Ex-Middlesbrough footy star Richard Kell became a Jet2 pilot after two broken legs wrecked his footballing dream – The Sun

WHO needs a football career?

When Richard Kell, now 43, decided to hang up his boots at 27 after suffering two broken legs he already had a back-up plan.

The former Middlesbrough trainee began learned how to fly a plane during an injury lay-off at Scunthorpe United from 2001-2004.

And back in 2020 he revealed all about what led to him becoming an airline captain for commercial airline Jet2.

"I had just recovered from my first broken leg and felt I was struggling to get back to full fitness at Scunthorpe," Kell revealed in 2016.

"I was on a month to month contract and whilst waiting in the airport for a pre-season tour to Ireland I got talking to a pilot who was sat next to me.

"On my return I went to my nearest airport (Humberside) to make my initial enquiries.

"I had completed about 10-15 hours training, however my fitness returned, I signed a new contract and my pilots training was put on the ‘back burner’ for a time.

"Fortunately I was able to keep returning to my training at different times in my playing career."

Kell believes that key skills he had as a footballer put him in good stead when it came to transitioning towards flying a plane.



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He said: "I was analytical as a footballer and always wanted to learn more.

"Also, football gave me interpersonal skills. Being confined within the ‘tin box’ of a cockpit at 35,000 feet, means that I must be appreciative of my co pilots and other crew, who I have to interact with.

"Finally, I was a fairly technical player so my overall touch and hand/ eye coordination is a great attribute to have as a pilot, helping me instinctively know when to apply power and rudder."

Kell jokes that he is as critical of his performance as a pilot as he was a footballer – and he analyses his performance in the cockpit just like he did on the pitch.

"Rather like being a footballer I always want to do the job to the best of my ability," he said.

"I still sometimes think about my performance on the way home and how I can do my job better the next time."

Making it as a footballer is a tough ask, every kid dreams of becoming one.

However, going on to become a pilot is equally as hard in what is a competitive industry.

"You can be different, but nothing worthwhile is easy," Kell revealed.

"My chosen career was every bit as hard to get into as football and can be equally as competitive. However, if I had failed to gain my commercial pilot license I could still have gone and done something more mainstream and familiar.

"I didn’t want any niggling doubts or ‘what ifs’ later in life."


When his premature retirement came knocking on the door, Kell was awarded a lump sum from the PFA.

They also gave him an educational grant that helped fund his aviation courses.

Kell said: “When I retired I put all my money into finishing my private licence off and going from one thing to the next; commercial licence, ground school etc.

“After I retired I received some insurance money and I thought I would never lay my hands on that sort of cash again so, rather than put an extension on my house or something like that, I thought ‘this is my career so let’s do something with it’.

“Aviation will last you up until you’re 60-65 years old so it’s a long-term investment.

"Footballers can get funnelled down the path of coaching or management but there is a lot more out there and it’s worked out really well for me.”

Kell has one piece of advice to pass on to players, especially in the lower leagues.

"My main advice would be that players only tend to think about an alternative career during difficult periods in their careers. Try and capitalize and think of your transition when things are going well."

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