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Released Grimsby keeper: “I can’t afford to go a month without being paid”

Released Grimsby keeper James McKeown has said “I can’t afford to go a month without being paid” as he now searches for a new club.

Life after football is a harsh reality for some players as they have to face it maybe earlier than they expected throughout their career.

And coming to terms with potentially changing roles in football or leaving having no luck with that and even leaving it altogether makes things incredibly difficult.

James McKeown is learning the hard way that even after a decade with one club, being released can come at any time.

With no pre-season training with teammates to focus on this summer, after more than a decade, he’s keeping fit alone in his garage.

After being released by newly promoted Grimsby Town, life for the 32 year old keeper is suddenly heading in a new, uncertain direction.

James McKeown spoke with Sky Sports: “I’ve never wanted to be the player that wakes up one summer and be like, oh my God, I’ve got a mortgage to pay, I’ve got kids to provide for. I’m now that player and there is lots of money and that is the reality of it. And it’s not nice. And you try and stay as positive as you can, but you’re almost out of control of it as well. And I have bills, credit cards, swimming lessons to pay for and like all the average things that everybody else has, that we haven’t, I can’t afford to go a month without being paid.

It meant James passing on to wife Chloe and their three children the dreaded decision. You were free to leave. It’s a phrase heard by hundreds of players at the opposite end to football’s wealthy Premier League stars.

McKeown, 32, added: “It’s not experienced and it was just bizarre. And then I remember coming home and telling Chloe. She just cried. I’m quite good at getting myself a routine and obviously having the kids sort of school runs and sorts of things, list of jobs off of Mrs and then keep myself as fit as I can. I enjoy going out for runs, I enjoy the gym, so I do that obviously as a keeper. It’s not almost either like I can’t train by myself, I need someone to train with.

His wife Chloe said: “It’s nice to have him at home. I think as a family it’s nice to have the structure of football.We’re so used to our whole lives revolving around football. So yeah, it’s lovely to have him home. I’m giving him lists of jobs to do. I mean, we live in the town where James has played for eleven years, so it can be difficult in terms of them going to school and they get questions who’s your dad signing?Why did your dad get released? Who’s your Dad signing for now?

James would love to continue doing what he loves. So far he’s had just one offer of a training session from York. He’s taking coaching badges, but accepts he might have no choice but to leave the game earlier than expected. So Chloe has helped shape his first CV.

James finished by saying: “I sort of left school a little bit in the background and I wish I’d probably done more, so I had more to fall back on that. And that’s probably the advice I’d give to any young person. Give everything you’ve got to your sport but just make sure you’ve got something maybe to fall back on.

In the meantime, now that he has spare time, he takes Bailey the dog for a walk, mulling over whether it’s to ask the PFA for support. Maybe a move abroad could be another option. But one thing is for sure this keeper isn’t ready just yet to hang up the gloves.

Born in Birmingham, McKeown launched his career aged 15 with Coventry City and Walsall youth teams, but was unable to establish himself and departed two years later.

He then joined Peterborough United; he spent time on loan with Kettering Town and Worcester City in 2007 prior to breaking into the Peterborough first team in 2008, however, his appearances where limited during his time there.

McKeown was then loaned to Conference North side Boston United during the 2010–11 season where he made a total of 14 clean sheets in 18 games.

A sixth-month stint at Dutch semi-professional outfit RKSV Leonidas had led to a trial with Eredivisie side Willem II, however, his previous managers at Boston signed him for Grimsby Town; he was ever present in the starting XI and five years on helped Grimsby to win promotion out of the National League in 2015–16 and then was released by the club after promotion to League Two was confirmed via the playoffs in 2022. McKeown has also represented the Republic of Ireland at under-19 level.

Youth career
1998–2000 – Coventry City
2005–2007 – Walsall

Senior career
2007–2011 – Peterborough United – 6 games
2007 → Kettering Town (loan) – 2 games
2007 → Worcester City (loan) – 1 game
2010–2011 → Boston United (loan) – 17 games
2011 – RKSV Leonidas – 5 games
2011–2022 – Grimsby Town – 432 games

National team
2007–2008 – Republic of Ireland U19

Fans reacted as the released Grimsby keeper says: “I can’t afford to go a month without being paid”…

@Cannygang4: Surely the FA will support him. A great message to all footballers at all levels Education first

James Peebles: I was made redundant a 21 but I didn’t have sky sports to cry on

@JField97: Relying on monthly income? Must be so difficult. Couldn’t even imagine… Welcome to the real world.

Natalie Williams: I guess he could sell his luxury large house and downsize

Daniel Walker: Yeah a nightmare but that’s life unfortunately

Mikey Black: Best option for him is get a part time club and then find a job if he’s good enough he will get approached by a full time side again

Tom Steadman: He’s clearly wanting National league still but we might be his best option. He was and still is some keeper if we [Boston] can tempt him back

Neil Caborn: Absolute nonsense. You’ve just come back from Dubai and live in a massive house. Also why do you leave then, James? Seem to have left that bit out haven’t we? You’ll just have to get on with it and get a job like the rest of us. It’s life!!!

Ste Foston: Do players not receive any kind of advice? It’s not like at 32 you can be expecting a long career ahead of you. You’re a blown knee or shoulder away from never playing again. Living pay cheque to pay cheque as a footballer at 32 seems insane to me. Did he think he’d play till 65?

Michal Gray: McKeown will get fixed up, he’s a decent keeper at League Two / National League level, even kept Dean Henderson on the bench for a while, could have gone on to better things numerous times at Grimsby but always stayed loyal, sad to see him leave. Unfortunately lost his place in the team last year. He’s a top bloke as well, always happy to talk to fans. Hope he gets sorted 👍🏻👊🏻

Jason O Brien: Why doesn’t he put some of his knowledge to use and get a job in a gym or become a personal trainer. I’m sure playing for Grimsby didn’t entitle him to a lavish lifestyle that he’s become accustomed to.

Tom Gale: Welcome to the real world be prepared for the worst

Daniel Thatcher: Can’t really feel too sorry for him tbh… he should have prepared for that. The thing with footballers is they know they won’t be playing football forever so if they don’t go into coaching roles or on talkshows etc then they’ll have to find something else to do as a profession. We all have to do it.

Josh Butler: Get yourself back to boston! Complete what you started in 2010/11

De Kingzman: People do menial jobs and still pay their bills, thanking God for life, Assuming everyone had the opportunity to cry through Sky sports.

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