That was the harsh reality for former Brighton & Hove Albion defender Adam Hinshelwood when he was forced to retire from the professional game, aged just 26, seven years ago.
Several jobs came and went but Hinshelwood’s passion for football never waned and now, aged 33, he has been back in football full-time for 18 months as assistant coach of Brighton & Hove Albion’s under-18 team.
During a career which spanned eight years and included 148 appearances – 113 for Brighton along with a call-up to the England under-21 team – Hinshelwood had never thought about what he would do when his playing career ended.
After leaving Brighton in 2009, he moved to Aldershot before joining Wycombe Wanderers, where he was captain of the League One club but still had ambitions to play in the Championship.
Those hopes suddenly came to a shuddering halt owing to a knee injury he sustained in pre-season in 2010, with doctors telling him he could not play at any level again.
Hinshelwood said: “Despite all my injuries, my ambition, even when I was at Wycombe playing in League One, was to get a move to the Championship and play as high as I could. I was a bit blinkered, at 26 you don’t think you’re going to retire. You think you’ve got loads of years left in your career.
“I had a family, so was pushing myself and had the mentality that I was going to push myself to get as fit as I could. I always thought I’d end up playing in the Championship again.
“That made having to retire really tough. I remember going home on crutches and saying to my wife I couldn’t play football again.
“I was just sitting there with my knee up thinking what am I going to do? I had three kids at the time, a mortgage, a wife and was just scratching my head.
“I looked at all kinds of things and was going to set up a company to sell cleaning products.
“But all I knew was football and I had to stay involved and get into coaching. I knew I had to do all the licences and all the youth modules to get as qualified as I could.
“I had to fully commit to it and luckily I had a supportive family and friends and my wife. I was very lucky in that sense and, seven years later, I can say I’m working at a professional club on a daily basis again, which is brilliant.”
There were tough times, though, as Hinshelwood had to rent out his house and move his family in to live with his mother-in-law, while he also had to travel from his Selsey home to work in Southampton packing bags for customers over Christmas.
He said: “I did all sorts of jobs. I was a gas man for about three or four months, which wasn’t too bad as it kept me fit. And I can remember getting up at 5am to go to Southampton around Christmas time to a Next store.
“I was putting everyone’s clothes they bought in the sale in a bag and handing it over.
“I was doing whatever it took to earn a bit of money for the family. So, to get a full-time job at a building (Albion’s American Express Elite Football Performance Centre in Lancing) and a place like this is something you’re going to work hard to make sure you stay at and enjoy.
“If you said all this would happen within six years of having to retire, I’d have snapped someone’s hand off.
“I fell out of football and didn’t go straight back into it, which has probably helped me appreciate it a little bit more because of the other stuff I had to do.
“I’m delighted. To be at this club is just unimaginable from some of the things I was doing when I was putting people’s shopping in a bag. It shows you’ve got to keep working hard, believe in yourself and good things can happen.
“Within 18 months, I went from being captain of a League One team to packing bags in a shop.
“It was hard to take, I had to move out of my house and rent it out and move into the loft of my mother-in-laws, so we were very lucky she allowed us to stay there.
“It was tough but I think it just makes you appreciate what you have got even more, so now I’m going to fight and work hard to be the best that I can be.
“Things all happen for a reason and I’m not going to just settle and be happy with being at Brighton. I want to affect the lads I’m coaching.
“The next step will be seeing someone I’ve worked with every day playing in the first team.
“That will be a great achievement and give me a real sense of pride.”
Hinshelwood was manager of Selsey and Worthing before taking on the role of Albion’s under-18 assistant to Ian Buckman.
He said: “The luxury of a great facility and great players is a fantastic combination. I’m very lucky and am thoroughly enjoying it.
“It’s a different role being an assistant, there’s a lot more coaching and developing players but that’s an area I felt I needed to improve, so working alongside someone like Bucko, who’s got experience and is a brilliant coach, from a selfish point of view, is really developing me as a coach and a manager.
“I look back and in 18 months since I left Worthing, I definitely feel I’ve improved massively from an individual standpoint.
“Being a manager that coaches would be my long-term aim but I’m enjoying developing and working here.
“This is a club that’s not standing still and it doesn’t want its staff to either. We’ve got to progress all the time, I’ve got my A licence now so the next step is to get the Pro licence and be as qualified as I can.
“I don’t want to stand still with my own personal development and that’s what the club encourages all its members of staff to do, players, everyone.
“It’s been good to see players progress from the under-18 team to the under-23s. But to see them run out on to the pitch at the Amex in front of a full house will be amazing.”
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