Joel Lynch & Omar Bogle: What's it like to be an out-of-contract footballer?

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'Footballers in contract shouldn't take it for granted' - a tale of two free agents Bogle and Lynch

"Players who are under contract shouldn't really take it for granted."

Being out of contract can be a daunting prospect, especially during a global pandemic.

The football calendar has been hit hard by coronavirus, curtailing the regular seasons in Leagues One and Two and creating an uncertain future for players experiencing a year like no other.

On 30 June, more than 1,400 players were expected to become unemployed - 1,060 in the English Football League and about 400 in the Premier League, according to the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA).

'I wish I had signed that two-year deal'

Joel Lynch's contract expired at Sunderland on 30 June. After League One was halted and the Black Cats missed out on the play-offs, the 32-year-old got a call from manager Phil Parkinson to find out he was not in their plans for next season. He has since moved down to London to make life easier for his family.

"I was initially offered a two-year deal. I thought I'd sign a one-year deal and then sign a new deal after being promoted to the Championship. I was pretty much certain that was going to happen," says Lynch.

"Football is crazy and all this has happened. I wish now that I'd signed the two-year deal, but I didn't. That's life really and something I have to deal with.

"I found out straight away and the club were quite good with me. I have a family and I want to keep playing for a few years. But now I've got to find a new club and it's tough.

"I think you're very lucky if you're a player under contract at the moment. Players who are under contract shouldn't really take it for granted.

"There's so much uncertainty. I've literally just got to wait. There's nothing I can do apart from keep fit, which is hard on your own, but I'm trying my best."

Back in April, Fifa advised that contracts which expired at the end of June should be automatically extended until the end of the season, but that had to be agreed by both parties.

'Music is my therapy'

Some free agents, such as former Cardiff City striker Omar Bogle, are focusing on the positives. The 26-year-old has been making his own music and now has the inspiration to record a song about being a free agent.

"I'm going to be a treasure for somebody else, for another club and another manager. I enjoyed my time at Cardiff, made some great friends and met some great people," says Bogle.

"I never think it's a bad thing being a free agent. It depends on what you're coming off the back of. If you're coming off an injury and you haven't played for a long time, then you can find yourself in a difficult position.

"I know how good I am and I know how hard I've worked to get to where I am. This is the first time I've been in this position since I was 17. Me now is totally different to then. Back then, I felt like the world was ending. My head was gone.

"I started recording music in May. I've been writing music for the past five or six years. We have a lot of spare time as footballers.

"Music is like my therapy. Football is an emotional rollercoaster. I just write to music and write what I feel, that's how I vent to myself."

What does the PFA say?

The PFA says it has been inundated with calls and in the past three months has been trying "24/7" to help those players who might be struggling.

The organisation offers a range of charitable funds, wellbeing services, rehabilitation centres and education courses to its 50,000 former members and 5,000 current members.

It also has 200 counsellors available across the country.

Assistant chief executive Simon Barker says the "support is there" for those who need it, but highlighted his concern for those players who are at the start of their careers.

"Through my 20 years' experience at the PFA, I've spoken to many players and it's a really, really, worrying time," he said.

"I speak to a lot of young players who've been released by clubs. I'm speaking to parents who have been driving them to training and matches, since they were the age of eight.

"So, it's really difficult for them, especially when they've been released by clubs and trying to find their way in the game."

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