Fletch reflects on his retirement from AFC Bournemouth player almost decade ago

It was the summer of 2013. AFC Bournemouth had just gained promotion to the Championship. I went to see our then-manager, Eddie Howe to discuss my future with the club. I was hoping for a contract to play on for another year, even if the rest of my body disagreed.
We came to the conclusion that, as I was nearly 41, the next step was going to be tough. Eddie didn’t want to cause the disappointment of not naming me in the squad on a regular basis in the upcoming season. We came to the decision that it might be time to hang up my boots, which I regretfully accepted.
We both shed a few tears. Eddie was one of my best mates and knew how much I loved football. Straight away, Eddie told me he didn’t want me to leave the club, instead he wanted me to help build the scouting department, looking for new talent to bring to the team. 
After being a player for 24 years, my new role at AFC Bournemouth was totally different to what I’d been used to. Eddie also got me on the training pitch every few weeks to get me involved with the coaching side of things. After a few years, I became a first team coach on a full-time basis, which is the next best thing to playing for me. Not all ex-footballers want to stay working in industry, though many do. I was lucky to get this opportunity. The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) were fantastic around my retirement and checked in with me on a number of occasions to see if everything was ok. 
For all the wonderful opportunities and rewards that come with being a professional footballer, retiring from playing is particularly hard from a mental perspective. You know that never again will you experience those adrenalin rushes when you score in the last minutes. You have also become institutionalised within the game so when you retire, your day-to-day routine has gone instantly. Suddenly you’re in the ‘real world’. I’ve heard the same comments from players at the top level as well as those in the lower divisions. The difference being that those who played in the lower divisions, like myself, need to keep earning a living.
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ advice I can offer players coming up to their retirement, or indeed anyone ending their time in a particular industry or profession. Everybody is different. Some people will have an idea of what they want to do next, others will be hoping - like I was – that something comes their way that suits them.    
The only advice I can give is to be as prepared as you can be for retirement. Whatever career you are leaving. Put the wheels in motion early enough so you have something waiting for you when retirement comes, rather than have nothing on the horizon. That's easy to say, but not so easy to put into action when you’re unsure of what your future might be. By far and away the most important thing is to be mentally ready for retirement. And enjoy the next chapter. 

Follow on Twitter @stevefletcher33, and AFCBournemouth on Facebook @afcbournemouth