Last summer, 844 professional footballers found themselves out of contract. I was one of those players who faced a summer of uncertainty and, as this season comes to its conclusion, I again find myself in the same position.
Football is a precarious job and being in this situation is worrying and daunting. Not knowing where you are going to play your football or even if a club will want to sign you is very unsettling and stressful.
This is the third time in my career that I find myself in this situation.
My first was when I left Coventry City in 2013. I remember that, as soon as the season was over, panic started to set in. I have a family to provide for, and how can I do that without a club?
I ended up signing for Charlton Athletic and, for the benefit of my career, had to move away from home for the season. I couldn’t just uproot my family and take them with me to London. My eldest son had just started school and I’d signed only a year’s contract. It wouldn’t make sense to move them.
That was a tough year for me and these circumstances are common in football.
People’s perception of a professional footballer is that of a glamorous lifestyle, but in the lower leagues this can’t be further from the truth ... short contracts, living away from family, relocating all over the country and not settling anywhere.
My second time out of contract was last season and I ended up re-signing for the Millers. My first 18 months with the club had not worked out at all and I knew I would be leaving the club on the expiration of my deal. However, the introduction of Mr Warnock gave me a new lease of life.
This time around, I feel a bit more relaxed about it. The club have endured a terrible season and it hasn’t been nice losing every week. It’s been a very frustrating time but, from a personal point of view, I’ve played the majority of the games and have not been frozen out as with previous managers.
I’m not panicking too much at the moment, and maybe that’s down to experience. At 31 years of age, and having played more than 400 games, I know I shouldn’t worry too much. What will be, will be.
I suppose that’s easier said than done, though!
This is my last column of the season and I’m hopefully (all being well) I’ll be graduating in the summer, when I’ll hold a degree in Sports Journalism and Public Relations. As part of my course, I’ve set up my own online blog. I’m writing about my life as a footballer and how, as a family, we deal with my son’s auto-immune disease, type 1 diabetes.
Please have a read at richardwoodfootballer.com