Clarke Carlisle presented a recent documentary about the gaping void that is life after professional football.
Leigh Bromby watched Football’s Suicide Secret with grim fascination and realised how fortunate he was to be taking on the job of Under-16s coach at Leeds United.
Bromby is 33 and envisaged playing on towards his 40th birthday but on Thursday morning he announced his retirement on the advice of medical experts. From the moment he snapped a knee tendon at Cardiff City in 2012, Bromby feared the worst and resigned himself to a different path. He has spent the time since deciding how his time would be filled.
The former Sheffield United defender owns an estate agency and already has a wider outlook than football alone but the idea of facing the “real world”, to use his words, was unnerving. Instead, he has joined Leeds’ academy coaching team in time for this season and has spared himself the torment of long, quiet days.
“I’m 33 and I planned on playing for a while yet,” Bromby said. “I’ve got a few things in place so if I hadn’t landed a coaching job then I might have gone into other areas. I’ve got an estate agents which I started with another ex-footballer (James Coubrough).
“But I watched the Clarke Carlisle programme and it was crazy – a fantastic programme but scary. If I didn’t have this job to go into then I’d have to face the real world and that programme highlighted a lot of the problems players have when they finish.
“At the moment I’m too busy to miss playing and that’s a good thing but if you’re not going onto something else then it can be a difficult process. I don’t think there’s much sympathy out there because of the money we get, and we all understand that. But maybe there needs to be a bit more support.”
Bromby’s employment as a coach at Thorp Arch was largely of his own making. His understanding of the severity of his injury encouraged him to lend a hand at the academy last season and to begin work on his coaching badges.
When Neil Redfearn and Richard Naylor took charge of United’s first team on a caretaker basis in April, Bromby temporarily replaced Naylor as Under-18s coach. Redfearn had already decided by then that Bromby would be a worthwhile, full-time addition to his staff.
There is, at Thorp Arch, an increasing presence of former United players. Naylor, the club’s ex-captain, took charge of the Under-18s last season and they won their league title at the first attempt.
Neil Sullivan has returned to the club as academy goalkeeping coach and Bromby is another with local ties, local knowledge and a career which junior footballers can aspire to.
“Nayls winning the title in his first season puts me under pressure,” Bromby joked.
“But I think I can learn from him. He had a fantastic first season and maybe that’s one of the reasons I’m here. Maybe they looked at him, saw how well he’d done and thought I might do the same.
“I do think it’s a good thing to have ex-players involved. It helps with your local knowledge. I love being at this club and I love being involved. I think that’s important.”
Bromby was released by United as a player last month having seen out a four-year contract at Elland Road. His opportunities in that time were sporadic – 66 appearances in all – but he was part of the team which saw Leeds over the line on the last day of the 2009-10 season, playing in the 2-1 win over Bristol Rovers which secured promotion from League One.
“Getting promoted with Sheffield United to the Premier League was a high and coming to Leeds and being involved in that promotion year will always stick in my mind,” he said.
“The last 14 months have been difficult but I’ve got something to look forward to now. There haven’t been too many smiles but that can all change.”