Ex-Manchester United Footballer Who “Destroyed” His Career Explains How He Rebuilt Life In Adelaide After Prison
Callum Flanagan is currently a firefighter here in Adelaide but he once was an up and coming Manchester United player, his life took a dramatic turn when he caused a serious crash after a training session which landed him in prison at just 19 years old, he has revealed his incredible story with SAFM’s Bec & Soda.
Growing up Callum was a Manchester boy and he was picked up in the club’s youth squad at just 12 years old where he played until 19 years old, he was living his dream playing for the biggest football club in the world.
In 2004, he had played in the FA Youth Cup and he had come off the bench and scored a goal.
But it was the next day which turned out to be lifechanging for Flanagan. He had gone into the training ground at Carrington for a cool down, jumping into the jacuzzi and having a chat with superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.
Callum says: “I am all hyped from the game before and I leave the training ground and that’s where my story starts to take a turn.”
“I come out the training ground and I also have another player with me Phil Marsh in my car.”
“I am driving back to my digs and there’s a fellow player in front of me and we take a bend on the road a bit too quickly and I hit somebody head on, I flip my car, I cause a massive scene basically, and Phil Marsh is injured, and the lady I hit had to be freed from her car, it was a very serious scene.”
When asked by Bec if he was drag racing with fellow player Mads Timms Callum says, “Well they said we were racing, we were driving in convoy so he was ahead of me and we were having a bit of banter out the window, there were witnesses there who said we were racing, but I just took a bend too quickly and hit someone, and lost control of the car.”
“It all blacked out, the next thing I know the firies are there, the police are there, it just so happened that on that day Manchester City were signing a big player, a goalkeeper called David James, and where I had the accident was right outside their training ground.”
“There were a lot of media outside of their training ground, they heard what happened and rushed out and next thing it was blowing up and it’s all over the media, the press from it was bad too, and I got myself into a little bit of trouble.”
Callum got charged and went to court for dangerous driving but the day at court ended rather differently to how he and his lawyer had expected. He was charged then and there and taken straight to prison for eight months.
“My lawyer said it would be a quick in and out of there and I’d probably get a bit of community service I’d have to cleaning graffiti of the walls or something, it turns out that they take your suit of you and take you underneath the court and straight to the cells. I did eight months in Lancaster Farms (prison).”
Soda asked what was going through his mind going into prison:
“I’m not going to lie it was tough. Prison isn’t a nice place to be, full of questionable characters, away from your family and friends.”
“But the first night was terrifying, because it was all over the media…. they knew we were going to the prison, I remember them banging on the pipes shouting our names.”
On his interactions with Manchester United club manager Sir Alex Ferguson he says:
“He had one conversation with me and he came out after training and he came and had a chat with me, it was literally just a couple of questions.”
“I vaguely remember him saying ‘what happened son?’ and I said I effed up boss, I’m sorry I just took the corner too quick, and he said, ‘you’re going to f-ing learn from that son.’”
“Within a few months I was let go, my contract was paid up, that was the end of that, I was gutted, I hurt my friend, I’d gone to prison, I had destroyed my career at Manchester United, I went on the wrong path there for a while. Luckily a couple years later I found my way to Australia and I turned my life around.”
Callum played soccer for Western Strikers and is now a firefighter for the MFS at Port Adelaide.
When asked how he looks back on the experience he said: “It’s been a life lesson, there’s still the guilt there, you don’t ever get away from that sort of stuff.”
“When I thought about my life and what I had been through, I thought applying for the firies would be a great way for me to come full circle and look at it from a different view.”
“It brings home what the consequences are if you take risks on the road, I’ve seen it from both angles, I’ve been through it myself, I’ve been in a serious accident, and I now I attend hundreds of incidents every year so I now the havoc and stress that it causes to families and the victims.”
Talking about the latest Beckham Netflix documentary and watching it with his Port Adelaide MFS crew Callum says: “We’ve watched it, the boys loved it, it was great to give them a glimpse of what it’s like for some of the huge soccer stars in England to see what they live like. Becks was my hero growing up, he was my idol, I looked up to him, I was copying his hairstyles, copying his clothes, he was the real first superstar footballer.”
“People forget just how good he was, he’s known for his hairstyles and celebrity missus, but he was an unbelievable football player.”