The Argus

| 16.5°C Dublin

Exciting New Beat for former soccer star Alan


Alan O'Hare

Alan O'Hare

Alan O'Hare

Former pro footballer Alan O'Hare has recently graduated as a newly trained policeman, with the ambition to become a detective specialising in the protection of vulnerable members of society.

It's been quite a turnabout in nine years after injury crushingly ended his dream life as a professional soccer player and left Alan with no option but to pursue a new career at the age of 28.

The fickle nature of life as a footballer suddenly became all too real for Alan who packed his bags in his native Dundalk shortly before his 18th birthday to do what he always wanted and all that he knew from the age of five - play football.

In a short space of time, from riding the crest of a wave with the choice to accept a £250,000 transfer to play in the championship with Bristol City or take the offer of a two and a half year extension to his contract with Chesterfield, he broke his ankle in the middle of negotiations.

He underwent surgery in March and the surgeon imparted the news he faced the risk of having an ankle replacement at 40 if he continued to play. With this crushing news Alan realised playing on was no longer an option.

His wages were paid up to the following September and then what at the age of 28? He compared it to being in grief and admitted: 'It took a long while to pull myself up again but out of necessity I had to do it.'

He still counts himself lucky to have spent 12 years doing something he loved in a profession that has a high attrition rate with young players' contracts not renewed and suffering career ending injuries very early in their careers.

It is why now with his own cruel experience he advises: 'You need to listen to your family which I didn't. I was guilty of that. You need life skills and to learn as much (as possible) about the world. Learn practical skills because when the situation occurs when that door shuts you need to go somewhere else. If you don't have that (skills) it can be a lonely, dark place. Believe me.'

He admitted he struggled mentally for a few months. He realised he had to get a job.

He was asked to go into coaching, a route that 'Larks' (Colin Larkin) fellow townsman and teammate from his Dundalk schoolboys representative team days has successfully pursued being attached to Sunderland College.

'I had a UEFA 'B' coaching badge which I had obtained while playing. But being brutally honest it is one of those jobs if I couldn't play I couldn't be around it.'

There was another option that cropped up later to retain his link with the game in the form of media work. He had resisted returning to Chesterfield where he spent seven and a half years and was well regarded there, refusing invitations to dinners and to speak.

'After four years Sheffield radio rang me (asking) would I do commentary live for the (Chesterfield) games? I really loved it and I was really tempted to go into it. I did it for two years - live commentary for Chesterfield games and random European games for Peak FM, BBC Radio Sheffield,' he revealed.

'I enjoyed it as a hobby, doing it on my own terms. If I was doing it as a job it might have been different,' he reflected.

He never thought of returning home, as much as he loves Dundalk and his family. His first pro contract was with Bolton Wanderers, where he wanted to prove that he could make it on his own and be self sufficient.

From his school days playing at tournaments like the Milk Cup in Coleraine he coveted a football playing career and doesn't have a single regret and loved every single day he was involved.

A product of the local Rangers club and former student in town of the De La Salle College, he joined Bolton in July 2000. The next summer Bolton returned to the premier division and Alan moved to Chesterfield in 2002.

He was a fans favourite at Chesterfield, and also had spells with Mansfield and York City over the course of a career spent in Leagues 1 and 2.

He derived pleasure and satisfaction from finishing runner-up a couple of seasons in the Player of the Year poll at Chesterfield. The big playing highlight was a Carling (League Cup) run beating four premier division clubs, including West Ham, Wolves and Manchester City before Charlton ended it heartbreakingly on penalties in the quarter-finals. His fellow townsman Colin Larkin also spent a couple of years at Chesterfield, and Alan set up a couple of goals for him in the cup run.

But he realised how ruthless professional football was when he finished, and that he needed stability and wanted a new career. He didn't wish to uproot and face into the uncertainty of a life in coaching.

'If I was to put my head on a young person's shoulders genuinely I would say get a degree or a trade if you are thinking of a career playing football. You need some education, not necessarily books.

'Get some life skills to prepare for what is the inevitable. Only the top one per cent retire, go into the media and do whatever they want. The rest of us walk out the front door and nobody knows who you are or cares.'

'My one regret is I didn't study when I was playing football. You think football will last forever,' he added.

He obtained a job as a teaching assistant and became deeply engrossed and interested in what he was doing. He resumed study at night to gain knowledge and various qualifications in the like of anger management, drug awareness to equip and enable him carry out the work he was doing with vulnerable children. This entailed providing counselling.

The first teaching assistant post entailed a two hour journey each way to the school and back home on reduced wages. He spent six years there before taking up another post at a different school, which was much closer to home, a mere 15 minutes away.

He worked there for the last three years, feeling at the end that he had gone as far as he could in the job. The opportunity arose of entering the police force, which he saw as a challenge to fulfil his desire for a change of career.

The process of being accepted took a year and having just completed his training he now is looking forward to embarking on his new role as a policeman.

He hopes in a few years to become a detective and engage in the field of protecting vulnerable people, involving the like of human trafficking and smuggling, domestic abuse and child exploitation.

The Argus