Steven Kennedy looks at how former goalkeeper John Sullivan has built a new life in Las Vegas…
FORMER Brighton, Charlton and Portsmouth goalkeeper John Sullivan has a remarkable story to tell.
Over the ten years of his professional career, he found himself on the periphery of the first teams at each of his clubs: a 17-match spell on loan at Yeovil Town being the most appearances he ever made in one campaign.
Towards the end of his playing days, and during his time at his final professional club, Portsmouth, this struggle also manifested itself mentally with Sullivan publically announcing he was suffering from – and seeking help to overcome – depression.
Battling the silent disease that has claimed the lives of former players Gary Speed and Robert Enke, Sullivan knew exactly the moment it was time to quit the sport he loved and seek out a future elsewhere.
“When I gave up football, I had a few months where I was just unhappy,” said John. “Then when I got told at Pompey they wanted to pay me out of my contract, it seemed like the perfect time to start something new and use the money to make foundations for the future.
“Very few people knew, but the PFA helped me a lot, the Portsmouth doctor and, of course, my close friends and family. Everyone supported me even though a lot of people thought I was stupid for doing it.
“But football isn’t what everyone thinks. Of course the pay is great and the lifestyle is even better. But most of the time, football is a very lonely place, often having many hours alone, in random towns across the country and being away from the family. It gets lonely and upsetting for sure.
“The moment it really hit me that football was over for me was when I went to Cambridge on loan to try and salvage my career. We lost at home to Grimsby and both goals were my fault.
“However, when the ball hit the back of the net, it didn’t hurt me like it used to and like it should.
“After that game I locked myself in the kit man’s room for an hour because I was too embarrassed to see anyone. That’s when I knew it was over.”
He took a gamble and quit the game at just 26; swapping the UK for a life in the US where he now is carving out a successful career in the highly-competitive real estate market of Las Vegas.
It’s testament to him that he’s been able to overcome terrible lows his depression brought him and make a name for himself elsewhere.
Now a permanent resident of Las Vegas, John has a portfolio of properties he is responsible for selling and is thriving under a different kind of pressure.
“I haven’t missed football at all,” he said. “I’ve just moved on with my life and enjoyed my time travelling and learning a new career.
“I look back with fond memories. I always loved training, and took it very seriously. I was proud to be a footballer.
“But I saw an opportunity to work hard and make incredibly good money, with a great quality of life elsewhere.
“Real estate is a lot like football. The hardest-working people and most professional will always come out on top. I am on zero wage and commission only. Every day is vital and I thrive on that pressure.
“I see my future in America for sure. I love the way of life and diversity of each place and state, and I couldn’t imagine living in England again.
“I will definitely be a realtor for life and could never imagine doing anything else ever again. I love it.”
*This article was originally featured in Sept/Oct’s edition of Late Tackle.