I have been involved in football all my life. It's fair to say it is my life.
From the first time I played football out in the garden with my dad and brother, to joining my local team, progressing to a top regional team, representing my schools and region, to signing schoolboy forms with a pro club. Then spending 2 years YTS and eventually signing professional and making my debut for the first team. I was living the dream!!!
The reality though, is that the dream can easily disappear. Injuries, how a club is run, a change of management, a change of club and personal issues are just some of the issues that can all have an impact on your future and career.
All of the above probably had an impact on myself at some point in time. I think I had about 5 managers in 2 seasons and had agreed a 2 year contract with one before going on holiday. I just hadn't signed it!! Whilst on holiday, the same manager and his staff got sacked and the new management didn't offer any contract despite not seeing me train or play. Disappointngly and surprisingly the club offered no support whatsoever.
Thankfully the sacked manager offered me an opportunity at his new club. A club a division higher. After a successful trial I signed a 1 year deal and after another change of management got a further 1 year continuation.
A change in management can result in massive changes, you have to adapt to the new management and staff, to their new players, new training methods, a different tactical approach and much more. You are doing the same job description but it completely different. Sometimes it's for the better and sometimes for the worse. You may or may not fit into their thinking and style of play.
As a player, playing with and against some top players in the reserves I kept looking to the first team and seeing international players playing in my position and thinking how am I going to get a chance. There was another 15 younger players doing exactly the same, worrying if their 1 or 2 year contract is going to get renewed. We were not seeing a pathway into the first team.
After time, I like many others in the same changing room, lost interest and fell out of love with the game to the extent where I actually wanted out. I seen my friends making more money than me and enjoying life. After years of making sacrifices for football, I decided I wanted to live a life like my friends.
My professional career ended before I had turned 21. It ended with a thank you and goodbye. Thr club, now unsurprisingly, offered no support to find another club or career. The dream was over and it was strangely a relief. The pressure was off. I found a job that paid more money, offered more security and allowed me to buy a house and start a family, something I couldn't have done on the salary I was receiving playing football.
I continued playing junior football into my 30's and eventually got involved in coaching my son's football team. My passion for the game returned and I set up Futsal Escocia. Futsal reminds me of my childhood, playing small sided games on concrete in the school playground. Games and activities where you coached yourself. I actually wish futsal was around when I was a kid, to fully experience the game.
We have some exceptional kids in our academy and I try to let the kids and parents realise the ups and downs of football. The expectations compared to the reality.
My advice would be simple. Do what you enjoy and whatever you do, give it your all. The importance of education and following our academy values will stand you in good stead in any walk of life. No matter the journey there will be ups and downs. It's how you react to them.
If I went back 25 years, would I do it again...100%, but I'd be more aware of hurdles and what is required to succeed.
Russell Taylor - Futsal Escocia