Review – Out of Contract
“You’re a product. If you are doing well, people would want to buy you.”
Sky Sports documentary Out of Contract followed five professional footballers from different levels of the game and in different stages of their careers.
According to the Professional Footballers Association, 75% of pro players who find themselves out of contract at U-21 level fall out of full-time football for good.
Out of Contract revealed the struggles that players released by their clubs go through as they search for a new one.
Michael Collins is a journeyman midfielder who you might not have come across as he plied his trade with the likes of Huddersfield, Scunthorpe an Oxford.
The former Republic of Ireland U-21 international made a bold choice when he left Oxford by mutual consent and went to play for Bengaluru FC in the Indian Premier League in order to provide for his family.
Collins, 30, won his first ever career title with Bengaluru. However since then, he has struggled to find a new club.
Bengaluru coach Ashley Westwood said: “You can earn more here [in India] than in League Two.”
As the Indian Premier League is gaining popularity, more players in the same situation as Collins, are making that move abroad in order to earn a living, find fresh challenges and remain in the sport that they love.
Of course, football is a game of huge contrasts, and whilst millionaire superstars such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic line up their next lucrative move, lesser lights may have to consider entirely new careers.
Out of Contract highlighted the case of Bradley Pritchard who, after being released by Leyton Orient last season, decided to enter the legal profession and now has a new job as a paralegal.
The documentary brought home that these footballers are normal people just like us; often facing life-changing decisions as they battle to make the best of things for themselves and their families.
There can be a long list of factors that can jeopardise a potential transfer.
Peter Odemwingie (above, main photo) was due to move to Hull City before the 2016/17 season. The manager at the time, Steve Bruce, was a huge admirer of the player. Everything was all set until Bruce resigned and the move was off.
Odemwingie also turned down offers from across the world to focus on his family. Sometimes, it is not all about football and there are other commitments which are more important.
Most of the footballers featured eventually found new clubs, but often at a lesser level and, consequently, on lower wages.
Emmanuel Sonupe, 20, was at Tottenham for 10 years before being released when his contact expired. The midfielder had trials at clubs such as QPR and Leicester before signing a one-year deal with League One Northampton Town.
Former Watford and Bolton forward Marvin Sordell found himself in the same situation as Sonupe, albeit at the age of 25.
Released by Colchester at the end of an initially promising but then injury-hit 2015-16 season, Sordell had various offers from around the world before deciding to join Coventry City on a one-year deal.
The message that came across in Out of Contract was if you continue to work hard and strive to stay in the professional game at some level, you will see success at the end of the road.
For those whose best efforts are still not enough, the PFA provides training courses and support for players who find themselves having to hang up their boots and consider other options.
Any footballer who find their career not going to plan should take some inspiration from Bradley Pritchard and his new vocation in the legal profession.
Out of Contract wove his and the stories of other players into an exceptional documentary. Whether you’re a football fan or not, their tales of overcoming adversity and battling the odds make it a must-watch programme.
Image courtesy of Sky Sports