You might be surprised to hear me of all people suggest this, partly if you knew how much I tried to avoid the treatment room when I played, and maybe partly because people usually assume the media thing is something I just fell into, but I think more players should train as physios.
While the truth is I DID kind of just fall into the media thing, I did set about giving myself something to fall back on, first, which in my case meant doing my coaching badges, while I have friends who did that and worked really hard going down the physio route, one of whom is at LFC.
A lot of ex-pros are not necessarily in a position to juggle options when they hang up their boots, especially when it comes to the world of qualifications, but fortunately for me the cost of doing the badges did not prove to be prohibitive.
It’s actually time management that can turn out to be the most difficult hurdle when it comes to your badges, but that’s a subject that can wait for another day.
Even if recently retired pros are daunted at the prospect of finding the kind of fees these courses demand, by the way, I wouldn’t let that put anyone off for a second, as the Professional Footballers Association are always there to help with exactly these kinds of expenses.
As I say, I never tended to dwell in the domain of the physio, no matter how much it was turned into a hive of activity, humour and positivity at the various clubs I played for. Does that sound weird? I think the nature of gallows humour in football leads those in charge to work on an atmosphere that welcomes the passing player, but a theory of Gerard Houllier’s is probably responsible for me generally giving the sick bay a wide berth.
The longest I was ever out for was between six and seven weeks anyway, but that did not stop me sympathising with the lot of the lads who were consigned to the monotony of long-term rehab. Houllier, however, actually banned fit players at certain times from the treatment room at Melwood, Liverpool’s training ground, because he suspected that players would get too comfortable and end up convincing themselves they had knocks far more serious than was the case. Knowing players, he wasn’t far wrong!
It took the set-up at Fulham to really open my eyes, however, and they invested in a proper medical centre, involving someone who was instrumental in the advances Bolton had made under Sam Allardyce, Mark Taylor, himself a former Hartlepool, Crewe, Blackpool, Cardiff and Wrexham player.
When you trace the evolution from magic sponge to today’s facilities it really is chalk and cheese, and Fulham brought in ways of establishing a profile for each of us, from kids up, that went beyond hydration levels in blood and so on to psychological evaluations that revealed what made you tick.
We even had a specialist on the mechanics of the jaw come in, who certainly helped me. Jimmy Bullard was another at the time who benefited, and you would be surprised at the science behind clenching and unclenching your teeth at times of impact.
Jimmy turned into a great example of how to relax when striking one of his killer dead balls, and the boxer Floyd Mayweather, if you look, also shows the difference it can make if your jaw is relaxed at the most critical moments.
Sadly, along with relegation came big cut-backs to that side of the Fulham operation, but by then I was out of the door. We had an ageing squad under Roy Hodgson but we were convinced the strength of the medical department put a couple of years on the careers of more than a few.
Even though it’s tough getting yourself into a club on the physio side, I’ve never met anyone who qualified and regretted it, so by all means, if there’s a voice inside telling you that’s where you should be headed, you feel you’re bright enough and have the time to do the process justice, then grab the bull by the horns and do it!