Football is a sport of passion, commitment and focus on the here and now, but there comes a point in a player’s career where they start to wonder – what next?
“I’ve come to realise that football’s actually the best thing ever. Being a footballer is the best, but when you stop, you stop forever.
“It’s not a stop for a while and then give it another go; once you’re done, you’re done.”
Those are the words of Ched Evans, who, at the age of 33, is by no means ready to call it a day on his playing career, still feeling he has plenty to offer.
That’s a feeling which is hard to argue with, too, given his performances in recent games in particular, having netted five times in his past four matches.
But, while he remains fully focused on stepping over the white line and playing, he’s well on with the process of preparing for what he hopes will be a life on the touchline.
He told The One And Only: “I’m looking at the coaching side.
“I’ve definitely come to realise it’s not as easy as it looks, though.
“The work that goes into it is ten times more than playing football if you ask me.
“I think as a footballer it just comes naturally and it’s a gift, but the coaching side is definitely something I’m looking into. It intrigues me.
“In regards to when that’ll happen – I still feel good, my body’s good, I’m in good shape, so I’ll keep going as long as I possibly can in regards to playing.”
As things stand, Ched is at the end of his UEFA B Licence, with the next stage being the UEFA A, which is a process that can take between a year and 18 months.
He’s not going through the courses completely away from PNE, though, with the club doing what they can to help the forward.
“I’ve been doing little bits here on the training pitch and I’ve been down to the Academy with Nick [Harrison],” added Ched.
“I took a training session here with the gaffer and Marshy [Mike Marshy] which was much appreciated.
“But, like I said, it was the realisation that it’s not as easy as people think because you’re actually helpless on the touchline, whereas when I’m on the pitch I feel like I can affect the game or a situation.
“Obviously, as a manager, you can make subs and tactical tweaks, but you can’t actually get your hands dirty, which I imagine is frustrating!”
As a player, Ched began his trajectory as an 18-year-old, signing his first professional contract with Manchester City in 2007.
Since that point, there have been highs and lows, and managing the emotions which came with them has been something which the Wales international has learned to deal with as the years have gone on.
He said: “As a younger player coming through, you want to be the best, you want to do your best, and don’t get me wrong I still want to do that now, but I can see looking back how the lows affected me more than the highs.
“The lows were worse than the highest of highs, so that’s been a learning curve, which I’ve come to terms with now.
“I think when I realised that it made my life much easier, off the pitch as well.
“As much as people may think being a footballer is the perfect life, if football’s not going the way you want it to, if this thing which you love and desire which has consumed your whole life from six is not what you want it to be, then you don’t leave that at work.
“You take it home with you and it affects your family, everybody, because your mood’s just not the same. I suppose that’s just a choice we make.
“But I’m at a really good place in my life and, like I’ve said before, what makes me happy is playing football and winning games, and I love doing that for Preston.”
Few memories are ranked higher during his time at the club than the 2-1 victory over Reading at the beginning of November.
Ched bagged both goals that night for his side, getting off the mark for the campaign, and he ultimately proved to be the match-winner, while also being named Sky Sports’ player of the match for his all-round performance.
“It was a big game,” he said. “I think we’d just beaten Swansea and then going away to Reading to make it a six-point week against those two teams was massive and really good for morale as well.
“Collectively, as a team, it was a good performance and to get the brace there was good.
“It was a tiring week. We’d had three games and a busy month, so the squad was tired by the end.
“I was definitely feeling it towards the end of the game, and to see the game out the way we did and get the result was massive.”
Ched also went on to score in the following game against Millwall, which unfortunately ended in defeat, but North End headed into the break for the World Cup in a promising position, sitting ninth and level on points with the final Play-Off spot.
Speaking to the matchday programme ahead of the 4-1 victory over Blackburn Rovers – when he scored a brace – the forward spoke of the importance of wanting to build on what the team have done so far.
“If we can replicate the first half of the season then we’ll be in a good position,” he said.
“But I don’t think we’ll accept just replicating it because there’s been a few games which we drew early on which we believe we should have won.
“If we could have turned just a couple of those draws into wins we’d be sitting in an unbelievable position right now.
“Going into the second half of the season it’s about bettering what we’ve done already.”