(function(w,d,s,l,i){w[l]=w[l]||[];w[l].push({'gtm.start': new Date().getTime(),event:'gtm.js'});var f=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0], j=d.createElement(s),dl=l!='dataLayer'?'&l='+l:'';j.async=true;j.src= 'https://www.googletagmanager.com/gtm.js?id='+i+dl;f.parentNode.insertBefore(j,f); })(window,document,'script','dataLayer','GTM-PVZZ2FB');

Latest News

Toby Bancroft | From South East to Middle East

Toby Bancroft | From South East to Middle East

At just 19 years of age, Toby Bancroft took a gamble and left the world of professional football in order to pursue a different dream. Despite earning a one-year professional contract after previously being released by his boyhood club Gillingham, a series of events one summer saw the forward cast side. “I remember it was my 18th birthday on the day we all got our decisions and every single one of us got let go. Toby told LFE. “It was a bit of a nightmare; I remember that birthday very well but all for the wrong reasons! However, just a month later they called me back. Steve Evans was the first team manager at the time, and he said he wanted to offer me a one-year professional contract for the upcoming season. Within such a short time, my life had completely changed around. It went from going so well, to so badly and then really good again.

“We had a game in the Kent Cup against Dover in which I made my debut. I came on in the 90th minute and scored in the 91st. At that point everything was up in the air, I thought ‘right, I’m flying here’. I was young, training with the first team almost every day and just living the dream.

“I was doing my first pre-season and it was going really well, but then a little incident happened on the training pitch, and it changed. To be honest, I’m not sure whether the manager really liked my playing style but it’s hard to translate what you do in the youth sides into the first team. In the youth team you can be a big fish but not in the first team. It just went downhill from there. I don’t hold anything against the manager or anyone else, it’s just part and parcel of football at the end of the day. A week before the season started, I was back training with the youth team. It went from this ultimate high to ‘what am I doing?’ I loved the lads in the U18s, but I wasn’t progressing or getting any better, I was just wasting time. That was that really.”

After his time with the Gills concluded, the Kent born youngster delved into non-league football for a period of time, plying his trade at his local side Sittingbourne. “After I left Gillingham, I went to play non-league. In my first year I played for Sittingbourne and that was great. Darren Blackburn was the manager at the time, and he was absolutely top. Really good guy and a good manager. I was doing well but I was still playing like a youth team footballer. I was more focused on nutmegging people and doing flashy skills when in reality it’s men’s football and people are paying to come and watch so the main focus is winning the game. So, in that regard, I did find it difficult, but non-league developed me massively on and off the pitch.”

Whilst turning out for Sittingbourne in the Isthmian League, Toby began flirting with the idea of moving into the property industry after falling out of love with football. “I went straight into the property game after leaving Gillingham. When I was playing football, I was already going into houses on Wednesdays and renovating them with a company. I probably quit football too early, but I lacked a huge amount of self-confidence after what happened that summer and I gave in. When I got to about 18, I realised that it wasn’t actually the football that I loved, it was what could come with it. I was training hard and giving my all, but all for the wrong reasons. I hated training but I was doing it because I was money motivated, which is entirely the wrong reason to do it. In reality, that is the wrong reason to do anything in life. You should enjoy what you’re doing and then the other stuff will hopefully come with it.”

Despite coming to the realisation that a career in football wasn’t truthfully the path that he wanted to go down, Toby admits losing his identity as a footballer was tough to deal with. “I think it’s something that completely gets put aside. Realistically, it’s only organisations like LFE and the PFA that support you on that journey. The support I got from them was really good. I have a fantastic family, really tight knit. They were always around me and supportive at that time and in that sense I was lucky. My family and my work ethic to carry on were my coping mechanisms after leaving football. The hardest thing was losing my identity. I was known as a footballer throughout my whole childhood and then once I wasn’t anymore, I had no idea what my identity was. I used to rely on the fact that I played football. It brought me popularity and perks, so it was strange and also very gutting when that all stopped.”

Having left the world of football behind, Toby was keen to take the next step in his property career and stumbled across an opportunity that he felt was too good to ignore. “I was firmly focused on property as soon as I left football. It’s a good business to get into. I saw an opportunity with investing in property, as a private investment director to be precise. I saw it on LinkedIn and realistically knew I didn’t have the qualifications for it, but I told myself that I was going to attend the interview anyway and as soon as I’m there, I’ll make an impression. As soon as the interview started, I really liked everything about the opportunity. I said to them there and then that I will work ridiculous hours and I want to go really far. I was only 20, but I knew I was mature enough and had the relevant skill set to do it.”

The former footballer had the courage of his convictions and secured the role as a private investment director for One Investments: a leading property investment company with offices all over the globe, with Toby jetting off to start a new life at their Dubai branch. “I left a lot of things back at home. I had a great girlfriend, great family, and friends etc but realistically if you’re going to give something your all and put in the necessary work, sometimes you have to put those things to the side. That was really difficult because you miss out on a lot of opportunities that society says you should be doing as a 20-year-old, but any successful person in any field will tell you that you almost have to be a bit obsessed with what you’re doing.

It’s been life changing. The beauty of Dubai is one, it’s very westernised, so it’s like England in a way, but it’s sunny and I don’t have to pay any taxes! You can do anything you want, whenever you want. Everything is open pretty much 24/7. I’m really big into paddle, I play that more or less every morning. That keeps me sane and keeps me fit. But I’m in the office sometimes from 11am until 1am, that’s the reality sometimes, you have to put in the hard yards to reap the rewards. But it’s an extremely glamorous place – a really attractive place to come and work, but it’s not for everyone but I think that goes for anything. I do think it’s an ideal place for people coming out of football in a way. Football is such a high-pressured environment, but through football you learn so many important life skills. Those skills can be transferred into working out here, but without the pressures. I absolutely love it. I love my day-to-day job and routine.

“I wake up about 8am every day and the first thing I do is go for a quick swim to get some sun. Then I’ll either go in the gym or play some paddle. Another great thing about Dubai is that you can get anywhere in like 10/15 minutes in a car or taxi. I head into the office at around 11:30. I’ll then call leads, call data, and call some clients to keep up to date with them. I will then have some meetings either on Zoom or in person if that client is in Dubai. That is more or less my day, spending time with clients and being personable; that is what One Investments is all about. We’re not an agency, we don’t sell property. We do build our own property but we’re essentially the middle man between the agencies and the developers, so we’re a lot more personable on that front.”

Since his move from the South East to the Middle East, Toby has found a new lease of life and believes the flexibility and added incentives that Dubai offers makes it an attractive proposition for anyone. “So many more people nowadays want to have their own business and they want to work for themselves. Now, I’m employed by One Investments, but I’ll be working off a laptop or my phone wherever I am in the world, whether that be Dubai, Kent, America… it’s the same. I can speak to my clients from anywhere, so I am working for myself in that regard. You get out entirely what you put in, it’s the same with everything. I believe you make your own luck in any line of work, but especially in this field. Depending on how hard you work, you can determine how much you earn in this industry. There is some people in the office who are perhaps just happy to close a couple of deals and probably earn 40/50k a year, whereas there is some who do everything they possibly can and make upwards of 500k a year. Moving out here and working in this line of work is a great experience and I’d recommend it too most. There is also so many incentives out here. If you work hard, you can win prizes such as holidays to places like the Maldives.”

Looking back at his time as an apprentice, he believes it’s important for others now in the same position to keep an open mind and maintain a positive outlook throughout their journey. “It’s really difficult. I had the best time being a scholar, I absolutely loved it, but one thing I would say is don’t take it too seriously. I always performed better when I played with a smile on my face. You’re 16/17 years old and you think it’s the end of the world if you miss a chance or don’t get picked for a match. We’ve all seen the amazing stories of people like Jamie Vardy who suffered set back after set back but are now playing at the very top. It was the worst day of my life being released by Gillingham, but then I realised there is more to life than football, so much more. You learn a lot of transferrable skills through football, and I translated a lot of them into my next chapter outside of the game. They’re really valuable, regardless of if you make it or not.”

Other Case Studies

Overcoming Adversity

Overcoming Adversity

Sutton United apprentice Javon Marquis has already had to overcome obstacles during his short career so far. Being born with..

Case Studies General News
The Best of Times

The Best of Times

For Kian Best, the 2023-24 campaign has been a memorable one so far. From signing his first professional contract at..

Case Studies General News
Lewis Simmons | From Preston to Parachute Regiment

Lewis Simmons | From Preston to Parachute Regiment

In 2019, Lewis Simmons was released by his boyhood club Preston North End at the conclusion of his two-year apprenticeship…

Case Studies General News