Guy Branston: Football has 'got softer', says retiring defender

He has had 19 different clubs, played more than 450 professional games and headed countless long balls back from whence they came.

But after 17 years as a professional, the archetypal journeyman footballer Guy Branston has reached the end of the road.

Despite feeling he still has something to offer a team in the Football League, it appears none of the clubs in the top 92 want to offer 35-year-old Branston anything in return.

"No disrespect to lower league teams, but I didn't want to play for them," he told BBC Sport.

Guy Branston in numbers

Guy Branston at Rotherham in 2000
  • 19 - the number of teams he has played for either on loan or full-time
  • 481 - the number of games he played from 1998 to the end of his career
  • 25 - the number of goals he has scored, the last being for Bristol Rovers in November 2012

"I knew if this summer came and there was nothing I fancied, which there hasn't been, then I would concentrate on something else."

Branston has never been afraid of telling people what he thinks of football, whether they have wanted to hear it or not.

Last year he criticised Plymouth team-mate Jason Banton for not having a good enough work-rate, and left Sheffield Wednesday at the end of 2004 after a disagreement with manager Paul Sturrock - "I was a mouthy 25-year-old who knew it all and he was right to get rid of me," he said.

But he holds his biggest criticism for the youngsters of the modern game.

It is an area of the sport that Branston holds close to his heart, having set up a website to allow budding players to upload videos of their talent and matching those players with clubs who need them.

"It's got softer," Branston says of the sport in which he made his debut in the Conference for the now defunct Rushden and Diamonds back in 1997.

"In all aspects, within the dressing room, within the players, they're weak. There's a lot of mentally weak lads out there who can't cope with criticism and can't cope with day-to-day training.

Guy Branston's honours

Guy Branston celebrates an FA Cup third round win for Kettering in 2009
  • 1998: Third Division Play-off winner with Colchester United
  • 2000: Third Division runner-up with Rotherham United
  • 2001: Second Division runner-up with Rotherham United
  • 2008: Conference North winner with Kettering Town

"Everyone wants to have a break, everyone wants to take their minds away from the training ground when most of your work's done on the training ground.

"I think a lot of the lads have lost touch with what football actually means to people.

"Football's an amazing sport, it gave me so much and it disappoints me when I see some of these fly-by-night players come in from Premier League clubs and go to lower league clubs and don't appreciate what actually happens with these lower league clubs and how they're still surviving day to day.

"The Premier League boys come down to the lower leagues, they're young lads and they strut around like they own the place and they've only been around for five minutes."

But Branston says it is not just down to the money that is available in the top flight compared to the lower divisions, it is down to some players simply not wanting to put in the effort.

"I was earning more money in 2004 than I was in 2014," he says.

"There's not big money in the lower leagues, there's only big money for good players. But fair dos they deserve to earn it, they work hard, they do the job and they get on with it.

"I couldn't crack playing Premier League football. I'd seen lesser players than me play Premier League football and not have anywhere near my career

Guy Branston on his career regrets

"I don't care what anyone says, a lad working hard every day scoring goals on a Saturday afternoon or defending well is working hard on the training pitch because you can't turn it on like a tap.

"I think a lot of it's the media, that's no disrespect to the media because it's needed. Promotion of players is needed and promotion of people is needed, there's no doubt about it.

"Sometimes it affected certain people when they read the papers and believe that they're better than a normal human being.

"But agents don't do themselves any justice with that because they pamper them and blow them up because they get them when they're young at academies.

"Some lads are 14 or 15 and they're being offered all sorts as the agent can keep them for three years and if he doesn't make it, it was a gamble worth taking because he's got another player that was associated to the lad in the first place."

Despite being a no-nonsense centre-back who would "head a breeze block" according to one supporter of Plymouth Argyle,  Branston is a big believer in allowing talented technical players to flourish.

"I'm all about the ball on the floor and playing," he added. "I know that sounds silly if you've seen me play, but remember I've got people shouting at me to put the ball in the channel, get the ball to the forwards and get rid of it as quickly as possible because I'm not good enough to run with the ball.

"I understand that position, that's why I earned a living at it.

Guy Branston's 19 clubs

Leicester City, Rushden & Diamonds, Colchester United

Plymouth Argyle, Lincoln City, Rotherham United

Wycombe Wanderers, Peterborough United, Sheffield Wednesday

Oldham Athletic, Rochdale, Northampton Town

Notts County, Kettering Town, Burton Albion

Torquay United, Bradford City, Aldershot Town, Bristol Rovers

"Kids can play now without having to worry about getting chopped. Small players can come out with the ball and flourish, whereas before they never got a sniff and ended up being left-back and then sub."

So does Branston have any regrets?

"My biggest regret is leaving Leicester City because it was my home town," he said. "I couldn't crack it, that was my regret.

"I couldn't crack playing Premier League football. I'd seen lesser players than me play Premier League football and not have anywhere near my career.

"Some played 30 games in the Premier League and I would have loved to have been a so-called Premier League player.

"I would have loved to have played for Leicester City with my shirt on and number on the back with my mum, step-dad and grandad in the crowd. It would have been amazing."