'Being forced to retire at 28 was a massive struggle'

Fraser Franks when he played for Newport County Image copyright Getty Images

Imagine having the same routine from the age of nine - wake up, train and prepare for the next match - for it to all be suddenly taken away.

That's the case for former League 2 footballer Fraser Franks.

He's played for AFC Wimbledon, Stevenage, Luton Town and Newport County, but was forced to retire last year because of a heart problem.

"It was completely out of the blue. I played a game on a Tuesday night and after the game I was struggling with chest pains, then was rushed to hospital.

"That was the end of my time on the pitch," he tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Fraser scored in his last match, a 4-1 win against Notts County

"One of the biggest struggles for a retiring footballer is identity," Fraser wrote on his personal blog.

"You've always been known as the footballer. Every person you'd been introduced to, friends, family, when socialising, you are seen as the footballer.

"You've only ever thought of one thing you wanted to be and now you can no longer do it, so what is next?"

The blog post also mentions his struggle to find a job after retiring.

"I've never had a job interview, I wouldn't know how to take holiday if I worked outside of football, I had never been made to stand up and speak in public, I had no idea what opportunities I could do outside of football and not been educated and exposed to a lot that I should have been."

'You go from hero to zero in days'

Fraser tells us more needs to be done to prepare players for the end of their career.

"I think when you're playing, you're so focused on football and training and the constant games that you don't really create much time for yourself to think beyond the here and now.

"For me, retirement was sprung upon me so I was forced into taking action of what I'm going to do next."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Fraser played 320 games in his career

Fraser says he started his blog to raise awareness and break stigmas around mental health for retired players.

"It's a mentally draining career, with extreme highs and equally as many extreme lows.

"You can go from hero to zero in a matter of days very quickly and from the outside people don't always see how brutal the game can be mentally at times."

Despite the struggles he's faced during his retirement, Fraser says he feels lucky.

"I've got a great support system - my first daughter was born about two months after I retired, so it gave me an initial focus and something to look forward to."

And he's now studying Sport and Directorship at university.

"I have a clear vision of what it is I want to do and that's helping young players suffering with confidence issues - just trying to maximise their potential."

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