I always thought that when the moment came I would be carried off the pitch, wave to the crowd, wipe a little bit of dirt on my face and walk off into the sunset. It’s something I had seen before and after all my years playing football I thought it was my right to go out as I had imagined. Unfortunately that was not the way it was going to be for me, and I have delayed posting this Blog as it is so final. But it is time.
I have officially announced my retirement and it is almost with relief that I say my goodbye to the game that has given me so much. A relief as I know I could not give anymore, that the last 15 months of work in the gym for no reward are over. I have had six unsuccessful attempts at going back into training and none has lasted more than a week in full contact playing. Every time I believed wholeheartedly that this would be the time I would make it back. My last comeback was by far the cruelest. We took a trip back to the surgeon and under sedation I received another steroid injection directly into the joint. The surgeon was happy with the operation I had on my hip reshaping the ball of the hip, but it was the cartilage damage to the ball of the hip that the micro fracture had not been able to rectify after a challenge sustained against Southampton in December 2012 that was the worry. We took extra caution in the buildup to my outdoor work, concentrating on bulking up the thigh and glut strength and focusing on core strength sessions.
This time I think we all knew it was the last throw of the dice as we had covered all bases. Both myself and the club had done everything we could just to get to this point. Training with the Under 21s went well, allowing me to be competitive and I felt strong. I went into sessions with the first team and I was surprised at how good I felt, I was back! Then three sessions into training with the team a run down the right flank, no physical contact and BANG! I felt the familiar pain again and limped off the training pitch. Not good enough, my body had betrayed me again after three months preparation in the gym, for the sixth time running, without the payoff of a game, or a substitute appearance. I knew it was over.
I would like to thank all of the medical staff at Reading Football Club, and Head Physio Luke Anthony in particular, who worked so hard to try to get me back playing, who have gone over and above the call of duty. I would like to thank the fans who at the QPR game still sang my name after over a year of me not being able to get out on the pitch for the team. That gesture will never be forgotten by me. Likewise all of the kind messages I have received from my former Clubs’ fans and beyond. I have been lucky enough to address the Gasheads down in Bristol on the pitch and I have visited Wigan, where I was treated so well by everyone at the Club which left me feeling humbled.
So what now for me? I have been lucky enough to be given the opportunity to work within the Media over the last four years and it is something I hope to continue and I look forward to attending the World Cup in Brazil.
My recent qualification in Corporate Governance through the Accredited Get on Board Course will hopefully allow me to continue to attempt to make some impact on football governance and administration. The course has given me real confidence and knowledge about boardroom behavior and structures and I look forward to working further to continue the course’s success and outcomes for its graduates.
The work of the Jason Roberts Foundation is what really gets me up in the morning, and I aim to input a lot of my time into continuing to make an impact on people’s lives through sport and education. The foundation has done so much already due to the fantastic work of so many people. I will now take on a much more involved role which will see me spending a lot more time in the Caribbean to deliver our programmes there as well as the UK. I am really excited about the new initiatives being discussed with a range of new partners and I want to continue giving back through the foundation.
So, as one chapter of my life ends, another one begins: one with new priorities and ambitions. I am now realizing just how much of my mental energy and self worth was dependent on my passion , football. Now is the time to refocus on the things and people that are the most important to me. The game moves on, and so will I.
Jason Robert MBE