After sixteen months of clubless limbo, former Chelsea, Leicester City, and England midfielder Danny Drinkwater has officially called time on his footballing career. The 33-year-old had been trying to get back into playing since his Chelsea contract expired in 2022, but was unable to find a situation to his liking.
Drinkwater announced his decision formally on the latest episode of the High Performance podcast, which is worth a listen if you have an hour of spare time.
“I’d just like to announce my retirement from professional football. It’s probably been a long time coming, especially with the last year, but I think it’s time to officially announce it now.
“[...] I’ve been in limbo for too long, I’ve either been wanting to play but not getting the opportunities to play at a level where I felt valued. [...] I think the way it’s died down has definitely helped. If I was playing week in, week out and had to stop through injury or age I think it would be trickier. I’ve had quite a few offers from Championship clubs, but I never felt the burn, it did nothing for me.”
This podcast, hosted by Jake Humphrey and Prof. Damian Hughes, deals primarily with what makes “high performing” people click — such as, say, Frank Lampard or Mauricio Pochettino — but in Tenacious Double D’s case, it’s actually more interesting to hear him reflect on when things started to go wrong (or try anyway), and his inability to cope with the downward spiral of his career (and lack of supporting structures around him), both on and off the pitch.
I suppose it’s not necessarily a unique story, neither in football nor in other professional sports, but Drinkwater’s case is one of the more high profile cases of this kind and probably quite instructive in many ways. (Including for himself, to try to learn from...)
“I didn’t know how to speak kindly to myself” is one line that stood out to me, especially after recently watching the ESPN segment on Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith, a career journeyman backup who got elevated to a starter in Seattle over the past season and a half. Unfortunately in Drinkwater’s case, he didn’t have that arm around him when it might have been most needed.
Today, hear a Premier League winner announce his retirement from the game and tell you his story, in his words, when he started to struggle.— Jake Humphrey (@mrjakehumphrey) October 30, 2023
And instead of the banal, boring ‘drinkbeer’ replies and criticism, listen to the full emotional conversation and hear Danny Drinkwater… pic.twitter.com/KqGJ0XNiT4
Drinkwater also talks a fair about how his Chelsea move came about (I guess we wanted to do it the same summer as N’Golo Kanté, but the relationship between the clubs soured and then the move had to be forced 12 months later — “it got a bit silly”), the motivations behind it (wanting to prove people wrong, as well as the financial incentives of course) and how it all went wrong for him at Stamford Bridge (starting that second season, as he admittedly lost focus, plus some major mystery catalyst that he doesn’t elaborate on, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of the interview ... but hey).
Anyway, take a listen/watch if you want; and best of luck to Danny in whatever may come next! Hopefully he’s able to find happiness in his future endeavors.