The stereotype of the over-paid footballer driving fast cars and living the high life with a girl band singer on their arm during and after their playing career is well and truly broken with the slightly poignant tale about Neil Shipperley.
Shipperley made an increasingly, ahem, big impression with the nine clubs in his 14-year, 119-goal career which started at Chelsea and included two spells at Palace.
While still involved with football, after taking over as manager at non-league Walton Casuals in June, the former England under-21 international is now spending much of his time astride a moped riding around the streets of London doing “The Knowledge” in his quest to become a licensed black taxi driver.
“It’s very hard but it’s just something you’ve got to crack on with because it takes a lot of time. As long as you’re aware of that then there’s no rush,” Shipperley said in an online interview this week.
“This is the only job I can think of where you actually know everything before you start. You literally do know everything. You see other drivers with sat-navs but there’s no way of cheating this.
“You’ve got to do it, it’s hard graft but it’s up to you what you do after that. If you’ve got a punter who wants to go 15 miles towards the M1 then you put your sat-nav on because the knowledge is only within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross.”
Shipperley, who was never an ultra-trim sort of striker – he once featured in a Daily Mirror feature of “10 Fat Footballers”, “has ballooned in size since retiring”, according to the report. The mind boggles…
“I can tell you it’s quite a sight. I’m lucky there’s a helmet on there, so everyone doesn’t know who I am.
“I’ve been called a walrus, a panda and no doubt there have been a few other words I haven’t heard as well.
“I was always a frustrated man who wanted to get to this size. I had to work so hard that as soon as I retired it was full on – it was party time.”