Education can fuel players' passion says Simpson
Mixing football and education is not the path often trodden these days, but Robbie Simpson says more and more players are opting to head back into classrooms before their career is over.
Simpson is a graduate of Loughborough University, following the path his siblings took after he was released from Norwich City early in his career. Finishing his degree in Sports Management and Maths, he was already a professional footballer by his third year - echoed by now-Dons team-mate George Williams after his initial release from MK Dons.Signing for Coventry City in 2007 following his graduation, the forward was known as 'the student' in the Sky Blues' dressing room for being the only one with a degree.
Simpson's subsequent career and side-project LAPS - Life After Professional Sport - have been greatly helped by his background in education, the 33-year-old believes, and he feels it is an option more players are beginning to consider during their playing days.
"I was nicknamed 'the student' by the Coventry dressing room because I was the only one in there wit ha degree," he said. "But Exeter last year, I think there was 10 of us in there who had or were studying for degrees. It's easier now, with online platforms like the Open University and grants from the PFA.
"I was at Norwich as a kid, but I wasn't offered a contract because I wasn't deemed good enough," he continued. "My mum always wanted me to get my A-Levels and go to university, and my brothers and sisters went and had the time of their lives. So I dropped into non-league and went to Loughborough. I had a good season in my second year, and signed a professional contract in my third year. I had a great season then too and signed for Coventry in the Championship.
"I would recommend (education) to everyone, but the reality is that it can't always happen like that. Everyone wants to be a footballer, but maybe one of your youth team will make it. You're always told you have to focus on football, do the right things away from the game but solely concentrate on football, so it's hard to tell someone to think about what happens if it ends."
With LAPS, Simpson now goes to clubs to speak to youth teams to encourage them to consider education during their careers.
He said: "We set up a work shop where we go into clubs and try to tackle this issue, and get people thinking about the what-ifs. The only guarantee is football is that you'll have to stop one day, so you have to be prepared.
"It pays to have another passion, whether or not you've earned enough to just go away on holiday.
"Statistically, only 30 per cent of sportsmen and women decide when they want to retire. You have to be prepared."