When football ends, what next?
What happens to youngsters when they don’t quite make it? Where do the stars go after they play their final game?
After the door to football closes, some are left in the dark. A life without it can feel daunting.
Aspiring and former players can grow to resent the game they once worshipped. They feel like it doesn’t want them anymore.
But Febian Brandy – a forward who played at a world-class club for more than a decade – is changing that.
With his revolutionary scouting app, the former Manchester United star has found a life after football for himself, whilst making the fantasy of a pro career more realistic for youngsters than ever before.
Something as simple as an unlucky day can be the difference between a footballer making it or missing the cut.
Chasing opportunities also costs money, and when a player can’t afford to travel to take part in a trial, it can feel like football has given up on them.
This frustration can lead to youngsters throwing in the towel, acting up, or even turning to crime.
But with Febian’s app, Skouted, players can showcase their ability wherever they might be. And they don’t have to pray a scout is walking past.
Players simply download the app, record themselves, and upload the footage. Then, their skills are up there for all to see. This way, clubs can find talent in the most obscure places – which is where many of the world’s best footballers tend to come from.
“We’ve bridged that gap between grassroots and higher levels, and getting them discovered by professional football teams,” Febian tells The Manc, describing his business idea.
“It’s about equal opportunities. Some parents might not have a car or money to take their kids to training, but they can walk to the park and play with their friends.
“They might score a worldie – and a big club could see that and give them a chance.
“If a club is looking for an 18-year-old box-to-box midfielder, for example, they can put that in their criteria and find them.
“Thanks to Skouted, players can always be in the right place at the right time.”
“It just gives everyone a fair crack at the whip to get found.”
Febian knows football. It’s been his entire life.
Growing up on the border of Mosside and Fallowfield, he had a football at his feet just months after he could walk.
He was first noticed at the age of seven, and was taken on trial at Manchester City for a fortnight, but in his own words, he “didn’t really fancy it.”
“I was more concerned with playing with my friends in the streets at that time,” he chuckles.
But things were different when representatives from the red side of the city came calling.
Febian was convinced to visit Old Trafford, and suddenly, kicking a battered old ball around the local roads didn’t seem so important anymore.
He’d found where he wanted to be – and it would be his home for the next 14 years.
“Everyone always says that was one of the… best times to be at United,” Febian explains.
“I was there with all the big names: the legends that have just left, the players who are playing now, and the ones who are coming through.
“I was at the club with Ryan Giggs, Ruud Van Nistlerooy, Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes, but also Paul Pogba, Frazier Campbell and even Marcus [Rashford] in his younger days.”
“We had nutritionists who told us what to eat, we were in diggs as well – and United probably told them to keep an eye on us with our food and training.
“The standards and care were a level above. But at a club like United, one of the best in the world, you’d expect nothing less.
“They’d treat everyone as a group and then pull people aside to talk about their progress from time to time.
“They spread out the one-to-ones quite well to be honest, even though they had all those players.”
During a pro career spanning more than a decade, the forward has experienced all the highs and lows that serve as a rite of passage for any player lucky enough to lace up their boots and get paid for the privilege.
He enjoyed the sweet taste of promotion whilst out on loan at Swansea and, later, at Ubon UMT United in Thailand. He scooped Man Of The Match accolades whilst playing with complete freedom in an exciting Walsall team in 2014. And he represented the England youth side that went to Egypt for the World Cup.
But he also found himself sleeping on a sofa in a foreign country during a stint in Greece – with his club Panetelokis unable to pay his wages due to the nation’s battered economy – and suffered a number of dangerous injuries that put his career in jeopardy.
After breaking a metatarsal in a reserve game in 2010, Febian found himself injured and out of contract.
But United helped him heal; paying for his treatment and assured him he could train at the premises to get fit.
Loan spells at Swansea City, Hereford United and Gillingham had prepared Febian for new environments, and after overcoming the injury, the striker reasserted himself on the pro scene – going on to play for Notts County, Sheffield United, Rotherham, Crewe and Ebbsfleet in England, as well as two clubs much closer to home; Rochdale and Droylsden.
He thrived best at clubs that took a free-flowing approach; a tactical style Febian labels “my kind of football.”
“Swansea was my first encounter with proper men’s football,” he says.
“It was the best loan option for me. Under Roberto Martinez, they kept the ball on the floor and played fast, attacking football.
“The dedication and the attitude from all the players there was the highest level. In terms of the standards they held and the expectations, Swansea and United weren’t miles apart.”
“Walsall, y’know, was another great time. That was the club that got me back on track career-wise.
“Dean Smith [now Aston Villa manager] gave us freedom to express ourselves, and I was part of a deadly strike force with Romaine Sawyers, Jamie Paterson and Will Grigg.
“We were going to places like Coventry away and just battering them. Even the top teams in the league had to set up defensively against us.”
But, perhaps most proudly of all, Febian also represented his country.
Febian looks back fondly on his international days, from visiting Africa to compete for the highest accolade in football, to the precocious brilliance of teammates Scott Sinclair and Daniel Sturridge.
“I played with the likes of Andy Carroll and Kieran Trippier… we had a very good team,” he remembers.
“But [Scott] Sinclair and [Daniel] Sturridge. You just couldn’t deal with them. They were on a whole other level.”
Playing at various rungs on the football pyramid made Febian realise something. The gap between the top and bottom was too big. To get in as a youngster from grassroots level, you needed huge, huge luck.
Febian was fortunate in that the caretaker at his school was also a scout – offering him a way in. But other great talent around the country was going unnoticed, simply because they couldn’t catch a break.
It didn’t seem fair.
“I was fortunate to be at United for as long as I was; you can imagine how many players I saw come and go,” the striker says.
“I started to put the idea for Skouted into motion when I was around 28. I just saw this massive gap there.
“I realised scouting was just purely luck – being in the right place at the right time.
“Y’know, even if players get a trial, they might not perform on the day due to nerves, or they’d try and sugarcoat an injury they’re carrying.
“At least with the Skouted app, they can upload all their best bits and make sure clubs can always see them at their best.”
“So far, it’s been very successful,” he adds.
“We’ve been on Sky Sports, Forbes magazine… it’s really come a long way.”
At 31 years of age, Febian is a young entrepreneur with exciting times ahead for his business.
But he isn’t ready to hang up his boots just yet.
“The only reason I’ve been a bit quiet is because of Skouted – I’ve spent 18 months getting it off the ground,” he explains.
“But I’ve spent the last few months getting fit, and I’ve been speaking to clubs, so there could be a chance to go in, start training and give myself the best chance of signing for someone new.
“At my age, I’ve got a lot to offer – I connect with both the younger and the older players and I bring a bit of experience.
“I’m still up for playing and getting back to what I love the most: Scoring goals.”
His enthusiasm for the game still burns bright.
Because of Skouted, youngsters will share that same fiery, football-loving passion for longer.
Download the Skouted app here.