Ryan McLaughlin: The life of a free agent footballer24 December 2022
Last updated on .From the section Irish
Training with Michael Conlan, looking for work during a winter World Cup and going viral thanks to Victoria Beckham - life as a free agent has certainly been interesting for Ryan McLaughlin.
The 28-year-old left Morecambe on deadline day and - for the first time in 11 years - found himself outside the protection of having a club to call home.
McLaughlin earned a big move to Liverpool at the age of 16 but the Northern Ireland defender departed Anfield in 2016 and has played for Oldham Athletic, Blackpool, Rochdale and the Shrimps.
After spells in the Championship and League One, McLaughlin admits he has found adjusting to the footballing abyss "difficult".
"I thought I would be able to do a few months, like a summer break, but after a few weeks you are itching to get going again," he said.
"September to January is a good four to five months of your career, and it is a short career, so sometimes you ask yourself, 'should I have done that?'
"But, I look at myself. I'm 28, I still have a good five or six years in me.
"I still have ambitions, I want to try different things, I want to play abroad, I want to win things in different leagues and I want to get in the Northern Ireland squad."
Keeping the routine
McLaughlin, who won the last of his five Northern Ireland caps in 2018, says trying to keep the routine of club football has been key to staying fit during his time as a free agent.
He has been training with friends' teams in his native Belfast and has tried to follow the routine of two sessions a day in his bid to stay sharp.
"Losing the routine is a big thing and I have tried to keep that by getting up early in the morning and going training.
"Sometimes training by yourself can be difficult. I haven't known anything different than being at a club.
"I try and keep it as normal as possible. I have the same days off as I would have in football, and I keep that routine so when I go into it again in January then it won't be a big change.
"You have to see the bigger picture and the light at the end of the tunnel, and my goal is to play in January.
"That's what is on my mind with every run I go on, it's that bit of extra motivation."Ryan McLaughlin, pictured in training with Luis Suarez, spent six years at Liverpool after moving to Anfield at the age of 16
McLaughlin says he has had offers from England, Scotland, the League of Ireland and the United States, but he "has to weigh everything up".
He adds "it's probably the maddest time to be a free agent" thanks to the winter World Cup, and he will decide on his future over the festive period.
"I'm not ruling anything out. I'm looking at everything," he added.
"The football is the main thing and that is the stuff that attracts you to places. There are a number of things that have to be right.
"It has to make sense financially and it has to the be the right length of contract - you have to be secure too, at the end of the day."
Conlan 'eye opener' and TikTok fame
McLaughlin is a boxing fanatic and has become friends with elite boxer Michael Conlan, and he was invited to the 31-year-old's training camp for 10 days before December's bout with Karim Guerfi.
He said Belfast featherweight Conlan "is probably the fittest person I have ever seen" and could do long distance running at the Olympics.
"I was telling him that with Liverpool's first team we didn't do anywhere near as hard as this.
"It was an eye opener but see by the end, I felt so much fitter.
"I loved it, even though it was hard and it brought you to places mentally that you've never been before."McLaughlin spent 10 days in Michael Conlan's training camp and said it took him to new places mentally
McLaughlin went viral in November after he tweeted that he was the sole person Victoria Beckham followed on TikTok.
He joked it was "no coincidence" as he was called 'Becks' during his time at Rochdale, after a "wind-up" with a team-mate about looking like - or not looking like - David Beckham.
"They saw my crossing and was realised it definitely wasn't David Beckham. No one calls me it now, I'm raging," he said with a massive grin on his face.
"I was lying in bed one night, having a scroll and got a notification. It was a blue tick and I was like, 'that's not Victoria Beckham, surely?'
"I went on it and it was. She must have been scrolling through and thought 'that's my husband, David. I'll follow him'.
"I posted it on Twitter and she unfollowed me about a day later. I was gutted."
This news item was provided by the BBC Sport - Football website - the original link is: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/64039696?at_medium=RSS&at_campaign=KARANGA