FOOTBALL has been everything to Andrew Barrowman for the past decade and a half. Now, while still at the relatively young age of 30 and with a heavy heart, the former Dunfermline striker has decided his working existence must centre on something else.
Barrowman, released by the Fife club from his player-coach role last month, will serve as both coach and guidance officer to the many footballers expected to attend the PFA Scotland showcase initiative later this month. Ostensibly run to give youngsters who have recently been freed by clubs this summer the opportunity of a high-profile trial game at the end of a week’s training, Barrowman knows the week he has with the unattached players also has to be about preparing them for what could be a harsh reality.
I’m looking at going part-time. I hope my business degree creates opportunitiesAndrew Barrowman
Faced with that himself, he has decided he will no longer seek full-time football. Instead, he is looking to go part-time with one of the growing number of clubs that operate on such a basis while he completes the final stages of a three-year business management degree he has pursued through FIFPRO.
The penurious state of the Scottish game means Barrowman will be one of the many players in the country no longer able to rely on the game as their main source of income. The forward, who began his career with Birmingham City and had two successful spells at Ross County as well as a stint with Inverness Caledonian Thistle and two periods at Dunfermline, at least has crammed in many good times before deciding on this course of action. In a fortnight he will meet a host of teenagers in danger of being lost to the game before it ever properly embraced them.
“It’s a worrying time, even when you’ve been the game for a long time and you’ve built up a profile,” Barrowman said. “But when you are a young lad making your way in football at 18 years old, it can be harder. You leave school at 16 with the dream and two years later you are faced with the reality that you’re maybe going to have to look at a career outwith football.
“If we can use this game to get people back into the game, then great, but we are also doing workshops to open their eyes to different types of career if they are not lucky enough to get back in. If you look at the numbers it’s getting harder and harder each year. There are so many out-of- contract players.
“And I’ve experienced this myself that you are living a year-to-year existence due to one-year contracts, which is down to finance. I can’t remember the last two or three-year deal I signed. From Championship level downwards, it’s year deals only and when you look at players getting released, it’s often hitting double figures. There’s a huge turnover.
“It’s hard enough as a young boy, but when you’re older with a family or a mortgage, it’s difficult too. You can move and fortunately there’s not too many teams you would have to relocate for. But it’s a daunting time.
“If you look at the number of part-time teams, it seems there are going to be more and more. We need to make sure these young lads either stay in the game or are equipped to go elsewhere with their careers.”
Barrowman didn’t expect to be anywhere else but East End Park next season. Only for the caprices of football to put him out of work. “I was taking the under-20s at Dunfermline and I had agreed to stay on and keep doing that but play as well. But then a new manager, Allan Johnston, came in and wiped the board,” he said. “A total of 18 players were released from Dunfermline and I was one. I’ve had a few offers, but I’m looking at going part-time. I’ve had enough of the uncertainty, of living year to year. I’m going to find another career. I hope my business degree creates opportunities for me.”
Having for so long only wanted opportunities to score goals at a good level in football, Barrowman admits coming to the conclusion that he has to loosen his ties with football has had saddened and scared him. “It’s a daunting prospect. I’ve never had a job. I was 16 when I left school and I’ve been a footballer since then,” he said. “I’m 30 now and I’ve never worked a day in my life. I’m a bit more experienced and maybe a bit more mature to deal with it, but it must be a daunting prospect for a younger player to think of a career outside the only thing they have ever known. These guys are still chasing the dream and rightly so. Some of them will get back in. For some of them it will be a setback. But for others this will be it.”
And even knowing what he knows now, Barrowman would still tell his 16-year-old self to chase that dream. “Absolutely. I’ve had a great life through football. I’ve met great people, I’ve travelled, I’ve done OK in terms of standard of living. It’s a great game to be a part of, but there’s another side that’s not so great that the fans maybe don’t always see. It’s an uncertain game.
“I’ve had several moments in my career that make it all worth it. Being part of the Ross County side that beat Celtic and then played in a Scottish Cup final was amazing. Making my English Premiership debut as an 18-year-old [for Birmingham v Leicester in March 2004]. I’ve no regrets. Football is a great game.”
l Players who would like to attended DPS Group Player Showcase, which takes place from 22 to 26 June, can email PFA Scotland’s Michelle Evans on Michelle@pfascotland.co.uk