Goalkeeper Graham Stack: Hopefully my career in football coaching will be a memorable and successful one but I feel the need to prepare in case it isn’t to be
PROFESSIONAL goalkeeper Graham Stack says he is contemplating what to do when his playing days are over.
The 35-year-old started his career at Premier League club Arsenal in the summer of 1998 and signed his first professional contract two years’ later.
Stack was loaned out to Belgium club Beveren, along with three other Arsenal players during the 2002-03 season.
His Arsenal debut came in a League Cup match against Rotherham United in October 2003. He played in all of Arsenal’s five matches in the competition, losing in the semi-finals to Middlesbrough. Stack was on the bench as the Gunners won the Premier League title at Tottenham Hotspur in April 2004.
Stack was loaned out to Millwall for the entire 2004-05 season and on his return, was loaned to Reading for the start of the 2005-06 season.
Stack has since played for Leeds United, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Plymouth Argyle, Blackpool, Hibernian, Barnet, Kerala Blasters (Indian Super League) and has a contract at Vanarama National League side Eastleigh until 2019.
He has made over 300 appearances during his professional career and is now facing the reality of what to do next when he hangs up his gloves.
“I am reaching out with this article hoping for some advice, ideas and guidance from professionals in various industries and ex professional football players,” he said in a statement with LinkedIn.
“I have four years coaching experience at Barnet FC as first team goalkeeping coach and Martin Allen’s assistant, while combining playing. During this time in the Football League and National League, we successfully won the title.
“I have more recently worked with Steve Coppell as first team goalkeeping coach in India for Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League. My time in India proved to be an invaluable learning experience both on and off the pitch.
“I have been very fortunate to have played in four different countries under some fantastic managers and coaches over a professional playing career spanning 18 years and counting.
“During this time, I have been able to work with and learn first-hand from the very best gaining valuable knowledge and experience. All managers and coaches have their own characteristics and managerial style along with their own mentality. Over time they get an understanding what sessions, techniques and methods work best for both themselves, the individual and the team.
“This has enabled me to use what I have learnt and combine with my own personality and coaching ability to create my own identity. This in effect is what will make me individually different to other coaches.
“I always believed I would naturally move into the world of coaching when my playing days are over. I have good leadership skills, love being in a football environment and think my passion and enthusiasm along with my coaching ability are qualities that give me the edge over others.”
Stack revealed he has an UEFA Outfield A&B Licence; UEFA Goalkeeping A&B Licence and FA Youth Modules 1&2.
“There are currently a lot of very good coaches including ex-players and those who have become coaches on a different pathway. Most with the same qualifications, some with experience in youth football, others in the men and women’s game,” added Stack.
“There are now more foreign coaches in the British game than ever before. This is now a record number of UK based coaches with UEFA and FA qualifications than ever before yet there is still the same amount of Football League clubs.
“Yes, there has been an increase in staff at clubs at the very top but lower down the Football League, clubs are having to work on a restricted budget employing the minimum amount of staff needed with some on a part-time basis.
“Academies have created lots of opportunities for coaches and I think we have recently seen the benefits of the programme coming to fruition with the success of England’s under 20’s (winning their World Cup) and the quality of young British players we are now producing.
“My point and reason for writing this is simple; most footballers do their badges because it’s a natural progression and all they know. It’s an environment players are used to and feel safe in. Players tend to have a limited education and are unskilled in other sectors. It is also a game they love and can’t let go of.
“I know so many players now and in recent years who have done their badges when playing had no intention or desire to coach. Players never thought they would need to coach and players that simply didn’t respect the coach.”
Stack asks, are these qualifications losing credibility and carrying less clout than they once did?
Are there enough jobs to go round?
Do salaries in an Academy reflect the work load and the hours?
“I love seeing fellow players succeed when they pursue a career in management or coaching and it leans me disappointed and gutted if things don’t work out. They simply get the sack after a poor run making in near impossible to get another job. It begs the question, is the time and money spent on becoming a coach more risk than reward?
“It takes bravery and charisma as well as confidence to pursue a career in coaching as it can be short lived and unforgiving.
“I have been thinking recently what this might mean for myself? Yes, I love coaching and I am passionate with a burning desire to be successful and get to the top.
“I am currently playing for Eastleigh and have a contract until June 2019. I am 35 and trying to prepare myself for life after playing.
“My wife and I set up an independent personal travel company four years ago, which my wife runs and I set up The Graham Stack Soccer Academy six years ago, which I am extremely proud of.
“My Academy offers specialist goalkeeping training and football camps for girls and boys aged 5-12 in my local area. This has been really satisfying and rewarding.
“The camps remind me of attending Bob Wilson’s goalkeeping school as a young boy during the holidays, which ultimately paved the way and started my career as a keeper. Hopefully, I can help and give the opportunity to budding young players, like I once was.”
Stack now has to think about what he is going to do next if he doesn’t stay within the football industry.
“Now I am considering planning for a potential career away from football,” he said.
“It seems leaving an industry I have worked in for nearly 20 years makes no sense?”
“Years building a positive reputation and a successful career will be walked away from. Uncountable hours spent on the training pitch, travelling to games and moving from club to club will be lost and forgotten. Contacts, friends and memories all put to one side to venture into the unknown.
“While I am employed and earning an income I believe now is the time to learn and gain as much experience in a job that I can potentially forge a career in for many years to come.
“I have looked at a number of distance learning courses and have spoken to professionals in various industries but I have yet to decide what direction to move in.
“I will be trying to achieve this while committing 100% to performing day in day out on the pitch and being there for my wife and four children.
“I have spoken to surveyors, financial advisors, journalists and numerous other professionals.
“Are you a business owner or manager that can offer a pathway to becoming qualified and skilled with opportunities within your company?
“What courses or qualifications do I need? How long will it take? What advice as an ex player can you offer me? What advice as a coach can you offer me?
“I am sure there are many like myself in a similar position and many that will reach the very crossroads I will be reaching at different times in their career. It may give not just myself a few of us an idea of what route to go down or who to turn to.
“Hopefully my career in football coaching will be a memorable and successful one but I feel the need to prepare in case it isn’t to be. “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”.