Ben Burgess column: Why I hope Rio proves a big boxing hit

The Seasiders came crashing back down to earth this week.

Friday, 29th September 2017, 12:00 pm
Updated Friday, 29th September 2017, 5:21 pm
Rio Ferdinand, pictured with world boxing champion Anthony Joshua, is to try his hand at the fight game

After seeming almost invincible for the past six or seven games, they were on the end of a couple of disappointing results.

First came the 3-1 defeat to Bristol Rovers, which was even more gutting as Kyle Vassell had scored another goal to put Blackpool one up.

That was followed by a stalemate at home to a strong and experienced Rochdale side.

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Gary Bowyer would have been happy with the way his players bounced back from the defeat at Bristol, with a good performance, but deep down he will be slightly aggrieved they didn’t manage to snatch all three points.

These dips in form are inevitable for such a young and relatively inexperienced side like Blackpool and for this reason Bowyer has been contemplating adding some experience to his squad.

That experience could come in the shape of free agents Jay Spearing and former Blackburn Rovers player Adam Henley, who are both training with the squad.

Both players would definitely add some quality to the side but I imagine they would have to accept a contract far lower than their previous terms.

Ex-footballers have been hitting the headlines for a variety of reasons recently.

First, we had the worrying but thankfully brief disappearance of ex-Blackpool and Burnley player Clarke Carlisle.

Fortunately he was found but we are all acutely aware of the troubles Clarke has faced, both during his career and afterwards.

Then we had Rio Ferdinand announcing his intention to become a professional boxer at the ripe old age of 39.

I think I’m scheduled for my first knee replacement when I reach that age!

Ferdinand wouldn’t be the first player to cross sports, especially to try his hand at boxing. We have seen Curtis Woodhouse (an ex-team-mate of mine) and Leon McKenzie have successful boxing careers when their football careers were over.

So why does a hugely successful and wealthy man such as Rio contemplate entering a completely alien sport, where there could be the opportunity for him to fail in a big way?

The answer lies in his and many other sports stars’ yearning to be the best and to have something to focus on that fills the inevitable void that retirement brings.

The transition from famous sportsperson to ‘civilian’ life leaves so many questions and doubts in players’ heads.

The players who have struggled to adapt will tell you that they have lost their purpose, their reason to get up in the morning.

If all you’ve ever been is a footballer or a cricketer, then what do you call yourself when you finish? The answer, sadly, is nothing!

I was fortunate (in a way) that my football career never reached the highs of the likes of Paul Gascoigne, so I didn’t have too far to fall when I called time on it.

Despite moving into a new job, I still felt a nagging void in my life.

Eventually, I realised that the challenge and competitiveness of sport, that quest to be your best, that release of endorphins after working hard, was missing for me.

My sporting options were limited due to an arthritic knee, so I literally dived into the only sport I could do and that was swimming.

I’m not great at swimming but it gets me up at 6am four times a week and I continually strive to get better. It’s my small football substitute.

As a teacher, I’m aware of the vast mental health issues affecting children and I’m also aware of the benefits of exercise for children and adults.

So, I’m all in favour of Rio’s brave new move, but I’ll be sticking to swimming in the slow lanes behind old ladies for the moment.