Sunday, August 23, 2009

Shane Supple Retires From Football At 22 To Choose A Life Less Ordinary

Ipswich Town's Shane Supple has taken the decision to retire from professional football at the tender age of 22 after he "fell out of love" with the game.

In a fitting final act before retiring, the young star saved the final Shrewsbury penalty in last week's Carling Cup tie, which sent the Tractor Boys through to the next round.

There is a large Irish contingent at Ipswich, all are U-21 regulars, and one of new manager Roy Keane's first acts was to reward the club's future stars with contract extensions, and Supple was given a 12-month extension in the summer.

The young 'keeper was instrumental in Ipswich winning the much coveted FA Youth Cup in 2005, and was widely tipped to be a future star in the game despite his small size for a 'keeper—a relatively diminutive 6'1".

Discussions between Ipswich, Supple, and Roy Keane have been ongoing for some time after the youngster made it known how unhappy he was. Both club and manager tried to talk him out of walking away from the game but to no avail.

A statement from Shane on the club site read:

"Playing professional football is not something I want to continue doing," the 22-year-old Dubliner said after his contract with the club was cancelled by mutual consent.

"As you grow up you realise there are other things in life and to be honest, the game is not what I thought it was."

"There is not one reason why I have made my decision, there are a number of factors," he said.

"But deep down my heart is not in the game any more and I’m not going to go into work every day trying to convince myself that it is, so it’s the right time for me to walk away.

"I suppose you could say that I have fallen out of love with the game and when that happens I’ve always said to myself that I wouldn’t hang around."

Conspiracy theorists were quick to jump to the conclusion that Roy Keane's arrival at Portman Road caused Supple's decision, especially as there are rumours doing the rounds that many of Ipswich's players are unhappy with the new regime in one way or another.

But Supple quashed those thoughts with a further statement where he thanked Keane for his support and advice after he stated his intentions that he wanted he retire.

"He was a bit shocked when I told him and I expected that but he understood my reasons—he's been first class.

"I've worked with some great people in my time at Ipswich and had some great times at the club. It's a fantastic club and I'll continue to follow Ipswich's fortunes."

Ipswich chief executive Simon Clegg added: "It's obviously disappointing news for us but we respect Shane's reasons and we wish him every success for the future."

While football fans everywhere scratch their heads at the news of someone so young retiring from their dream job, they really don't know what life as a professional sportsman or woman is like.

Football in particular is a sport that is built on bullying and peer pressure, youngsters come into the game as starry eyed 14 or 15-year-old with the idealistic views that if you train hard enough you will make it and that only the most dedicated players get picked for the first team.

Very often they find that player wages are based on appearances and that the nice old pro who will take the new kid under his arm does not exist, because the youngster is a direct rival for his job.

For this reason, many youngsters are pushed to one side as their fellow team mates ostracize them within their own clubs, and they come to realise that everyone is out for themselves.

Until you actually break into the first team. When you achieve this, the team bonding actually begins once you're named in the team, the win bonus depends on everyone helping each other.

There are no win bonuses in reserve team football and as a result the games become souless matches where everyone is out for themselves.

For reasons of peer pressure, lack of alternatives, lack of education, or any number of others, many players opt to go through the motions in a career that will never bring them the happiness they once thought it would. Very few have the courage to act on it though.

In the end players stay in the game only to make a living. They fall out of love with it. They fail to appreciate their supporters, their employers, and then they become the cynical old pro who held them back when they first started out.

The game becomes a vicious circle.

One person who will actually understand and appreciate Supple's decision is his ex-manager Roy Keane and he released a statement yesterday to share his thoughts on the matter.

"I spoke to Shane on Wednesday and I was disappointed when he told me the news (of his decision)," Roy said.

"If you had told me that one of my players was going to retire from the game this week, Shane would have been a long way down the list. He's an excellent pro and a good kid and while I'm disappointed that he feels football is not for him anymore, I respect and admire him for making what is brave decision.

i>"Sometimes people play sport just because they are good at it and they are not in love with the game and Shane has said that he has fallen out of love with the game over the last year or two.

"Everyone at Ipswich wishes him well in whatever he does. He's an intelligent lad and I'm sure he will go on and be good at whatever he chooses to do and he knows he has an open invitation to come back and watch a game whenever he wants to."

In a funny way both Keane and Supple are kindred spirits. They are sure of their convictions, and know that the only opinion that counts is your own.

They both believe in making your own destiny and not going with the flow.

Because the only thing that goes with the flow is dead fish.

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