FORMER Burton Albion winger Keith Gilroy is gearing up for a new career — but it won’t be in the fast lane.
Gilroy is swapping his football boots for ‘L’ plates after qualifying as a driving instructor in a change of direction after being given the heart-breaking news he would never play again.
The Irishman, who thrilled fans and tormented opposing players in equal measure during his Pirelli Stadium heyday, has finally succumbed to a series of major injuries despite bravely trying to battle through the pain barrier.
Now the man famed for his pin-point crosses is hoping to show novice drivers the art of the three-point turn after setting up his business from his Stretton home — just a goal kick away from the ground he graced for six years.
Gilroy, 28, said: “The specialist told me last week that I won’t be able to play football again, not even on a part-time basis, unless I want to end up a cripple.”
After playing a starring role in Albion’s historic FA Cup third round ties against Manchester United in 2006 — when the then non-league Brewers took the Premier League giants to a replay at Old Trafford following a goalless draw at the Pirelli Stdaium — and then helping them to promotion to the Football League three years later, Gilroy’s final two seasons at the Pirelli Stadium were plagued by injuries and he left the club last May.
He said: “It’s a horrible thing to know that you’ll never again play the game you love, but I grew to accept the likelihood.
“That’s why I starting planning for my future and went on the driving instructors’ course a year ago.
“Now I can’t wait to get started in my new career.”
Gilroy has had to hang up his boots after a hip operation revealed other problems.
“Basically, my leg would have needed major reconstructive surgery with no guarantee that I would play again,” he said.
“I’m truly grateful Albion chairman Ben Robinson arranged the operation to give me a chance of continuing my career, but now I have to be realistic and move on.”
Gilroy was one of the stars of the Nigel Clough era, making 164 appearances and scoring 19 goals.
“It was all happy times,” said Gilroy.
“The club made solid progress during my time there and I’m pleased they have continued in the same vein.”
And it is Clough, now manager of Derby County, who has given him the chance stay in football in a part-time Academy role.
He said: “Nigel and academy manager Darren Wassall invited me to join Derby on the academy side. It’s not the same as playing, but helping kids improve their game is the next best thing.
“I’m sorry my career ended early but at least I can look back and say I had 12 years in the English professional game.”