When Anthony Parker saw his teenage friends starring on Match of the Day, he wished he could have their careers — but fast-forward a decade and Premier League stars are now coming to him for advice.
Parker, 31, was part of the same Middlesbrough academy age group that produced James Morrison, Lee Cattermole, Andrew Taylor and David Wheater, all of whom have played more than 100 games in the top flight.
Yet while his teenage friendship group went on to forge successful playing careers — all four are still playing in the Championship or higher — Parker had to seek a different path to make a success out of football when he dropped out of the academy system at 17.
He now heads up the sports, media and entertainment division of Avanti Wealth Management, part of London Stock Exchange-listed St. James’s Place, the biggest wealth manager in Britain.
“My best friends broke through into Middlesbrough’s first team at a really young age,” Parker told City A.M.
“From the age of 18 these guys were all playing Premier League football, signing big contracts. So I’ve always been around the journey from a player going from nothing to getting the big contract, getting a bigger house, getting the nice car to then all of a sudden people wanting a piece of it.
“Through my friends I saw the amount of people who would try to take advantage of young high-earners — most of whom don’t know who is good to work with.”
Despite not graduating into the first team with them, Parker stayed close to his friendship group and mirrored their success on the field with his own burgeoning business career off the pitch.
When his friends started getting Premier League pay packets and eyeing up their first sports cars, Parker would find them the best deals with the most trusted businesses before new and unfamiliar faces suddenly appeared on the scene with ideas of where they should spend their money.
It might not sound like vital work for professionals in a league which has an average salary in excess of £2m, yet over the years through various different ventures before landing at Avanti in 2015, Parker says he has seen many other players fall into serious trouble as a result of bad advice and bad investments.
According to XPRO, an organisation set up to support retired footballers, two in five players will experience serious financial difficulties once retired, with most not finding any income replacement and having to live on savings.
“If I’m dealing with an 18-year-old players now, I’ve got experience of their spending habits and I’ve seen people take advantage of it,” says Parker, whose clients also include rugby players and boxers.
Shady characters circling for the opportunity to siphon off footballers’ cash into dodgy schemes certainly exist and Avanti’s pedigree as a wealth management firm favoured by chief executives and chairmen puts it firmly at odds with such figures.
Yet Parker says it can simply be the overwhelming details, terms and structures that footballers — many of whom are really just itching to show off that new Rolex — can be overwhelmed by.
“Too many people in the professional services talk too technically when dealing with footballers,” he says.
“And so they’ve got no clear picture of how much they should be spending, how much they should be saving.”
In his current role Parker sits down with players, discusses what kind of lifestyle they want — which cars, clothes and Cristal they plan on buying — and then works out with his team exactly what the player can spend on it and what they should save in order to keep financially healthy well into retirement.
It’s a “magic number” that Avanti promises will set its players up for a smooth transition into retirement.
Of course, for some players only getting serious towards the end of their playing days or at the lower end of the pay-scale, the process can be more about education options and post-retirement career opportunities.
“Not every footballer can retire and never work again,” says Parker.
“They’ve seen me go and get a professional career and they’ve seen there’s hope for a different career after football.
“My best friend Andrew Taylor, currently at Bolton, he’s seen what I’ve done in finance and gone to get a master’s degree in sports directorship.”
Now their playing days are ticking towards an end, those in the boots are learning from their friend in a suit.
“The average man’s career starts to really take off at 35-years-old,” says Parker. “And that’s just when a footballer’s career comes to an end.
“I don’t want my friends to stop doing well when I start doing well.”
Four Premier League players who went bankrupt
Bosnich, who was signed by Manchester United as Peter Schmeichel's replacement, was declared bankrupt by the High Court in London in 2008 after developing a $5,000-a-week cocaine addiction that blighted his career. By that point he had returned to Australia and moved back in with his parents.
Aston Villa fan favourite Lee Hendrie lost a £10m fortune after the value of numerous property investments plummeted. He said he had received “very bad advice” during his career.
John Arne Riise
The former Liverpool left-back filed for bankruptcy in 2007 after being unable to pay off debts incurred during a failed business enterprise which Riise claimed a former agent had taken him into without his knowledge.
Former England No1 David James was declared bankrupt in 2014, having reportedly built up debts from a costly 2005 divorce. The one-time Liverpool stopper was forced to raise money by selling-off memorabilia from his career.