At the end of 2020-21 the 38-year-old called time on a career which included two spells with home-town club Huddersfield Town, and stints with Sheffield United Bradford City and Harrogate Town, where he signed off with a Wembley start and his 700th career appearance in his final two matches.
He did it, he says, because he wanted to draw a line under his playing days and concentrate on coaching.
“I knew at the start of the season it was going to be my last and I don’t think anything was going to change that but I just didn’t want to announce it,” he explained.
“When people started asking I didn’t want to say anything until the season was done.
“I know I could still play another season at League Two or National League level, I just think I’m ready for another challenge, to sink my teeth into a new career and to do that you need to put to bed the playing.
“It’s very difficult to move into coaching when you’re still playing and if I do something I want to do it all in so I think it needed to end to make sure I was focussed to attack something else.”
Stead, who runs his own striker academy, has a Uefa B licence and is due to start his A licence course in September, is determined to work his way up properly.
“I want to do it the right way and start at the beginning,” he said.
“I don’t have a divine right to be a coach because I’ve had a good career.
“I think eventually I’ll be looking to management but that will come further down the line. I’ve really enjoyed position-specific stuff and that’s really interested me but I need a lot more hours on pitches before I can do general coaching.”
Stead admits coaching is something which has only really caught his interest as his playing career has moved towards an end.
“It’s probably over the last four or five years I’ve had an eye on it,” he says. “The more people ask for your opinion on things it starts your enthusiasm and I did my striker academy about 18 months ago and loved that, seeing how the kids improved.
“I’ve got 20 years of knowledge playing football at elite level and it would be such a shame not to pass that on.
“If I can teach a young player the dark arts and they can pick it up sooner it’s going to give them a chance to progress in the game.
“I’ve been across the board. I started at the bottom and worked my way up so I’ve got that understanding of what it takes at a lower-league level. I think I’ve got a good understanding across the whole spectrum and that should help me moving forward.”