June 14, 2024

Bromley v York City, Buildbase FA Trophy, Semi-final, Hayes Lane, 02 April 2022

Liam Trotter called time on his journey as a footballer last month but now comes a global adventure.

The former Millwall midfielder, 34, is going to spend the next year travelling the world with his wife Lucie.

And Trotter, who also had spells with AFC Wimbledon and Bromley, is not sure whether he will come back into the sport when he returns to the UK.

“My next step is probably a little bit different to the one a lot of players take,” Trotter told the South London Press. “We leave on June 12.

“I’ve always been a keen traveller but with football, not bemoaning the fact, you don’t get the opportunity to go away for eight weeks, three months or four months because you’re always contracted and have the next season coming up.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and it’s a part of why I’m retiring now. I still feel that I have a couple of years left in the legs but that time in retirement is going to come eventually, so better to do it now, go and do something I and my wife always wanted to do.

“We’ve got a soft route, a plan. It’s very much a backpacker route through Central America, around South America, East Africa, South Asia – so India, Sri Lanka and Nepal – and then over to South-East Asia – Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

“We’re smashing a lot of the continents out.

“I wouldn’t say that I’ve been anywhere off the beaten track because when you’re a footballer you get those six weeks off and you want to go somewhere you’re guaranteed to enjoy. A lot of us would go for at least one party holiday where we’d just have a blowout – get drunk and let off all the steam from what would usually be a long season. Then if you had a girlfriend you’d go somewhere a little nicer, a bit of a beach holiday. After that your mindset would be back on getting fit and ready.

“Some lads loved a random trip in the off season but I always had it in my head that this was how I wanted to do it. People would say did I fancy Thailand but I’d tell that I’ll wait until I’m unemployed.

“I’m open to the fact this is probably going to be a pretty life-changing experience for me. I mentioned in my post (about retirement on social media) that I’m a little bit scared and I need to find out who I am without football. That’s kind of what this trip is about.

“I loved football and it has always been a part of my life. As a footballer it becomes part of your identity. I’ve been known since I was six years old as Liam Trotter the footballer.

“It is about having that time away from football to re-energise and make a decision about whether I still want to be Liam Trotter, in football – in either coaching or management – or after a year away I may decide that was one part of my life and now I’m on to the next chapter and I want it be something new. What that new is, I don’t know yet. I’m sure while I’m travelling that I will find out a lot about myself. You’ll kind of have to watch this space, like I am, and see where life takes me.

“I’m lucky to have lived the life I have so far. Me and my wife have been saving up for this opportunity. Now it is here.”

Ipswich-born Trotter had two loans with the Lions, while on the books of his hometown club, and then joined them permanently in June 2010. He had headed back for another temporary spell in January of that year as they won the League One play-offs.

The following four campaigns were all spent in the Championship with Millwall – with fairly regular transfer links to bigger fish.

“Realistically Millwall is where I made my career,” said Trotter. “It’s where I got my first opportunity to really shine as a footballer and show what I could do.

“Millwall, to me, is everything. I look back extremely fondly on my time there. We got a promotion and we always had a great group of lads.

“I was fortunate to play for a really good manager in Kenny Jackett, he showed a lot of faith in me. Sometimes football is a little bit about that – a little bit of luck and faith from someone.

“Kenny came into my life and took me to Millwall at a time when I needed someone to show a bit of faith in me, if I was to kick on. He did that and the club supported me.

“Millwall was a huge part of my career.”

“Promotions are always the highlights and there are different reasons why. The first time I tasted it was with Scunthorpe, that’s what made that special. I’d played bits and parts in their team and they were already doing well, whereas at Millwall I started every week – we weren’t in the play-offs, then we made the play-offs and won it.

“That was when I first felt like a professional footballer who had really contributed.

“I got promoted with Bolton as well.”

So did he come close to leaving the Lions when he was reported to be a transfer target for the likes of Southampton, Stoke, Everton and Reading?

“There was speculation and there were clubs that were interested but it wasn’t something I was looking to do,” said Trotter. “I was keen to stay at Millwall because I was aware this was where I was doing well. I was thriving with that opportunity.

“I had an opportunity to leave the year before I did – it was Bolton – and I chose not to because ultimately I wanted to do well at the club – that was my key goal. I was always more keen to stay than leave.

“Bolton were languishing in the bottom half of the Championship and we were in the top six at the time.

“I was playing well and scoring goals. The opportunity to go in January could’ve been there – Bolton wanted to make a bid – but I’d said: ‘No, I want to try and get us up and reach the play-offs at Millwall’.”

Dougie Freedman did get his man in January 2014. By that stage Jackett had quit the Lions, taking charge at Wolves, with Millwall’s hotseat only warmed briefly by Steve Lomas before Ian Holloway’s appointment.

“Kenny was the one who had built a really strong team – he was at the forefront of everything we’d done well,” said Trotter.

“I think part of the reason he went was that the team had lost their way a little bit.

“That December we were something like second and looking for promotion, hence why I was desperate to stay, and we ended up staying up on the final day. That’s an incredible drop off – we only won five league games in the second half of that season.

“Kenny knew the team needed to be rebuilt and either felt he wasn’t up to the task or didn’t want to do that, that he wanted to start afresh somewhere new.

“The club got into a bit of instability over the next two years with Lomas and Holloway. Players, like myself, left and that eventually led to relegation.

“Kenny was very disciplined and matter-of-fact, you always knew where you stood and where the team stood – in terms of our goals.

“He wasn’t a screamer and a shouter. He’d only do that when he felt the team were lacking desire or workrate. Other than that it was very much about the football and the tactics.

“He was a very consistent man and that leads on to the players and the team – it helps you thrive.

“The second half of that season (2012-13) we lost our consistency a little bit with signings coming in and people on higher wages when they weren’t really playing.”

Trotter initially signed on loan for Bolton before penning a three-year contract the following summer.

“It was a difficult one because on one hand I was super excited to be going to such a big club who had recently been in the Premier League,” he said.

“They had quite a few lads who had been playing at that level, so you know they’ve got top quality footballers.

“But it was tinged with sadness because I wasn’t asking to leave Millwall – my contract was up in the summer and ultimately Bolton could offer better wages than Millwall were willing to offer.

“I had an honest conversation with Ian Holloway and he said the club weren’t willing to offer what I felt I deserved after three-and-a-half years of being one of the most consistent players.

“The club, like I’ve said already, was a bit fractured at that point. There were people earning almost double what I was earning but I was playing almost every week and they weren’t even starting. That was where the disconnect kind of happened.

“You can’t help with certain situations – the manager changes, the club changes and contracts run down etc etc.

“I was left with no choice. It felt like now was the right time [to go].”

Trotter headed back to the capital in 2017, signing for Wimbledon. Initially the Dons were unable to put a deal on the table – as they needed to free up space on their wagebill first – but then came through with an acceptable package just before Trotter was about to sign for Lincoln City.

“We didn’t have a big budget and it was always a struggle to stay up,” said Trotter. “Neil Ardley sold the club to me and he was right – it was a great club to play for.”

Trotter’s penultimate playing gig came at Bromley, winning the FA Trophy at Wembley with Andy Woodman’s side in 2022.

“You’re aware at that stage that those moments don’t come around very often unless you are at Manchester City,” he said.

“For me to finish my full-time professional career at Wembley, and with a trophy, was very special.

“When you lose you just want to get off the pitch. When you win then you get the chance to hug your family – your wife, parents and all your friends come to watch. You can really celebrate the moment.”

Trotter’s finale came at Chelmsford City last season in the National League South.

He won their Player of the Season award as the Essex club finished fifth, playing the full 120 minutes as they lost in extra-time to St Albans in the play-offs and reached the first round of the FA Cup, going out in a replay at home to Barnet.

Trotter, who was part of the Ipswich side that won the FA Youth Cup in 2005, played nearly 500 senior matches.

So, any regrets?

“The older you get as a footballer the more experienced you get,” he said. “There are going to be moments you look back on and think ‘ah, if only I knew then what I know now’. But that’s football and life in general.

“I enjoyed my football and I feel very lucky to have played for the clubs I played for and at the level I did.

“Could I have done things differently at certain stages? Yeah. But, at the same time, I did what I thought was best at the time. Ultimately I can’t look back with any regrets because I was fortunate enough to play football for the last 20 years.

“When I was 14 or 15 years old and I wasn’t even in an academy, if you’d offered me the opportunity to have the career I did then I’d have bitten your hand off – because it was all I ever wanted.”

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