Despite aiming for the stars, all too often young footballers come up short, missing out on the chance of earning professional contracts. They find themselves left with no qualifications, no dream to chase, and most importantly, what feels like no hope. Certified Sports – founded by former footballer Max Noble – has turned the spotlight on this group, beginning with the short film ‘Chasing Shadows'.

Max Noble is a former professional football player who played in both the Premier League and for Wales internationally. But at 19 he had a double knee surgery resulting in the end of his career before it ever really had the chance to begin. Following a battle with mental health as he struggled to come to terms with life without any academic qualifications and no support from his former football club, he found himself on a new path; a path that has led to the creation of Certified Sports.

The battle facing young footballers that don’t quite make the grade for whatever reason is a real one and it attacks on several fronts, not least the mental side. Founded in London, Certified Sports has been created as a premium sportswear brand that supports the overlooked, becoming the voice of the underrated, and the brand donates a percentage from each sale to help support permanently injured athletes prepare for life after sport. Further to that, a short film titled ‘Chasing Shadows’ has also been released, and it was made in an attempt to force sporting organisations to start providing aftercare to all young athletes.

The early part of Noble’s story is sadly not an unusual one; being released by a club and having nothing to fall back on is an all-too familiar beat. But that’s where his story diverges. Focusing his energy on the power of good and turning his negative experiences into positives in an attempt to champion the forgotten, Noble is working to be the force for change that he wants to see in the game, and we were fortunate enough to hear about his journey and the project as a whole first-hand.

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Tell us about your journey and how it led to this piece of story telling?

Like the rest of us, my dream was always to become a professional footballer. From the age of 8 when I signed for THE CRAZY DONS – we trained 3x per week and played games on Sundays. At 14 I transferred from Wimbledon (whilst they made the transition to MKDons) to Fulham FC. I left school a year early without sitting GCSEs to be a full time footballer and with the promise of a professional contract I committed every waking moment to working as hard as I possibly could to fulfil my dreams.

At 19, I had double knee surgery and was cast aside without even a follow up phone call. It was only as I battled through depression and crippling anxiety that I saw the exact same process happening to all my football friends. We became so embarrassed about “not being good enough" that we distanced and separate ourselves; making this film is my way of driving us back together and ensuring it doesn’t happen to future generations. 

What is the core message you wanted to really drive home here?

Young, vulnerable boys are cast aside with no aftercare from football clubs. 

We aren’t all expecting to become superstar footballers but what we should be able to expect is to be helped. After committing and sacrificing so much, at such a young age we’re cast aside without a mention of an internship, a course or any potential job opportunities. 

As adults we understand what rejection and trauma can do to young people, yet football clubs aren’t doing anything to aid our mental health post release.

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We aren’t all expecting to become superstar footballers but what we should be able to expect is to be helped. After committing and sacrificing so much at such a young age we’re cast aside"

In your words, can you tell us just how tough that mental struggle is for players that dedicate so much of their life to the game to only have it taken away from them?

The pain of feeling like a failure is excruciating, the embarrassment of having let everybody down is unbearably hard to take and the depression once you realise the bright future you might have had no longer exists really makes you question whether you want to live anymore. In a world where showing emotion is a weakness, football clubs and sporting organisations must now have aftercare systems in place to aid and protect the ones who need it most.

How vital is it now to step in and make sure there is support for those who go through hurdles similar to you?

Not one young person that goes through academy systems should feel like they need to kill themselves after they’ve been released. 

In 2020 and beyond football clubs must do more to take care of its most vulnerable. The FA, The Premier League and PFA need to step in and make it a requirement that if you have an academy you must provide aftercare to ex players.

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Not one young person that goes through academy systems should feel like they need to kill themselves after they’ve been released"

What would you like to see happen in the game to ensure players are looked after appropriately?

A clear, concise aftercare package offered to all academy players once deemed “not good enough”. The success rate of 'making it’ from a professional academy into a first team is less 0.012% so in my opinion - all academies should now be judged on how happy / mentally stable their former graduates are post football and how many go on to have successful lives and careers.

Where do you set your ambitions now? This film is such a strong foundation to flourish from… 

My brand Certified Sports will be releasing an all black, premium sportswear collection (named: Season 21/22) in line with the start of the next football season. We will give a percentage of all sales to help psychologically support young, ex athletes. 

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A percentage of every sale at will be donated to help psychologically support ex/injured athletes.

Whether you’re concerned about yourself or a loved one, please email: