AFC Bournemouth: Emotional Fletcher admits retirement has been a shock to the system (From Bournemouth Echo)
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AFC Bournemouth: Emotional Steve Fletcher admits retirement has been a shock to the system
HANGING up his boots has been a difficult experience for Steve Fletcher.
Three months into his new scouting and ambassadorial role, Fletcher admits he has found it hard to let go.
The Cherries legend, a veteran of more than 800 appearances, called time on his playing career at the end of last season.
And while acknowledging he was both fortunate and thankful to be kept on by the club, Fletcher says nothing could have prepared him for the transition from playing staff to backroom staff.
“It is not the same and nothing will ever compare with being a player,” said the 41-year-old. “I spoke to lots of ex-players and they told me it would be a shock to the system. I know everyone is different but I didn’t realise just how hard it would be.
“It really hit me on the opening day of the season when I went to watch Birmingham play Watford. For the first time in 25 years, I wasn’t involved as a player in the first game of the season. I was sitting with the other scouts when I was overcome by it all. I had to take myself to one side and I shed a few tears. It was heartbreaking.
“I spoke to Neil Young about it and he said something similar had happened to him. He emigrated to Australia after he had retired and went missing on the first day of the season because he just couldn’t get his head around it.
“It was hard not being in and around the changing room and instead being 200 miles away in Birmingham. It is something you have to come to terms with because nobody is going to wave a magic wand.
“If you drop out of professional football at an early age, you always think you can get back in. You can’t at 41 though. That’s it and my playing days are over.
“Once I had made the decision to retire, there was no going back. I have been dealing with it in my own way. I am very fortunate to have had the strength of my wife, two daughters and some very good friends to help me through. You need people like that when you are sad and low.”
Fletcher combines his scouting duties for boss Eddie Howe with helping to promote the club in the area through his ambassadorial role working closely with the Cherries commercial department.
“I am enjoying both roles and was indebted to the manager, Eddie Mitchell and Neill Blake when they offered me the chance to stay at the club,” said Fletcher. “I am lucky to have something which inspires me and gives me a focus. The scouting gives me the chance to keep my hand in with the football and the ambassadorial role allows me to get out and about and to meet people.
“I love it when the manager invites me to help out with training and it is great to be out on the pitches, even if it is just running the line in a practice match!
“I still find it hard to watch though and not a minute goes by when I don’t think I would love to be out there and be part of it.”
Fletcher’s comments come just days after a report was published which revealed almost a quarter of retired sportsmen have battled health, addiction or financial issues. The survey of 1,200 ex-footballers, rugby players, cricketers and jockeys was carried out by the Professional Players’ Federation.
- Don't miss today's Daily Echo for a 12-page Cherries pull-out, featuring exclusive interviews with Tommy Elphick, Simon Francis, Mohamed Coulibaly and Ryan Allsop, plus other club news.
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