Interview + Photography by Luke Alland, using Leica's Q2 Reporter.
"The first thing she said to me was, 'It's not been good', running through the comments day by day and seeing how it got out of hand was very eye-opening."
Brett Staniland is a model, writer and (a surprise to himself) an academic. We sat down with him at Cafe Carmel in Kings Cross for a cup of tea to talk about how he went from aspiring footballer to completing his PhD and, in the middle of it all, appearing on Love Island. There's much more than meets the eye, and sometimes trying to submit your thesis at a Pret during London Fashion Week isn't the best idea.
Luke Alland: There might not be a huge amount of people who know this, but if you were to go back to, y'know, 15, 16-year-old you, football was originally the plan wasn't it?
Brett Staniland: "Pretty much since I was like seven or eight I thought right, I'm just gonna work hard at football. I'm going to put all my eggs in one basket. I mean, I was playing in and out of academies, playing in really successful teams on Sunday mornings and pretty much all the way through. I started off as a goalkeeper until I was about ten and they basically said, 'you're not going to grow to be tall enough to be a goalkeeper. So maybe we need to reconsider what you're doing.' So I moved outfield, like aged 11. I was fortunate to play with and against some really, really good players when I was younger. Some of them went on to play pro. I think I'd have been good enough to have like a decent semi-pro career, but probably not good enough to be pro. I don't think my body's built well enough to withstand being a professional athlete either. But yeah, it was always football, I didn't even consider anything else really."
LA: I'm guessing it was around 17, 18, when professional contracts start to come into the to the mix and there's those who get offered and those who don't, and that's normally the culling point for a lot of clubs. Is that when you made the switch to go to Uni?
BS: "Yeah, it was brutal. Obviously, I dipped into non-League and was thinking you know, you can still work your way up the leagues. Jamie Vardy was still in non-League (football) at that time, actually. I knew of players at that level that had gone on and had decent careers. My dad was like, 'look, you need to concentrate, you're going to Sixth Form now. You can come back to football'. I'd had offers to play in America and try and work through that route too, but I literally concentrated at school and got my head down for a couple months. Scraped through and I was lucky enough to get into a university, on a course that I thought was something I wanted to do and, at the time, did genuinely interest me.
"I really wanted to be a footballer and to work in football. The next best thing was to work with footballers and be in the dressing room, as a sports therapist. And then I realised that I don't really want to work with athletes. I found it a bit more rewarding helping people in general who were coming in with problems. That was better for me. So that was kind of the route I wanted to go down."