Feature: One step ahead of the game - Doncaster-born Danny Schofield on life after football

Danny Schofield (left) chats to Paul Goodwin about his career in the professional game and his plan for life after football. Photo: Marie Caley.

Danny Schofield (left) chats to Paul Goodwin about his career in the professional game and his plan for life after football. Photo: Marie Caley.

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Danny Schofield is not your average footballer.

For every professional out there, the thought of hanging up the boots can be a frightening one.

AFC Wimbledon v Rotherham United FC - Npower League 2 - 06/04/2012 - Danny Schofield is denied by keeper Jack Turner just before Wimbledon equalise

AFC Wimbledon v Rotherham United FC - Npower League 2 - 06/04/2012 - Danny Schofield is denied by keeper Jack Turner just before Wimbledon equalise

That sense of emptiness, uncertainty and isolation, in the most extreme cases, can have dangerous consequences.

But Doncaster-born Danny - whose career included spells with Huddersfield Town, Yeovil Town, Millwall and Rotherham United - is an exception to what is widely perceived as the norm.

The 35-year-old, who lives in Balby with his long term partner Michaela and two young sons, Luke and Archie, is a man with a plan.

And he has been planning for life after football from the moment he first got into the professional game.

Danny Schofield, pictured during his Millwall days.

Danny Schofield, pictured during his Millwall days.

“I’ve always planned for the future,” said Danny, now player coach at Conference North outfit Bradford Park Avenue.

“The first thing I did when I started earning a wage was invest in a property at 18. I rented that out. So as my career developed, I’ve built up a property portfolio.

“I’ve always thought the retirement age is 35, which I’ve hit now, so what am I going to do?

“Michaela works in accounts so that gave us a good background to set a business up. Maple Lettings and Property Management has been running 18 months now and it’s slowly growing.

“We’ve been managing our own portfolio so why not branch out and try our hand at managing other people’s?

“It’s refreshing really, rather than just playing football all the time, to do something else and learn new things.

“Bradford are really good with it.

“They’re part time so we train Tuesday and Thursday evenings and play on a Saturday, so throughout the day I’ve got a lot of time to try and grow this business and make it a success.”

Schofield’s forward planning came from a taste of the ‘real life’ as a teenager and his backdoor route into the professional game, via non-league.

He was scouted by Huddersfield, for whom he went on to make well over 200 appearances, playing for Brodsworth Welfare.

During the week he would resurface roads with his uncle, and the sense of perspective gleaned from that separates Schofield from the majority of his peers.

“I had a different route into it I suppose. I never did a YTS anywhere,” he said.

“A mate of mine at Lincoln is the same age as me and I keep saying to him ‘what are you going to do when you’ve finished football?’

“‘I’ll be all right’, he says.

“But it’s coming to an end.

“I don’t think it’s laziness. I think it’s just that mindset of ‘I play football, this is what I do’. Even though it comes to an end, I don’t think players can see past it.

“The fact I came through the non-league route and I used to work with my uncle gave me a taste of the real world.”

He continued: “I’ve played with that many players who get to the end of their career and they just don’t know what to do when they finish.

“It’s a big talking point within footballing circles. The PFA are doing their best to educate players and tell them they need a Plan B.

“I know in the academies they do day releases so players will come in and do a BTEC qualification as well as play football.

“Otherwise the vast majority of players who come through academies would never have any sort of career to fall back on.”

So would Schofield agree that he is an exception in the modern game?

“I’m not sure about exception but I’d say it’s the minority,” he replied.

“There’s not many people who do plan. Or they get to a certain age and then plan.

“I think the majority tend to go into coaching when they’ve finished playing but then find it’s not for them.

“It is totally different to actually playing because you become the leader and the organiser. There’s a lot more to it than just putting sessions on.

“A lot of people I know, they do just get to that age and think ‘where do I go from here?’.

“And then they have to study or go into other work, whereas you’d be better off studying as you’re playing.

“Attitudes are probably starting to change within the game now,” he added.

“People are thinking more about the future.

“The longest contract I ever signed was three years. That’s very long by today’s standards. It’s more likely to one or two years.

“If you have a poor season, or you get injured, or a manager doesn’t take to you, where do you go from there if you’ve not played any games? A lot more players are going on trial these days.

“I’d like to think players are planning ahead to do other things and I think there’s more and more available for players now.

“The PFA are really supportive in terms of providing loans and funding to go and do courses.

“Players tend to take a back seat though. Whatever level you’re at, lads tend to be in a bit of a bubble. It’s detached from the real world.”

Detached from the real world, however, is something that Schofield is most certainly not.

“The plan is to play as long as I can, do a bit of coaching and build this business while I’m playing,” he said.

“I started doing my coaching badges, I’ve got my UEFA B, so I’ve got that there as an option.

“My playing days are going to come to an end sooner or later. Hopefully by the time it does this business is well underway.”

For more information about Maple Lettings visit www.maplelettings.co.uk.