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English Premier League players are being encouraged to prepare for life after football, even if they have just signed their first contract.

The Professional Footballers Association (PFA) regularly visits Premier League and Championship clubs to speak with Under-23 development squads about making plans for the future.

Paul Raven, a PFA education executive, spoke to the "Mind the Gap" campaign after he made a presentation to young players recently.

“It is better that they start planning at a younger age,” Raven, who played for English clubs including West Bromwich Albion, said. “It doesn’t matter how long you’re in the game, at some point you end up, like me, being out of the game and being an ex-footballer."

“At the PFA, we’ve been particularly active the last 2 or 3 years with players at the development squad age: I’ve been down to Brighton, across to Norwich up to Middlesbrough to speak to players, I’ve covered the country.

“The message I’m giving them are the same as if they were established professionals in their 30s: take care of your future. If you have a structured plan you can work towards a smoother transition” to life after football."

The PFA distributes more than 1,000 grants every year to help players – both active and retired – finance courses. Of those doing a university course, 39% choose a sports-related subject, 18% pick a business course and 8% select a science subject.

Others do more specialize in the likes of physiotherapy, architecture and politics. Outside university, players are trained in everything from barbering to becoming an airline pilot.

“We’ve got doctors, pilots, lads working on North Sea oil rigs, taxi drivers,” Raven said. “It’s incredible the range and scope of industries footballers go into.”

While visiting Sheffield Wednesday recently, Raven told the Under-23 development squad to explore their interests and understand their assets such as resilience and team work.

Dan Potts, the club’s Head of Education, said he would follow up on Raven’s presentation by speaking with each of the players.

“We are moving towards all our U23 squad having an education plan,” Potts said. “They should give everything to get as high as they can in professional football but they are not just footballers. They should look at what interests them outside football.”

Picture (top): Brighton's U23 team in action at Arsenal last August. Credit: VI Images