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HAVE BOOTS, WILL TRAVEL; The curious life of a soccer journeyman.

Byline: DAVID WILLIAMS

JASON Price is one of football's nomads.

Since 1995, the striker has played nearly 500 games for 11 Football League clubs.

At the moment he is virtually living out of his car as he looks for a new team to extend his 16-year career.

However, the life of a 'journeyman' isn't a glamorous one.

"This is the nasty part of football," he said. "I think I'm only entitled to one more pay day from Carlisle and that's me done."

Price's conundrum is the same for many players up and down the land and certainly makes you realise just how wide the gap is between them and the multi-millionaires of the Premier League.

You may think Price's story is one of loneliness and rejection, and, while he has spent most of his adult life flitting from town to town and having to build relationships with new team-mates on a regular basis, he insists he wouldn't change any of it.

And, when you look at what the 34-year-old has achieved, you can see why he has enjoyed the world of professional football so much.

As a teenager at first club Swansea he admits he enjoyed the high life a bit too much but, other than a few scrapes on and off the pitch, Aberdare-born Price has always played with a smile on his face and given 100% wherever he has been.

Some players can stay at a club their whole career without tasting major success - that hasn't been the case for the man dubbed the 'Afro Goal Machine' by Millwall fans due to his big hair.

With uncertainty over his future in the game - he is currently angling for a move to Darlington after being released by Carlisle - Price is, and has been for a while, preparing for life after football.

Through the Professional Footballers' Association, the dad of nine-year-old Jaiden is training to become a plumber, but would dearly love at least one more season before finally hanging up his boots.

"I wouldn't say I don't love football as much now, I just realise there is more to life," he added.

"I'd like one more year, do well, maybe get another year, but if not I won't be gutted because I can do my plumbing apprenticeship.

"I know, more or less, my football career is coming to an end now. I've been playing all my life, but it's going to stop soon and that's something I have to get my head around.

"I wouldn't change anything in my life, nothing at all. If I was to go tomorrow I'd have had a happy life.

"Possibly I could have played at a higher level if I had put my head down, but I've had so much fun.

"I've had 10 or 11 clubs and I've enjoyed every minute of my career.

"You get good money and as long as the manager was happy then I was. Football has been good to me.

"Now I'm doing this plumbing course and working with my uncle and it's the first time in 17 years I haven't had a holiday away.

"I get all these messages from people who are partying in the sun in Marbella and I'm sorting out pipes in someone's house."

Like any youngster starting out, Price's dream was to play at the top domestically and for his country. He came close, very close in the case of the latter, to doing that.

Price got his chance at Swansea during the reign of Jan Molby, a broken leg sustained by Steve Jones towards the end of the 1996-97 season giving him an opportunity at right-back.

As well as making a name for himself with his performances, more so later on as a winger, Price also had a reputation for his antics off the field as he explained.

"I used to live with our left-back Joao Moreira when I was a rebel and I ended up having a written warning off Alan Curtis because I was partying too much.

"There was a group of students living across the road and they had a jacuzzi, that spells trouble.

"We got into training one day and he had a long list of what we'd been doing, our neighbours had complained about us.

"It was like the 1800s with a big scroll and Alan saying, 'hear ye, hear ye' and reading out what we'd got up to.

"When I was younger I used to go out on a Thursday, but I wouldn't drink two days before a game.

"I've only done it once - I was actually man of the match - but I wouldn't do it again.

"Swansea were playing away at Chester when John Hollins was manager.

I had been dropped for the game before so I thought I'd be left out of this one.

"I went to Manchester with a mate and then met up with the team for the game. I honestly thought I wasn't going to play so I had a couple of drinks, ended up getting drunk, and reported for the game the next day and the boys could tell I'd been on the booze.

"Then the manager told me I was in the team on the right wing. I wasn't drunk at the time, I was a bit giddy, but I played and had man of the match. But I've never ever done that since."

Price was part of the Swansea side promoted as champions from Division Three, now League Two, in 2000 before moving to Brentford where he played fewer than 20 times.

From London it was up to Tranmere where he enjoyed a successful spell under Dave Watson and then Ray Mathias, but, after less than two years, the Welshman was off to Hull.

While there, the Tigers won back-to-back promotions at their new KC Stadium home, but in January 2006 Price joined Doncaster.

And that is where Price feels he learnt the most throughout his long journey in football, particularly under boss Sean O'Driscoll.

However, it was also at Doncaster, while playing in the Football League Trophy final against Bristol Rovers, that Price suffered the worst injury of his career, rupturing his Achilles in the first-half.

Since leaving the Keepmoat Stadium in the summer of 2009, Price has signed for Millwall and Carlisle, both after loan spells at each club, while also taking in temporary stints at Oldham, Walsall, Bradford and Hereford.

Price has also played on the international stage for Wales Under-21s but never understood how he didn't get a full cap.

"I nearly got into the squad on one occasion, but they took one of the boys who had already been in one, I think it was Chris Llewellyn," he said.

"When I was at Tranmere a couple of years later and doing really well I was on stand-by for a Wales game.

"I think 12 players dropped out and I still didn't get called up, they were even calling up boys who weren't on stand-by, so I thought then it wasn't going to happen.

"I think I've been good enough to play for Wales. When I was in the Championship they were calling up boys from League One and League Two and the excuse was that they were going for a young side.

"When I was younger I thought I'd have played for my country. It's not a regret, I'm just disappointed with them, not myself."

So, if any managers are reading this, there's a 6ft 2in striker on offer, a few miles on the clock, it's fair to say, but ready to do a job.

CAPTION(S):

It's hair today, gone tomorrow for soccer nomad Jason Price, as he celebrates a goal for latest club Carlisle in League One Jason Price enjoys a moment of triumph with Cyril the Swan and then-manager John Hollins as he helped Swansea City to promotion in 2000. But while the Swans have gone on to greater things, Price has found himself moving from club to club in search of regular first-team football. Above, Price's travels have taken him to many clubs including, from left, Tranmere, Hull City, Doncaster, Walsall and Millwall
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 17, 2011
Words:1355
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