IRISH LEAGUE: Bates walking away to focus on life after football
After 23 years of largely living in increments devoted to pre-match preparations, gametime and post-match recovery, Guy Bates is taking steps towards a more long-term goal.
A career in the game which started as an eight-year-old on the books of his hometown club Newcastle United appears to have closed two decades down the line covering spells in Australia, Belgium, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
At 31 years old, Bates is opting to walk away from offers to remain in the Irish League to focus on life outside a world which has dominated his decision-making as boy and man.
“I am now qualified as a personal trainer and fitness coach and have started working at a gym called Integral so see this as building something beyond football for my future,” said Bates, who lined out last season in the Irish League with Glenavon. “I’ve been in football a long, long time and now is the chance to think about the next step and moving forward.
“I’m recently married and have started at the gym, so want to centre my time on other areas outside of football.
“It happens to everyone in football but I feel I’m able to walk away on my own terms and with the benefit of another career to throw everything into, so the time seems right.
“I’m never going to say never in terms of hanging up the boots completely but, for now, it makes sense to turn my attention to something else.”
Bates won trophies either side of the border in Ireland and scored goals in the colours of Drogheda United, Linfield and Glenavon.
Aside from the medals, Bates wants fans to remember his commitment to the jersey at whichever club he represented - with that dedication now the driving force in his post-football life.
“My hope is fans respect how I put everything into my performances on the pitch,” said Bates. “That is part of the reason why I think it is right to leave behind the game, even if it has been good to me and provided some wonderful memories.
“With my commitment to work now I would only be available maybe every other game and not able to train with my club each session.
“I’ve always put my whole commitment into everything and the idea of not being able to do that with football does not sit right.
“I could never play, knowing I’m not 100 per cent, in front of paying fans or turn up and expect to walk into a side when my team-mates have been there every time.
“If you let your guard down in this game then very quickly the next guy will come along and take your spot.
“The young lads coming up now are in such great shape and, to be honest, it was getting harder to recover from knocks over the past year or so.
“You need to live, breathe, eat and sleep football to get the maximum out of it and now I cannot do that I need to walk away.
“After years of missing out on family occasions due to football commitments it is going to be nice going to weddings or home for Christmas.
“But really it is about thinking ahead now and trying to build a future after football.”