James Bransgrove

Business management student and trainee accountant

Ex Professional Footballer

Former clubs: Colchester United, Brentford, Waltham Abbey, Leyton Orient

Give us a bit of a timeline of your career to date…

My time in football began as a youngster for Leyton Orient FC aged 7, before leaving the club when I turned 11. I then went on to mainly play recreationally before signing for Waltham Abbey U18’s. Here I progressed in to the first team quickly, and my performances gathered some interest as I was then scouted and signed by Brentford. From Brentford, I moved on to Colchester United where I made my first team debut aged 20, which was a steep rise from Waltham Abbey U18’s less than two years before. I received international call ups for Scotland at U18’s up to the U21’s level where I was also part of a European qualifying campaign squad.

I retired from professional football in December 2016 to pursue a career within business. Since, I have begun full time work, whilst undertaking a part time degree in business management with the Open University. I still play and enjoy football, playing for a local Sunday league team, and I am also able to dedicate a lot of time playing other sports for enjoyment, such as cricket for Loughton Cricket Club.

How did you first get involved in your sport? And when did the opportunity come to start competing at an elite level?

I always played in the garden and streets with my dad, and joined a local team at a young age. Signing for Brentford was my first opportunity to start playing at an elite level as a youth team player.

To date, what’s been your greatest achievement in sport?

It has to be making my professional debut in League 1 for Colchester United against Rochdale. Also, receiving an U21 international call up for Scotland in October 2016 for the European championship qualifiers was special.

What were the biggest challenges, and best aspects of training and competing as a professional athlete?

The biggest challenge for me was most certainly having to perform consistently day in day out in training to the highest standard as possible. You really have to continuously dig deeper physically and mentally to push yourself further, to better yourself and be better than your competition within the team. This was really demanding.

The best aspect was being able to play and perform in matches across the country, and play at some fantastic venues and stadiums. It was also great to play alongside, and against some fantastic players who have achieved so much in the game.

At what point did you realise that you wanted a change in career? What influenced your decision, and how did you overcome the challenge at the time?

It had been a decision that didn’t come out of the blue. I was considering a career change for several months due to lack of enjoyment and personal fulfilment within the game. There were various influences but a lack of personal freedom, and the fact of having to live a 24/7 footballing life on and off the pitch became extremely demanding on myself and those around me.

My decision to retire had been made several weeks before I finally informed the club. I faced the challenge of fearing the ‘unknown’ in what was to come post making the decision, but I knew enough was enough and I had to stop sooner rather than later to pursue personal fulfilment.

Having grown up and developed through professional football, do you think the environment of elite sport has helped you in your professional and personal career now? And if so, how?

Playing in professional football is a highly challenging and pressured environment, which demands constant results and I feel I am well equipped to handle demands and expectations that are placed upon me now, because of these pressures and demands I have faced.

Being in the professional footballing environment has also helped me become a more disciplined and mentally stronger individual too – having learnt how to deal with the highs and lows of the game. So I now have the confidence to approach pressure situations in a different environment, and face setbacks head on.  

Similar question to the one earlier, but now within business and education, what are the biggest challenges, and the best aspects of your new career?

So far the biggest challenge has definitely been adapting to an office environment – one which is completely the opposite to a footballing one!

Having to meet daily/weekly deadlines and adapting to 9-5 working hours was initially hard but now it’s fine and I’m used to it!

The best aspect is that I have my personal freedom back and I have my own personal time to myself in the evenings. I don’t have to worry about getting up to face the pressures and demands of going to train and compete day in day out. Furthermore, I have my weekends to socialise too, to help me find that personal fulfilment. Also, being able to work and learn on the job in an area of business I have a passion for is great too.

How would you say your lifestyle is benefiting from dual-careering?

Being able to work and earn whist studying is fantastic. I don’t have to worry about a large student debt and I am gaining continuous experience on and off the job. Its hard work to balance everything out and fit it all in during the week with my social life too, but it is a great personal challenge and it’s a very fulfilling demand. Having lived the life of a professional footballer, I feel comfortable managing different demands, and I enjoy the variety in lifestyle I have now.

And Finally, what advice would you give to athletes who face similar circumstances to those you went through?

Follow your heart, do what you want to do with your life. Don’t continue to do something you don’t want to do just to make the people around you happy as it will no doubt hinder your sporting progression and your personal happiness. At the end of the day you have one life and you want to make the most of it.