Garry Birtles: Jamie Carragher's next move has me fearing for football
FOOTBALL is in danger of missing out. In my day, when you took the decision to hang up your boots, you had to get another job.
For most of us, the first port of call was considering how you might be able to stay in the game. Unfortunately, everyone had the same plan.
There were only so many coaching roles going – and they were always in demand. After that, you were left scratching your head a little bit, wondering how you were going to make a living.
The lowest point, for me, was actually having to go to the post office to claim dole money. It just makes you feel worthless. But there was a point in my life when I had to do that.
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Fortunately, I have subsequently managed to build a career in the media. I am very appreciative of that. And the industry has long been an alternative for those of us who still need to work for a living, once we have given up playing.
But now I fear the tide has changed. Now it is no longer the alternative, but the most attractive option when it comes to players who are about to retire.
More specifically, I fear football is losing players who would otherwise still have a great deal to offer to the sport.
Look at Jamie Carragher. There are few better examples of the perfect professional. A one-club man, a legend in Liverpool and a man who has worked hard to make the most of his ability.
He was always going to be a good player, but he has made himself into an outstanding one through his willingness to graft, to go the extra mile, on and off the pitch.
He has always conducted himself with dignity and decency and those of a red persuasion in that part of the world will be devastated to see him go.
But he has announced he will retire at the end of the season and was facing the same crossroads I was at, years ago.
And, instead of being desperate to stay in the game; to pass on his influence to young players coming through, he looks likely to accept an offer to go into television.
I am 100 per cent certain that this will be the media's gain. But it will be football's loss.
I realise I can be accused of hypocrisy over this, for obvious reasons. But there is a crucial difference in that Carragher is a man who, presumably, no longer needs to work, because of the money he has earned – and he has earned every penny by the way.
And that is what concerns me. Those men who have reached the very top in the game, the very ones who you would like to stick around; who are best equipped to teach the next generation, are no longer inspired to do so.
Financially speaking, they do not need to work.
Yes, they may have a hankering to stay in the game, but so big is the media now that they are easily able to do that.
In the meantime, football itself is going to miss out on somebody who, after a glorious career as a player, could have helped a few more to follow in his footsteps.