Asked to play in the Championship for free & the out of contract players

Nedum Onuoha
Nedum Onuoha made 224 appearances for QPR between 2012 and 2018

You are the captain of QPR, have just won the Players' Player of the Year award and, at 31, could still have some of your best years ahead of you.

So imagine Nedum Onuoha's surprise this summer when the Championship club asked him to play for free.

The defender refused and later turned down an offer which was "incentive-based against appearances", opting instead to move to the United States with Real Salt Lake in Major League Soccer.

"I'd only missed about 10 weeks of football in three years so I felt it wasn't right, especially as I knew they were trying to recruit other players for similar or more money," Onuoha said.

The former Manchester City player's assertion - which QPR declined to comment on - comes as statistics showing almost one in four players were unemployed in July are described by the Professional Footballers' Association as "astonishing".

The out-of-work players

Figures from the PFA showed 1,192 footballers across the top four divisions were out of work in the summer, with deputy chief executive Bobby Barnes saying: "It's almost a quarter of our membership.

"Players come in and fall out of football each summer but the dropout rate is still probably highest between the ages of 16 and 21. At one stage that was around 85 to 90%."

The data supplied by the PFA also highlighted a 37% increase from 2016-17 in professional players reaching the end of contracts in the Premier League.

And there was also a 49% increase in under-18 players not being offered contracts in the top flight.

Out-of-contract players (professionals only)
SeasonPremier LeagueOverall total (from all divisions)

Instead of training this summer, Onuoha, who made 29 appearances in the Championship last season, enjoyed the novelty of spending time at home with his wife and three children.

He elected to join Real Salt Lake after turning down other offers to stay in the Championship and deciding against a switch to the Super Lig in Turkey.

"If you are not in contention at the top of the Championship you are trapped in a kind of purgatory with nowhere to go," he said.

"You end up just playing out the fixtures.

"Do people stay in the Premier League or the Championship because they are the best leagues? This might sound callous but maybe not. Clubs pay a lot and there are home comforts.

"I could've been playing somewhere from June or July but I wasn't necessarily orientated to do that and was fortunate to not be in a financial position where I had to take any offer."

Players still out of contract

The out of contract players (selected list)
PlayerFormer club
Gabriel AgbonlahorAston Villa
Glen JohnsonStoke City
James CollinsWest Ham United
Darren BentDerby County
Robert HuthLeicester City
Samir NasriAntalyaspor
Victor AnichebeBeijing Enterprises
Mathieu FlaminiGetafe
Scott GolbourneBristol City
Peter WhittinghamBlackburn Rovers
Lacina TraoreMonaco

'Not outstaying your welcome'

Paul Rachubka
Paul Rachubka has played for 18 professional clubs, making 365 appearances

Goalkeeper Paul Rachubka, 37, has taken in 18 different clubs since starting out as a professional in 1999 at Manchester United.

He left his last club, Indian Super League side Kerala Blasters, in April and has played the waiting game before - almost taking up a job with a sportswear firm three years ago before Oldham gave him the chance to extend his career.

That aim has more recently been assisted by cadging favours through friends at professional clubs so that he has had somewhere to train, though he admits a sense of uneasiness about having to do that.

"Of course you feel awkward," he said. "You're trying to get in to train through coaches you know so you can stay sharp and fit but you're also trying not to outstay your welcome or take advantage of that generosity.

"It's not something you want to do but you have to do it."

While interest has arrived from clubs in League One and League Two, his phone has started to go quiet - that wait cannot continue indefinitely before he has to move "into the real world".

"You have to ask, can I justify playing for this wage? I've signed contracts in the past where it has been appearance based and you're then backing yourself to play to give yourself a decent wage," he added.

"You can't go away during the school summer holidays with the kids as you've got to be around, because there might be a phone call asking you to train or play at less than 24 hours' notice.

"You have to set aside money for the end of contracts and for making that transition into another career because it's a drastic change."

Top Stories