a) Can you understand Gary's problems?
b) Do you think it's good he has started an academy?
c) What way do you think is the best way to invest your money as a footballer?
Read the text and then prepare to retell it in your own words
a) What problems could a young footballer have?
b) Do you know any players who have had problems off the pitch?
c) Do players from your country often play abroad? Where?
Goal-line clearance - to kick the ball off the goal line and stop the other team from scoring
Goal tally - the number of goals you score at the end of a season or period of time
To bang in - to score
A cap - when you play for your country
Abroad - another country from yours
Net (amount) - the amount of money after taxes
Fan favourite - popular with the fans
Rivals - teams you compete with
A derby - when two teams from the same city play each other
Didn't work out - when your plans don't go well
Bankrupt - when you no longer have any money to pay for anything
Accompanied - together
To bounce around - to go to many different places without any stability
Council house - a house that is provided by the council/government
A far-cry from - a very big distance from one situation to another
Retired - when you don't work any more
To pass on - to give some advice from experiences you've had to another person
You can find more football vocabulary here
Do you learn English? Do you want to practise your English talking about football? Find out more here
Most of us dream about becoming a professional footballer. To get paid to play football, to play in front of 1000s and 1000s of people. To score, save a penalty, or make a goal-line clearance in the last minute of a game to get our team three points is a dream. But, imagine achieving that dream and then it becoming a nightmare.
Meet Gary O’Connor, a Scottish footballer who started out playing in the Scottish premiership for Hibernian. The tall striker’s goal tally started off not so great until about 5 seasons in when he banged in 20 goals in all competition and then 14 the following season. Good form marked caps for Scotland, but also sparked an interest from clubs from abroad.
In 2006 Gary O’Connor signed for Lokomotive Moscow for £1.6m and went from earning £750 a week to earning £20,000 a week net. The money was great, but O’Connor’s game time wasn’t. He often came on as a substitute, netting few goals, although, he did score on his starting debut and he did make himself a fan favourite when he came on as a sub and scored against rivals FC Moscow in the 2007 Russian Cup final.
He got homesick and the derby win bonuses of £100,000 weren’t enough to make him stay and so after just two seasons he left Russia. He signed for Birmingham in the Premier League, but things just didn’t work out. The goals dried up, the injuries were frequent, and the off-the-pitch lifestyle was excessive. Spending big on cars, partying, jewellery, and houses. This would later lead to financial problems. Repossession of cars and houses and nearly going bankrupt. Trouble with his spending habits weren’t his only problems. He would also find himself in court for charges of assault, drug abuse, and crashing his Ferrari all accompanied with a struggle with alcohol.
After bouncing around at different clubs after playing in the Premier League, including a 3 month return to Russia to sign for Tom Tomsk and a second spell at Hibernian. In 2014 it was reported was living in a council house and earning £150 a week. A far-cry from what he was earning in Russia and for Birmingham.
O’Connor admits leaving Scotland for Russia was a big mistake as he thought he was too young at the time and didn't know how to handle the money he was earning. He is now retired and runs his own football academy where he passes on advice to future players in hope they don't make the same mistakes he did.
For Advanced learners. You can watch an interview with Gary talking about his career here.