A former Premier League football star has opened up about his surprising career change.
Richard Kell - an English ex-professional footballer who played as a midfielder for Middlesbrough as well as Scunthorpe and Torquay - left his sporting career behind at the age of 27.
The now 43-year-old has since revealed why he decided to ditch the pitch for the skies after suffering a devastating injury.
Scunthorpe were playing the Bristol Rovers at Glanford Park when Kell sustained two broken legs.
Manager Brian Laws said Kell's injury had 'totally destroyed the day' and that he was 'gutted' to have 'lost a very good player'.
During his injury lay-off period between 2001-2004 - while on a month-to-month contract - Kell had a change of heart in what he envisioned for his future.
In 2016, he reflected how he had 'just recovered' from one of his broken legs and was 'struggling to get back to full fitness at Scunthorpe' when out of the blue, he ended up getting chatting to a pilot while 'waiting in the airport at a pre-season tour to Ireland'.
The former midfielder explained: "On my return I went to my nearest airport [Humberside] to make my initial enquiries. I had completed about 10-15 hours training, however my fitness returned, I signed a new contract and my pilots training was put on the ‘back burner’ for a time.
"Fortunately I was able to keep returning to my training at different times in my playing career."
Despite the apparent contrasting nature of the two professions, Kell noted how he found certain skills from being a footballer were transferrable to being a pilot.
He said: "I was analytical as a footballer and always wanted to learn more.
"Also, football gave me interpersonal skills. Being confined within the ‘tin box’ of a cockpit at 35,000 feet, means that I must be appreciative of my co pilots and other crew, who I have to interact with.
"Finally, I was a fairly technical player so my overall touch and hand/ eye coordination is a great attribute to have as a pilot, helping me instinctively know when to apply power and rudder."
However, Kell reflected how becoming a pilot was just as hard as becoming a footballer.
He said: "My chosen career was every bit as hard to get into as football and can be equally as competitive. However, if I had failed to gain my commercial pilot license I could still have gone and done something more mainstream and familiar.
"I didn’t want any niggling doubts or ‘what ifs’ later in life."
He noted how aviation 'lasts you up until your 60-65' so believes he put his insurance money after his football retirement to good use.
"Footballers can get funnelled down the path of coaching or management but there is a lot more out there and it’s worked out really well for me," he added.
Richard Kell. Played up front with Michael Owen for England schoolboys. While playing for Boro reserves he faced Jamie Redknapp in centre mid, who told him he was gonna be a star. Classy player. Went to Scunthorpe and retired after 2 broken legs. Now a Jet2 pilot! 🤯 ✈️— Mike W (@AyresomeGates) April 12, 2021
The former midfielder recommends that other players 'try and capitalise and think of your transition when things are going well' rather than only thinking about an alternate career when in a difficult period.
No matter whether dribbling the ball or steering a plane, Kell reflected that he 'always want[s] to do the job to the best of [his] ability'.
Words by Poppy Bilderbeck
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
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