thank you to Andrew Cartwright for his time and brilliant honesty.
Thanks for reading.