The Strange Story of Shane Supple

Many of you will not have heard of Shane Supple. Some people will be familiar with him as a good, cheap goalkeeping option in the super-addictive Football Manager series of games. Some of you may be avid followers of Ipswich Town, Republic of Ireland or just fans of Championship football in general.

Supple was a 22-year-old backup keeper for Ipswich Town. He was a highly rated prospect who had made nearly 40 first-team appearances and was a huge part of Ipswich’s 2005 FA Youth Cup success. Her had also played for the Republic of Ireland Under-21 team, a stepping-stone to full international honours.

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I am using the past tense because Supple has made a decision that many people make throughout their lives, a decision that if you or I made it would be met with support, even admiration by others, provided we had valid reasons for doing so. Supple has decided to change career.

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Like I said earlier, changing career is part of life. Apart from a few, fortunate people who know exactly what they want to do and furthermore get the opportunity to go and do it, most of us will do different types of work until we find something that’s a good fit for us. Some of us may never find a career we really enjoy.

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Footballers are meant to be different though. For a start, to make it as far as Supple has, he will probably have had to leave school at 16 to participate in the full-time coaching required to progress (though obviously, I can’t know that for sure). Indeed, his education even before then may have been hampered by his football commitments.Therefore, footballers are not usually qualified to do anything other than play football.

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Don’t forget too, that he must have made many personal sacrifices to get as far as he did, foregoing many of the things most teenagers do, as well as moving away from home at a young age, all too pursue a dream that many have, but very few actually get to do.

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However, Supple has found that the life of a professional footballer was not for him. Playing professional football is not something I want to continue doing," Supple told Ipswich’s website. "As you grow up you realise there are other things in life and to be honest, the game is not what I thought it was."
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"There is not one reason why I have made my decision, there are a number of factors," said Supple. "But deep down my heart is not in the game any more and I'm not going to go into work every day trying to convince myself that it is, so it's the right time for me to walk away. I suppose you could say that I have fallen out of love with the game and when that happens I've always said to myself that I wouldn't hang around."

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That’s a brave and honest statement to make. There are probably many young players who are around the fringes of the first-team who are finding that the life of a footballer was not what they thought it would be but don’t have the courage to act upon it. It is especially brave considering that Roy Keane’s your manager! Can you imagine having to go and have that conversation with him?
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However, Keane’s reaction has been quite supportive, something Supple has expressed his gratitude for.
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"I spoke to Shane and I was disappointed when he told me the news (of his decision)," Keane said.

"If you had told me that one of my players was going to retire from the game this week, Shane would have been a long way down the list. He's an excellent pro and a good kid and while I'm disappointed that he feels football is not for him anymore, I respect and admire him for making what is brave decision.”

"Sometimes people play sport just because they are good at it and they are not in love with the game and Shane has said that he has fallen out of love with the game over the last year or two. Everyone at Ipswich wishes him well in whatever he does. He's an intelligent lad and I'm sure he will go on and be good at whatever he chooses to do and he knows he has an open invitation to come back and watch a game whenever he wants to."

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I remember watching a TV programme on the personality of Roy Keane and everyone said he always respects honesty. That’s why he has been so supportive of Supple; despite the shock he must have felt when Supple told him. He admires the fact that Supple was on a reported 5k per week contract and he could have just gone through the motions and taken the money but instead has taken the tough decision and is not just in it for the money.

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Some reports are saying Supple is considering training to become a chef, another tough career choice. If that’s true then, I for one, say good luck to him.
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