Former Bradford City, Sheffield Wednesday and Harrogate Town defender Rory McArdle on retirement, playing highs and his new career
Thousands of professionals have been in the same situation that Rory McArdle found himself in back in the spring. A player in their mid-thirties with miles on the clock and mindful that a career on the pitch does not last forever, however much you want it to.
Famously, Kevin Keegan took the decision to hang up his boots in the mid-Eighties after losing out in a footrace to Liverpool rival Mark Lawrenson while playing at his former club for Newcastle in January 1984. He played on until May, but had known months earlier.
Others cite the difficulty of recovering from games or the hard grind of training. Many just simply know.
McArdle told The Yorkshire Post: "Whenever you speak to people, there's always going to be a time. I always remember a PFA meeting when I was younger and one thing that you could always guarantee was that you will become an ex-professional.
"I always felt that if I could do it on my terms, it was something I wanted it to be in my mind. I have been fortunate enough to be able to do that.
“From a personal and mental point of view, it's not come from injury or being able to get a club, I was happy with the decision. Sometimes, you just know.
"You see some people who've had to retire for whatever reason and a couple of years later have mental issues or suffer with depression - which is quite a big thing in football. It is not a stigma that you have to hold in (any more).
"From January onwards, I did not really play as much as I wanted. But as disappointed as I was, I am the sort of team-mate who does not let that affect my relationship with people or in training. I'd still make sure everything was done right and after training, I'd make more of a conscious effort to help the younger lads or take the defenders to one side.
"It was something that the gaffer (Simon Weaver) kind of expected from the older lads and I really enjoyed that.”
McArdle enjoyed some rest and recuperation in the first part of the summer, but is now embarking on a second career in the game as professional development phase coach after an opportunity opened up at last club Harrogate.
The Sheffielder, who is in the process of finishing his B Licence and intends taking his A Licence, has been handed a break.
Scores of ex-professionals aim to enter the coaching realm after finishing playing and McArdle finds himself among the fortunate ones to get something so early.
"As big a sport as football is, there's not that many job opportunities,” he continued.
"So it's important you learn ad get as qualified as possible and don't stop and keep learning. It's like starting again.
"I look at all my managers and coaches and senior players and you try and take bits from everything. But equally you want to be your own person.
"The beauty of a good coach is understanding what individual players need and the collective needs. Some react better to a shouting or telling off and some need a bit of a pep talk and arm around the shoulder. People skills are part and parcel of it.”
Free from thoughts of what was to come as a player in pre-season, McArdle fully enjoyed all the benefits of a proper summer holiday, which included watching boyhood club Wednesday clinch promotion from a hotel bar.
In the event, he does find himself involved in a pre-season. But this time others will be doing the running.
He added: "It was the first holiday I had where I did not need to take my gym trainers and worry about doing a run every other day or being careful what I was eating or drinking.
"It’s nice to get up and have a relaxing day and also do all the school runs and spend more time with the kids and recharge the batteries."
For McArdle, his time at Bradford - which saw him appear in a domestic cup final and clinch promotion - is a period which is particularly treasured.
He said: "You look back and realise how good it all was and the experience. I was so fortunate, but at the time when you are in it, you are in a bubble and it's a bit of a blur at times.
"That period at Bradford was probably the real highlight. I was in my prime years, I was playing week in week out and we were doing well.
"I was fortunate to be invited back for the Carlisle game and all the pictures (from 2012-13) were still up. The club are still really proud of the history that was made.
"It was just unfortunate that they did not quite get over the line in the play-offs, but in terms of next year, I don't see why not."