Udo Onwere is a trainee solicitor at Thomas Eggar

Udo Onwere explains to FE News how the PFA supported him in his decision to retrain as a lawyer 

"If you"re not sure where to pass the ball, just pass it into the goal". This was the witty wisdom of an old football manager of mine.

So here I was, at the end of my 14 year professional football career (having played for Chelsea and Fulham amongst other clubs), unsure of where to go and no goals to aim for. In some ways having a young family to support eased my predicament because there was no time to wallow in self pity or wistfully reminisce about the glory days of my youth. As a schoolboy my teachers and cautious career advisers, wise to the perils of professional sport, would say "pass your exams, so you have something to fall back on". Well I was now falling back, and so I went to college.

After a year at college, which reawakened dormant reading / writing skills, I undertook a three year Law degree at Middlesex University. People often ask why I studied Law. My reasons were nothing more profound than that I had done reasonably well academically at school and I needed a job (ie. a lawyer), which could replace the kudos I had enjoyed as a footballer. In any event, my decision to study was encouraged and supported by the professional footballers" union, the PFA. The PFA provided financial assistance with course fees, text book costs and a computer as well as accessible useful advice on career choices and prospects. The image of a footballer is now one of Beckhamesque wealth and fame, but the PFA provide an invaluable safety net for the vast majority of footballers who will eventually change careers and earn an average wage.

After successfully completing my law degree, I then had to complete a year at Law School. Law School teaches the practical side of all the academic theory learned at University. It was around this time that I had to make applications to law firms to try and secure a training contract. A training contract is similar to a two year apprenticeship and is required before qualifying as a solicitor. Many CVs were sent out to potential employers and luckily enough I was called for a few interviews. Naturally, office job interviews were slightly more formal from the ones I was used to and I had to remember not to revert to type and blurt out the stock phrases of "sick as a parrot" or "over the moon!". In the end, I managed to get through Law School and secure a training contract at Thomas Eggar, one of the leading law firms in the South East.

I am hoping to qualify as a solicitor in March 2008 when my reinvention will be complete. It has been a rejuvenating journey made all the more possible with the unwavering support of the PFA. My advice to anyone changing careers would be to embrace the change, consider it an adventure and be comforted with the old saying of "nothing ventured, nothing gained".

Or as my old football manager would say, "If you don"t shoot, you don"t score".

Udo Onwere is a trainee solicitor at Thomas Eggar, one of the leading law firms in the South East

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