I played for Newcastle United & Nottingham Forest but I gave up on my football dreams… and now I'm a qualified doctor | The Sun

A FOOTBALLER who played for Newcastle United and Nottingham Forest gave up on his dreams but is now a qualified psychologist.

David Blakelock, 40, was scouted by the Magpies at the age of nine, and spent four years in the youth ranks as a forward.

But Kevin Keegan's infamous decision to scrap reserve-team fixtures led the future psychologist to question his pathway and ultimately leave Newcastle United.

He was later on the books at Nottingham Forest before ultimately falling out of love with the sport.

But Dr Blakelock turned his focus to education and ended up becoming a qualified psychologist after years of hard graft.

And his current research touches on his sporting past, looking into furthering the understanding of how footballers handle the transition to life after the sport.

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Dr Blakelock, who described his time at Newcastle as a "great experience", told ChronicleLive: "I was quite a good student but I'd prioritised football for a lot of years. That was my main focus.

"There was a sense then that everything was focusing on the first team.

"I enjoyed my time at Newcastle, the training, the coaching and the team were all very good. We had the opportunity to be ball boys at Euro 96 and I remember Peter Beardsley came to train with us once.

"I probably would have stayed at Newcastle. If I’d stayed there, who knows? I might have progressed through the age groups. You just can’t say."

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Instead, at 14, he chose to sign a four-year agreement at Forest that would allow the aspiring footballer to continue his studies through to his A-Levels.

However, it was a move that did not pan out as expected and led Blakelock to perhaps prematurely give up on his dream of making it as a professional.

He said: "When I signed for Forest, I was quite well thought of by the coaching staff. I had a sense that the club and the coaches were the right fit for me and had a sense of belonging.

"It wasn’t long after I signed, and there was a big change in the youth coaching staff. The new academy director had an intimidating and aggressive disposition.

"I don't think I was his type of player and he wasn't my type of coach. I don't think I'd have signed for Forest if he and some of the other coaches had been there from the start and they might not have signed me."

Dr Blakelock added that the club had also changed their stance on the education side and they said I wouldn’t be able to do A Levels.

Describing himself as a "decent student", he said that continuing with school was important and one of main reasons why he signed for Forest.

"From there, although I had my contract, that initial sense of this being the right club and the feeling of belonging wasn’t there. I wasn’t enjoying playing and kind of fell out of love with football at an important time," Dr Blakelock added.

The amended agreement which allowed David to study in the North East and travel down to train on weekends and during school holidays furthered this "disconnect", and in the end the attacker was all too willing to give up on football.

He added: "I had the opportunity to go to Durham University and I didn't really have a strong desire to get back into professional football.

"I probably gave up a little too soon looking back. I possibly could have tried to really get back in training, get fit and play more to give myself another chance.

"A few regrets maybe as I don’t think I fulfilled my potential but you can't change what's happened. I didn't really know what I wanted to do."

I wasn’t enjoying playing and kind of fell out of love with football at an important time."

Psychology provided a pathway for the former player to explore new interests, and it was while studying for his doctorate that he began to explore the mental toll life after football can take.

Dr Blakelock has since juggled full-time work with his research, saying: "Research has also shown that not every player experiences mental health difficulties.

"Some players can be happy and actually relieved that they don't have to maintain high standards of performance and perform under pressure all the time. They can relax a bit, it's very hard training, playing and being under scrutiny all the time.

"Some might experience difficulties straight after their careers end and for others, difficulties can come a bit later. For some, difficulties might not last long, but it can persist for others."

The ex-footy player wants to help develop a greater understanding for footballers adjusting to life after the sport.

It comes after a Prem star who was raking it in on £40,000 a week during his playing days now can’t even afford a phone.

He was a footballing hero as captain of West Ham and played in the 2006 World Cup.

Meanwhile, a former Premier League player who made his England debut when replacing Harry Kane has had a very different career path.

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And he now plies his trade as a semi-pro after turning 30 in October.

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