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Ex-Middlesbrough, Torquay and Scunthorpe player becomes a pilot as injury ruins career

One particular ex-Middlesbrough, Scunthorpe and Torquay player becomes a pilot after injury unfortunately ruins his football career.

Richard Kell, now 41 years old, decided to hang up his boots at 27, when most players tend to reach their peak, after suffering two broken legs.

However the Bishop Auckland born already had an exciting back-up plan for if his dreams as a top footballer failed, and that was to be a pilot.

The former Boro trainee first began learning how to fly a plane during an injury lay-off at League Two side Scunthorpe United from 2001-2005.

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Fast forward to today and Kell is an airline captain for commercial airline Jet2.

“I had just recovered from my first broken leg and felt I was struggling to get back to full fitness at Scunthorpe,” Kell revealed in 2016.

“I was on a month to month contract and whilst waiting in the airport for a pre-season tour to Ireland I got talking to a pilot who was sat next to me.

“On my return I went to my nearest airport (Humberside) to make my initial enquiries.

“I had completed about 10-15 hours training, however my fitness returned, I signed a new contract and my pilots training was put on the ‘back burner’ for a time.

“Fortunately I was able to keep returning to my training at different times in my playing career.”


Ex-Middlesbrough star Richard Kell became a Jet2 pilot after two broken  legs wrecked his dream of becoming a footballer

Kell reckons that key skills he had as a footballer came to good use and in the right frame of mind when it came to going from kicking a ball about to then flying a plane.

He said: “I was analytical as a footballer and always wanted to learn more.

“Also, football gave me interpersonal skills. Being confined within the ‘tin box’ of a cockpit at 35,000 feet, means that I must be appreciative of my co pilots and other crew, who I have to interact with.

“Finally, I was a fairly technical player so my overall touch and hand/ eye coordination is a great attribute to have as a pilot, helping me instinctively know when to apply power and rudder.”

Kell ensures that he’s as critical of his performance as a pilot as he was a footballer.

“Rather like being a footballer I always want to do the job to the best of my ability,” he said.

“I still sometimes think about my performance on the way home and how I can do my job better the next time.”

Making it as a footballer is a tough ask, every kid dreams of becoming one.

However, going on to become a pilot is equally as hard in what is a competitive industry.

“You can be different, but nothing worthwhile is easy,” Kell revealed.

“My chosen career was every bit as hard to get into as football and can be equally as competitive.

“However, if I had failed to gain my commercial pilot license I could still have gone and done something more mainstream and familiar.

“I didn’t want any niggling doubts or ‘what ifs’ later in life.”

Here he is opening the scoring for Scunthorpe against Leyton Orient back in the 2003/04 season…

When his premature retirement came knocking on the door, Kell was awarded a lump sum from the PFA.

They also gave him an educational grant that helped fund his aviation courses.

Kell said: “When I retired I put all my money into finishing my private licence off and going from one thing to the next; commercial licence, ground school etc.

“After I retired I received some insurance money and I thought I would never lay my hands on that sort of cash again so, rather than put an extension on my house or something like that, I thought ‘this is my career so let’s do something with it’.

“Aviation will last you up until you’re 60-65 years old so it’s a long-term investment.

“Footballers can get funnelled down the path of coaching or management but there is a lot more out there and it’s worked out really well for me.”

Kell has given some advice to pass on to players, especially in the lower leagues.

“My main advice would be that players only tend to think about an alternative career during difficult periods in their careers. Try and capitalize and think of your transition when things are going well.”


Senior career
1998–2001 – Middlesbrough
2001 → Torquay United (loan) – 4 games (1 goal)
2001 – Torquay United – 11 games (2 goals)
2001–2005 – Scunthorpe United – 83 games (8 goals)
2005–2006 – Barnsley – 2 games (0 goals)
2006 → Scarborough (loan) – 2 games (0 goals)
2006–2007 – Lincoln City – 1 game (0 goals)
Total – 103 games (11 goals)

Now that you have read that an ex-Middlesbrough, Torquay and Scunthorpe player becomes a pilot as injury ruins career, have you ever had any kind of major career change job wise? Let us know!

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