Ryan Corrigan went from Man City academy to playing Sunday League after falling out of love with football
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Ryan Corrigan loves football but not the politics that comes with it. The 22-year-old spent time in the academies of Liverpool, Everton and Blackburn before winding up at Manchester City, where he signed his first professional contract at the age of 17 – earning around £2,500 per week.
He regularly played alongside a slew of top talents such as Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, Jeremie Frimpong, Eric Garcia, Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Cole Palmer, as well as training under Pep Guardiola and rubbing shoulders with Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva.
The left-back signed for Stoke City in 2019 in the hope of getting regular football in the Championship.
Brentford and Norwich were both interested but he chose the Potters, who handed him a three-year contract and were ready to integrate him into the first-team after he made 17 appearances for the Under 23’s.
But the stint left a sour taste in the mouth of Corrigan, who found himself completely ostracized and forced to train by himself for 18 months after being told to find a new club by then-manager Michael O’Neill.
That meeting came 10 days after a flare-up with club captain Ryan Shawcross over a short corner routine in a pre-season friendly.
Corrigan was released by mutual consent in July 2021 and no longer plays professional football.
“I couldn't have predicted the circumstances,” he tells SPORTbible on how his dream career turned into a nightmare.
“I definitely couldn’t. I knew I was a good footballer. I think about it a lot.
“I'm really surprised about how it went for me. I’m not saying I was gonna go to Barca like Eric [Garcia] or Jez [Frimpong] at Bayer Leverkusen but from where they are to where I am, as much as it shocks me, I believe it shocks a lot of other people as well.
“I feel like there's a lot of stuff that could have gone either way. I definitely think there could have been a lot more successful and I look back at it myself sometimes, like ‘Is it a failure?’
“And I do think that sometimes that I failed. I know that deep down, within myself, from what I’ve had, I’ve failed.
“I think that people automatically think that of me as well. I know I’ve failed myself; I feel like I could have done a few things differently.
“But at the same time, I do believe a lot of things weren’t in my control that went against me and I’ve been unlucky to be in this position.”
There were dark days at Stoke, who Corrigan believes isolated him for personal reasons rather than anything football-related. He feels as though his face didn’t fit and it cost him as a result.
Corrigan is a confident, outgoing and likeable personality but the situation affected his moods massively. At one point he came home from training and just burst into tears.
After leaving Stoke, he briefly dropped into Non-League with Southport and City of Liverpool, earning around £300 per week and curing his football fix for a period.
Still, his relationship with the game he once loved had been damaged and repairing it is not an easy task, so he packed it in.
“I definitely fell out of love with football. I’d still say that I have but I’m made up I’m not doing the stuff where I'm getting into an argument to that or going in and not playing because basically the last 18 months of full-time football, I wasn't playing football.
“It was a job that wasn't actually a job. I was getting paid for nothing. I was just walking away every month with money and I feel like everyone was like, ‘He's getting good money and for what’ and I felt the same way.
“If I did fall back in love, I'd be active and actually playing now. I know that for a fact. Honestly, I've never been more content in my life at the minute the way it is. I prefer it this way, where I can have weekends to myself and have a game of football. No politics. It’s just the best way for me.”
The game of football he is referring to is with ‘The Lobster’, a high-level Sunday League team playing in the Merseyrail Business Houses Football League.
Scouser Corrigan went back playing primarily because his grandad told him he that he missed watching him play.
“It’s a pub team but they’ve won national cups. Liverpool Sunday League is really good to be honest.
“I’m playing in the same league as Dale Jennings, the lad who was at Bayern Munich. There’s a few lads who are in the same boat as me.
“It feels like a burden off my shoulders, that’s what I’m doing every morning. I'm not worried about what's going to happen next week. I'm not worried about the politics. I turn up, put my boots and kit on, have a laugh with the lads, go and play and have a beer afterwards.
“I still want to win; I still care and I’m gutted when we get beat. But football has been a pain and now it isn’t.
“I’m still fit and playing for a team of some sort. Do I think in a year’s time could I go somewhere like the Conference North or something like that? I definitely think I could do – I don’t think I would have lost it. But at the minute I’m happy.”
Without being contracted to anyone, Corrigan now has a lot more time for himself and feels like he’s 18 again.
He can make weekend plans like having a pint with his dad or going to a family party. His family have noticed he’s much more content with himself.
But his buzz has also transferred to another sport in cricket, which he used to play as a youngster after watching his old man on the sidelines.
It was put on hold because football took priority but he’s rediscovered a passion for batting and bowling with Cheshire Lines in Garston, Liverpool – and one that has given him a “breath of fresh air” and is “no stress”.
“I watched him all through the years and every time he needed a fielder, I'd field. I played for the under 13’s, under 15’s and 18’s from five, six and seven because we didn’t have a massive number of players.
“I stopped at the age of eight because the football took over and then in the summer, I got back in touch with one of the teams my dad used to play for in Cheshire. I went there and completely fell back in love it, playing every Saturday.
“I'm still getting my changing room times, a bit of banter, group chat and stuff like that. I'm getting that fix in a different sport and I'm absolutely cricket mad at the minute. I always like wake up early for work at like five o'clock if I know that there's a game on. If Sri Lanka are playing India, I'll get up and watch that. I'll come home and put the T20 on.
“My addiction has gone to that at the minute. Cricket at the minute gives me a breath of fresh air because I've never had the chance to do it and it’s something different.
“It’s no stress whatsoever. I turn up, have a laugh with the lads, get changed, bowl or bat - obviously I want to do well, I'm really competitive when I'm in there, no matter what I want to win.
“And as soon as I finish, a few pints with the lads and then it’s home-time.”
That’s his weekend activities sorted but what about on the weekdays now that he’s not a professional footballer anymore?
Corrigan took the plunge to work at the same primary school as his mum and brother, mainly running PE sessions and after school clubs at first.
It was supposed to be a very short-term arrangement but Corrigan, who has never had a younger sibling, took to it brilliantly.
His current day-to-day duties now comprise of working as a one-to-one mentor with two year one kids who require additional support. It’s a challenging but rewarding job.
He explained: “There was a job that came up and it was only on a short term. My brother said it would be good for me – coming in and doing the PE in the afternoon and helping out.
“I said I'd go in and do it, it was only for like a month or two. I got to the end of the year and without blowing my own trumpet, I think they really rated me and what I was doing.
“I used to do the PE a lot more. I still do the PE, the after-school clubs, the multi sports clubs, the football and girls' football - I do a lot of different things.
“But at the moment I’m doing a lot of one-to-one work with two lads who are in year one. One’s five and one’s just turned six and I’m doing a one-to-one job with them throughout the school day.
“I love the kids; we have a good laugh. They need like additional support. Literally those two are my sole focus throughout the day. Whatever the class do, that’s nothing to do with me – the two lads I've got to make sure they’re okay and happy and do the work.
“I took to it better than I thought I would because I’ve never had a younger brother or sister and never had much to do with younger kids in my life.
“But as soon as I went in there for a few days, I was just like, ‘Yeah, I like this’. It suits me, the way we have that rapport. I think it’s the perfect job for me, I’ve gone into it and it’s just worked.
“It doesn’t feel like a chore or a job and the main thing for me, the kids are happy. I’m happy with them and we’re seeing progress.
“I’m trying to make them laugh and enjoy it because I had two years of going into somewhere and not enjoying it. One thing I want to do is to make sure they come and enjoy it, that’s the least I can do.”
Corrigan’s salary isn’t anywhere near the big money one can earn weekly from playing professional football even without making a first-team appearance.
But the major difference now is that he now feels more deserving of his earnings and is proud of the work he is able to do in helping young people.
He earned very good money from playing football and was but with the way in which things panned out, Corrigan can safely say that happiness is much more important than what’s in your bank account.
“It’s a weird, weird world where you think you’ll have that money forever. I didn’t think it was that much because you had other players who are on £10,000 or £12,000-a-week. In the context of the world, I'm on a lot but you don’t think like that.
“I always believed I would be on a few grand a week no matter what. I definitely could have saved a lot more with the signing on fees but I don’t think people take it in too much with the money side because I don’t think anyone believes they are going to be in that position.
“That last 18 months I felt like I was just getting paid for nothing. Now it's much less but I feel like I’ve earned it and I'm proud of it.
“It hits the bank account and I'm like, ‘I’ve earned that’. Before I was getting paid for running on a pitch for half an hour or 45 minutes and then going home in my car.
“I get much more sense of pride and I feel like it is happiness at the minute. People say they’d win it all and have all this money, you genuinely wouldn't.
“Money can solve a lot of things; it can get you out of so much trouble but it physically can’t make you happy.
“I understand a lack of money can make you really sad but being genuinely happy and content, I think you are rich if you are like that.
“I was never in a bad way but I had a burden on me constantly and I can see how much a burden it was now that I’m free of it.”