A FORMER Premier League winger has revealed how he turned to a much more serious career after giving up the game.
Stuart Ripley, 47, made over 500 appearances for English clubs across in his stellar, 16-year career but is now in a very different line of work.
Ex-Middlesbrough and Blackburn man Ripley, who even made two England appearances between 1993 and 1997, told The Guardian that he only had one thing on his mind after hanging up his boots.
He said: "The only thing I knew I wanted to do when I retired was to go to university.
"I got nine O-levels and then joined Middlesbrough at 16, so that option was taken away.
"I won the Premier League and represented my country, but when I retired at 34, I felt I’d missed out by not going to university."
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Middlesbrough-born Ripley enrolled at the University of Central Lancashire after working for a time as a sports physio in Castleford, Yorkshire.
He explained that he had wanted to study foreign languages but couldn't "just up and leave" for the required year abroad as his children were school age at the time.
Instead, he took a combined course in French, criminology and law, graduating with a First in 2007.
The switch led to his current role as a solicitor and prospective law lecturer.
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The former league winner recalled: "I went to some law lectures and thoroughly enjoyed them. At that stage, I never had any intention to become a solicitor.
"After my degree, I did the postgraduate certificate for a year and then got a training contract with Brabners, a firm in Manchester.
"Once I qualified, I ended up working in the sports law department. I probably learned more about the business of football in the first six months than I did playing.
"You’re very cosseted from that world as a player, at least until your contract’s up and you need to start negotiating."
Ripley left Brabners in 2013, but came away feeling that players need to be more informed about contracts, agents and social media.
He added that he is keen on the idea of "recognising the responsibility that comes with being a role model" and is keen to spread the message to young player.
On the struggles of building a fulfilling life after football, he said: "Football’s not real life, and if you do move away from it, you get a different perspective and a different grasp on things.
"The rhythm of your life changes completely. When you’re playing, you’ve got two potentially very big highs within a week – you play on a Tuesday or Wednesday and then at the weekend.
"That’s a huge adrenaline rush. When you retire, that’s very difficult to replace. You’ve got to find another goal in life."
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