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Suddenly Retired Manchester United Youth Player Reveals Which Players Have Supported Him

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Suddenly Retired Manchester United Youth Player Reveals Which Players Have Supported Him

The sudden retirement of Manchester United’s U23 goalkeeper, Paul Woolston, took everyone at the club by no less surprise than it did those on the outside. 

Woolston will turn 24 in August. Still being at United at this age is not the worst position to be in moving forward. As much as the first team window would have been closed by now, there would have been offers aplenty for the shot-stopper to continue his career at a good level elsewhere. 

However, it got to a point where the injuries became too much to deal with too often. The pain became too real. Woolston made just 13 appearances for United’s U23s over three seasons spanning from 2018/19 to 2020/21. 

United announced Woolston’s decision to hang up his gloves in March of this year. It was sudden and shocking. He was very highly touted at Carrington, not only as a player but as a person. 

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In the official club statement, Woolston’s decision was described as “following significant determination to return to fitness, including two operations and a lengthy rehabilitation period.” Over time, Woolston has had to deal with a plethora of health problems. Most recently, a chronic hip issue reportedly forced his hand to ultimately call it a day. 

“To have to retire at just 23 has been really tough to come to terms with,” Woolston told the official club website. “But I feel a lot more positive now. I am really proud of everything that I have achieved. Many people dream of playing football at this level. Of course, I would have loved to gone on further, but it has been an absolute honour to represent Manchester United during my time here.” 

At the time, the club reported that they have put together a support program for Woolston. Being released from Premier League clubs or forced to retire at a young age without a plan moving forward has been a massive topic of discussion in England recently. Clubs have been urged to do more in support of the departing young players. United acted accordingly with the former Newcastle U18 goalkeeper. 

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United put Woolston through education sessions and helped with a start on his coaching badges journey. The club also offered Woolston the opportunity to travel abroad with younger age groups to enhance the learning process. 

Woolston announced his early retirement from football during the 2021/22 campaign. (Man Utd)
Woolston announced his early retirement from football during the 2021/22 campaign. (Man Utd)

Work experience in and out of the club has also been arranged in what has been an extremely encouraging response from the club for all players anxious or worried about their futures in football moving forward. In addition, multiple players have stepped up to Woolston’s aid — something that was touched on in the latest episode of United’s podcast.

On there, Woolston explained how life after football has been three months into retirement. The 23-year-old went into detail on the amount of support he has received from current Reds to start the new chapter of his life. 

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“None of them have to do it,” Woolston said. “Harry (Maguire) and Scott (McTominay) didn’t have to come and see me. The messages I got from them, they didn’t have to, they didn’t have to be seen to do it. It just shows the type of people they are.”

A special mention went to the fellow recently retired United keeper, Lee Grant.

Woolston said: “He has been brilliant. He’s helped me through the whole acknowledgement process of what’s happening because we just talk about everything. We’ll have coffee and just think about the future and try and take my mind off what’s happening. 

Lee Grant has retired from football after last season. (Alamy)
Lee Grant has retired from football after last season. (Alamy)
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“He helps me stay positive and that’s brilliant. No matter what time of day it is, within reason — I’m not ringing hiim in the middle of the night — he’ll take time out of his day to talk for a couple of hours and just put my mind at rest and just talk about life.” 

Though he didn’t play a huge part on the pitch in his time at United, Grant has always been regarded as an excellent teammate and dressing room figure. Therefore, Woolston’s words come as little surprise. Already well on his way to receiving his coaching badges, Grant has shown leadership skills aplenty in and around Carrington. 

As for Woolston, his life in football is only just beginning — despite being forced off the grass prematurely. His own determination along with assistance from the club has already put him on the right path with all of the resources provided to make the transition as smooth as possible. 

But perhaps most importantly of all, it shows that football clubs are well capable of providing guidance for the young athletes that need it, on and off the pitch, and this should be the standard they are all held to. 

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Not every academy player will make it into the first team and succeed. That is just outright impossible. But life does not start nor does it end at United, Liverpool, or Chelsea. There is so much world out there beyond the elites, some just need to be pointed in the right direction for them. 

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Harry Maguire, Manchester United, Football, Premier League

Arion Armeniakos
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