The ultimate goal for many football fans is, of course, to make it as a professional player, and leave your mark on the game, as well as enjoying the lifestyle that goes with that.
These days, even lower-level players from the Championship and League One will earn enough money that, if they are smart, they will probably never be short of a few bob after their playing days are over. Sure, they’ll probably have to get other jobs after they retire from football, but with the average wage of even a League Two player being about £40,000 per year, they have an opportunity to save and invest so that after they leave the game their options are open and they live more comfortably.
It goes without saying that if you make it into the Premier League, you can earn more money in a ten year window than the average person living an average life can spend in a life time, but it wasn’t always this way.
30 years ago, the average yearly salary for a top-flight footballer in England was around £25,000 per year, and that won’t go far if you have to retire in your early 30s.
The 90s weren’t much better. Sure, if you’re playing for a big club, you’d still earn big money, but if you found yourself playing in the lower leagues, when it came time to hang up your boots, then it was time to get a real job, and back then, you could sometimes find ex-players, often cult heroes at their clubs, getting into remarkably ordinary lines of work.
So with that, here are some cult footballing heroes from the 90s who now work normal jobs.
Born in the London Borough of Hackney, Ricky Otto began his career as a footballer with amateur side Haringey Borough. After his performances in midfield caught the eye of Leyton Orient, he moved to the O’s in 1990. His subsequent performances there then attracted the attention of Southend United manager Barry Fry, who paid £100,000 to bring him to Roots Hall in 1993.
Otto’s big move came in 1994 when he became Birmingham City’s then-biggest signing ever when he was transferred for £800,000. However, Otto never really settled into the team, and for the remainder of his career he was sent out on loan, first to Charlton Athletic and then to Peterborough United and Notts County before having to retire from the pro game in 1999 due to injuries.
After he retired, though he sporadically played for non-league sides and two games for Welsh club Rhyl, Otto started a career as a probation officer and founded consultancy firm, working with offenders and those at risk of offending. Ricky Otto’s desire to work with young offenders, according to the Living Xperience Consultancy website, for whom he works, “stems from his formative years spent in Young Offenders Institutions and adult prisons.”
It also says that “by his own admission Ricky seriously believes that his transformation from a juvenile delinquent to a respected offender empowerment consultant means he is able to encourage, empower and motivate individuals to make those life changing decisions to a better reality.
Barry Horne is one of many players from down the years that have achieved cult status at Everton. He did so by scoring on the final day of the 1993/94 season against Wimbledon. The Toffees needed a win to stay among the best in the top flight of English football and Horne brought the scores level at 2-2 with a 30-yard thunderbolt before Graham Stuart scored to give Everton the memorable win.
Though he was never known for his goalscoring abilities, Horne picked one hell of a moment to score one of the most important goals in Everton’s recent history, because as other clubs such as Birmingham, Fulham and Blackburn can attest, once you go down, it’s not always easy coming straight back up, and if you don’t come back up first time round, it only gets more difficult with every failed attempt. Horne chose his moment well and his impressive equaliser won him a place in the heart of the Everton fans for life.
After leaving Goodison Park in 1996, Horne played for a number of clubs including Birmingham City and Huddersfield Town, and notched up 59 appearances for Wales.
He retired from the game in 2002 and now works as chemistry teacher and head of football at King’s School in Chester. He also has a football column for the Liverpool Echo.
He was renowned for being one of the Premier League’s most ferocious hardmen, and he was also known for his goalscoring ability from defence, which are two of the reasons why Dicks achieved cult status at West Ham in the 90s.
Nicknamed “Terminator”, Dicks had two spells with the Hammers, where he was voted player of the season four times, as he captained the team en route to Premier League promotion in 1993.
Sandwiched between his two spells at Upton Park was his spell at Liverpool. However, after being signed by Graham Souness, he was dropped amid criticism of being overweight and unfit by new boss Roy Evans. He went back to West Ham for the following campaign.
Julian slipped right back into the heart of the West Ham team and played a key role on his way to winning Hammer of the Year in 1996, as well as scoring a crucial goal to keep his side clear of relegation. Injuries forced him to retire in 2002, and during his testimonial match against Athletic Bilbao, rather fittingly, there was a 17-man brawl.
After retiring from football, Dicks tried his hand at many new ventures; he played pro golf, he opened a pub and even set up professional kennels.
He returned to football in 2009 when he managed Wivenhoe Town. A two-year spell at Grays Athletic was followed by spells in charge of Sealand and West Ham Ladies before taking a job as a first-team coach for his old side, West Ham United.