Chasing The Dream As A Professional Footballer

Living away from home is something players can go through during their careers. Some players have no choice but to move away from home, with families staying at home. It can be weeks or even months before some are able to head home to spend some time with loved ones. How the whole experience pans out can be determined by numerous factors. So what can come with living away and how can chasing the dream look within football?


Chasing the dream: Living away from home?

Often in football, we can find ourselves signing for a club a long distance from home. We normally have two choices when this is the case:

  • Commute every day

or

  • Move closer to the club

Players can find themselves moving abroad to play football, so living away from home is the only option.

The option of commuting every day isn’t ideal and most of the time isn’t feasible. Players will opt to move closer to the club to give themselves the best chance of performing well, with long-distance travelling potentially hampering the chances of elite performance.

Players move up and down the country and around the world chasing the dream

Options available to players when moving closer to a club:

  • Shared accommodation with other players who are also living away from home. Known as a ‘club house’.
  • Stay in a hotel whilst we sort out somewhere to live. This can range from a week to months.
  • Pay towards the rental of a property, with the club paying the rest. This would be negotiated into the contract.
  • Stay with a host family who will be paid by the club to accommodate us and other players. This is most common in our scholarship and is known as ‘digs’.
  • Negotiate a ‘relocation fee’ into our contract. It is an amount of money for the player to use towards living costs. This can be used on a deposit, rent, new furniture or things that are for where they will be staying.

The options available to players depend on the club but also the player’s circumstances.

Living away from home provides players and families with opportunities off of the pitch like:

  • A new area/country to explore and experience
  • A new culture to embrace if moving abroad
  • An opportunity to meet new people
  • A chance to become more independent, especially as a younger player
During my loan spell at Colchester where I experienced my first taste of living away from home. Image by Richard Blaxall

Chasing the dream: Outside factors that can affect living away from home

I think that players experiences of living away from home depend on the person and their circumstances. For example, those with children and families will experience it differently from those without. Some examples of factors that we have to take into consideration when moving away:

  • Will family be moving with us?
  • Buy or rent?
  • If family are coming with us, do we need to find a school or childcare for any children we may have?
  • Will they have to leave their current school and join a new one so they can move with us?

Moving away comes with complications within families and some tough decisions have to be made. Is taking children out of their current school and friendship group the right thing to do for a 2-year contract up North? Or do the family stay together and all move? That has to be decided by each family but this is just one example of what families and players are faced with when moving away from home. Family life is sometimes sacrificed for the sake of the player’s career and the lives of family members.

However, I have played with players who have moved away from home and decided to stay put, moving their family into the new area and living there beyond their contract.

During my second spell at Colchester, my partner and I were expecting our first child. During the season I was living in Colchester, whilst she still lived back home in Croydon. She remained working until a couple of months before the due date, which is when she moved to Colchester. Not being present consistently throughout the whole pregnancy was difficult for me, but this is an example of the sacrifices players have to make whilst chasing the dream.

A few months after he was born, I was signing for Maidstone and we were moving back home to Croydon with nothing but a couple of bags of belongings and a bag full of nappies! I knew there was some interest but once I got the ok from the club, the move was tied up within 36 hours. I found myself at a crossroads as to whether I would commute to Maidstone from Colchester daily as it was possible, albeit not ideal. We made the decision to temporarily move in with family back home because the journey would be easier and it would be good for our son to be closer to family.

In those 36 hours, we had to weigh up what would be best for our family, whilst also thinking about my career. We also had a property in Colchester to think about, but at that moment we had to prioritise family life and my career.

Living away from home comes with certain sacrifices that have to be made. Players miss out on family occasions, milestones and just day to day family life, all for the chance to pursue careers.

Burying myself in TV series after TV series

My experience of living away from home whilst at Portsmouth was one that helped me grow both on and off the pitch. Image by Portsmouth FC

Chasing the dream: My experiences of living away from home

At first, I wasn’t sure how I would find it. My first spell at Colchester was my first experience of living away from home and it was also my first step into league football. Although it was just under 2 hours away from home, I enjoyed staying in Colchester. I became more independent, grew as a person and enjoyed the luxury of having my own space!

Coming from a big family, space is something you struggle to find!

However, at Portsmouth, things were different. After enjoying my time in Colchester, I thought I would find living in Portsmouth fine. It was a lovely house provided by the club, that I shared with a player from the North East.

The first couple of months were great, I was enjoying the area and the house was amazing. As time went on though, I found myself wanting to go home all the time. I would count down the days until my partner was coming down to stay, or my family were coming to watch a game.

It was only once I had re-signed for Colchester that I realised why I had found myself missing home in Portsmouth.

It wasn’t because I was living away from home.

It was because things weren’t going well for me on the pitch.

Whilst at Colchester, I would head home to Croydon after training although I had a flat close to the training ground. This was exactly what I was doing during my spell at Portsmouth. When I would go home, time always flew by and it would feel as if as soon as I had taken my shoes off, I was back on the motorway driving home alone, on the dark A12.

I was out of favour at both clubs and when I did play I wasn’t performing well. After training, I was then going back to my empty flat or my room in Portsmouth and burying myself in TV series after TV series.

My experiences of living away from home were affected by how things were going with football. I was young and I couldn’t switch off from football when I left the training ground. I needed something to focus on, other than Netflix! Whilst in Colchester, I also knew I was missing out on the majority of my partner’s pregnancy journey.

I have always been a homely person, but I wish I had enjoyed my time away from home more. For me, there is no doubt, that being happy off of the pitch, translates into good performances on the pitch and vice versa.

During my second spell at Colchester. Image by Richard Blaxall

Living away from home is part and parcel of football and often out of our hands as players. If we are moving alone it can get lonely when things aren’t going so well, but can also be a great experience and grounding. Finishing at 1 pm most days leaves a lot of spare time, so choosing what we fill our spare time with has to be chosen wisely.

As a younger player, living away from family and friends can be the catalyst for self-development and finding our feet in the big world. So if you’re a little unsure when it comes to moving away from home, whether it is short-term or long-term, remember that it is another part of your journey. You will learn so much about yourself away from the comfort of home and whether your experience is good, bad, or a bit of both like mine were, you’ll look back one day and be grateful that they were a part of your journey.


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