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.
Working his way back into the professional game included two spells as manager of Selsey, before he took charge of Worthing during some of the club’s darkest days. Hinshelwood left Woodside Road when the role at Brighton came up but he has been delighted to see how Worthing have progressed since he left – with a number of players he took to the club now key members of the squad.
Hinshelwood’s playing career came to a sudden end in 2010 and he was unsure what he would do next at the time: “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.
“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.
“Within 18 months, I went from being captain of a League One team to packing bags in a shop. 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.
“All I knew was football and I had to stay involved and get into coaching. 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.”
Hinshelwood remembers his time at Worthing fondly but always stuck by his principles of giving youth a chance, which he admits made for some tricky times in the early stages of his reign: “It’s always been in me to give youngsters an opportunity. If I felt they were good enough, I’d persist with them.
“It was difficult going to Worthing at first. I had my ideas of what I wanted to do there but they were without a win for about six or seven games and they had a lot of experienced campaigners like Luke Gedling, who was captain, Gavin Gordon, Dan Turner and Will Berry.
“They were good lads but they weren’t how I saw the club going in the future. As a young manager going in and effectively saying ‘see you later’ to all the experienced players was quite brave, or stupid, but that was the vision I had.
“Lloyd Dawes, Will Hendon, Jack Fagan, Ben Pope, Harvey Sparks, Omar Bugiel, Corey Heath. They were the direction I wanted to go with the club. My ambition was that I wanted to progress out the league but I wanted a group with me that could do the same.
“A big part in the way that I manage is getting a group that want to play together with a good camaraderie and they all brought into that brilliantly.”
That camaraderie proved vital when Hinshelwood’s budget was halved and then later cut completely.
He said: “I didn’t see it coming. I can remember many a night going round to John Whyte’s house with Alistair McKail trying to think of ways we could put something together.
“They were good, honest people and did their best for the football club and gave up a lot of time. Those people in non-league football are worth their weight in gold.
“I’ll forever be grateful to them, Morty Hollis and Deborah McKail, for giving me the opportunity at Worthing.
“But the worst thing at that time was taking Terry Dodd out of a contract at Lewes. Then telling him we had no money was a tough one to swallow.
“After the meeting to let everyone know the extent of the club’s problems – which was how George Dowell came in – as a group, we all wanted to stay as we could see the potential of the club, especially with the fan-base there and the fans were all superb during my time at the club.
“We believed in what we were doing and what the club stood for and where it could go. The lads were getting an opportunity to play at Ryman level.
“My missus was saying to me it’s a lot of effort and time for no money. I had five kids and was spending time away from them for no money but I always wanted to make it a career and my ambition was to move up through the leagues.
“It’s not just a case of training on a Tuesday and Thursday, it’s a lot more than that if you want to do it properly and to the best of your ability.”
Hinshelwood was delighted when Dowell took over at the club and said: “To hear George come in and say he wants to be in National South in five years was something I wanted to hear.
“I’d been at Selsey and then Worthing with no real money, so I quite fancied the pressure of having to get promotion and having to build a team.
“The Brighton job then came up out of the blue. I was excited about what could be achieved at Worthing but the chance of full-time work was something I’d been waiting for since I retired and was a no-brainer.
“I was delighted they got promotion last season. The club is starting to reach its potential under George and it’s something he should be proud of.
“I’m pleased for Jon (Meeney) and Gary (Elphick), you can’t knock the job they’ve done. And also Mick Fogden, who was a big help when I was there, and Mick Martin too. They made my life a lot easier, so I could concentrate on the football side.
“It’s a great club and I’d never rule out a return to Woodside as manager one day. We’ll just have to wait and see what the future holds.”
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