Adam Barrett has been brought into Millwall to help bring through the club’s youngsters to the first-team – and can still remember making his move into the senior ranks.
The ex-Crystal Palace defender made 735 appearances before opting to hang up his boots in February at the age of 37.
Barrett, first-team development coach at the Lions, earned his own spurs at Plymouth Argyle in 1999.
“Everyone is different in terms of how they feel when they get their chance – I was so hungry to do well that I wasn’t in awe of the first-team set-up,” he said. “It was where I wanted to be. I had that drive.
“Mick Heathcote was the defender who had experience – he was 37. I was the 18-year-old who wanted to take his place. I didn’t want to let my opportunity go from day one, now that I’d got my foot in the door I wasn’t going to let it pass me by.
“My role is to help the boys come through, they might look at it differently to how I did.”
Barrett’s ambition remains undimmed despite calling time on his playing days at Southend United.
Soon after he got the call from Neil Harris about coming to the South London outfit following Justin Skinner’s departure.
So does he fancy being a manager in his own right one day? “Long-term, yeah,” said Barrett. “That is a natural progression somewhere down the line. But at the moment I want to learn my trade. It’s great to be here working with Neil, David Livermore and Scott Fitzgerald. They are more experienced coaches, particularly Scott – he’s been in that system for many years.
“I’m thoroughly enjoying the role. I’m not long out of the game but I’m hungry to be the best I can be. I’m not sitting here saying I definitely don’t want to be a manager or that is 100 per cent where I’m going. It is about a learning curve.
“I’m getting stuck in and hopefully can make a difference with the young lads. I came here to see them make their first-team debuts.”
Barrett’s biggest club was Palace.
He was one of the first deals done by the CPFC 2010 consortium after the club exited administration.
“I came in under George Burley and had a really good pre-season,” he recalls. “We played Chelsea in a friendly and I think I got man-of-thematch in the next game. But I didn’t start the season, which was disappointing. George went with Paddy McCarthy, who was the skipper, and Claude Davis.
“I was in one minute and out the next. Then I got a little run against Middlesbrough, Watford and Swansea but I got concussed – it broke my nose – and it put me out for a couple of weeks.”
Barrett was loaned to Leyton Orient for the final three months of that 2010-11 campaign before joining AFC Bournemouth in July.
“Dougie Freedman was in charge by then and he said ‘if I get the Adam Barrett who played at Southend I want you to stay’. But I was so disillusioned with my first year – at 30 or 31 I had played 500 matches – I decided to go. I wish in hindsight I had stuck it out for a second year.”
Barrett also had a six-month loan at AFC Wimbledon in the first half of the 2014-15 season as he covered for an injury to Andy Frampton.
“It is a fantastic little club – I loved it there,” said Barrett.
“But travelling from where I was in Essex was a bit of a nightmare around the M25 every day.
“I always wanted to go back to Southend and finish my career. In the January of that year I got the chance to do that.”
Barrett won’t go into detail about leaving Southend but does reveal that it was not how he had planned it.
“I’d got to the stage where it was always going to be my last season of playing but I was disappointed in the way things happened.
“It didn’t have to end like that. I didn’t get treated 100 per cent how I wanted to. It was more that I wanted to go out on a high there at the end of the season – I was the club captain and had two fantastic years prior to this one.
“But it didn’t happen. That’s football. I’ve been doing my coaching badges for a few years now and I’d just completed my A licence before I came to Millwall.
“I could always see myself going into coaching. It was where I saw my future.”
Barrett’s job also sees him working on a first-team matchday with Harris and number two Livermore.
“I help on the training pitch and behind the scenes preparing for games – analysing them,” he said. “With the under-23s it can be helping someone on a one-to-one basis.
“The gaffer is very brave if lads are doing well in the academy system – he has brought a lot through. I need to aid those boys in making that final transition.
“I’m on the other side now. It’s not just the training pitch, your day doesn’t stop in terms of dealing with agents and arranging stuff. As a player you’re told everything – where to be and what to do.
“Now I’m the one who has got to organise it. You get phone calls that aren’t even football-related.
“There is a lot more work but the good thing is that I was ready to retire. I’m very content with what I did. I’m always picking people’s brains to get better myself. It’s exactly where I want to be.”