In 2004, Callum Flanagan was representing Manchester United in the FA Youth Cup – a club he joined as a 12-year-old.
Only a day after coming off the bench and scoring in that very competition, his life would change forever.
“I am all hyped from the game before and I leave the training ground and that’s where my story starts to take a turn,” Flanagan told SAFM’s Bec & Soda on Thursday morning.
“I come out the training ground and I also have another player with me Phil Marsh in my car.”
“I am driving back to my digs and there’s a fellow player in front of me and we take a bend on the road a bit too quickly and I hit somebody head on, I flip my car, I cause a massive scene basically, and Phil Marsh is injured, and the lady I hit had to be freed from her car, it was a very serious scene.”
Flanagan was also quizzed whether he was drag racing with his teammate Mads Timms.
“Well they said we were racing, we were driving in convoy so he was ahead of me and we were having a bit of banter out the window, there were witnesses there who said we were racing, but I just took a bend too quickly and hit someone, and lost control of the car,” he said.
“It all blacked out, the next thing I know the firies are there, the police are there, it just so happened that on that day Manchester City were signing a big player, [England goalkeeper] David James, and where I had the accident was right outside their training ground.”
“There were a lot of media outside of their training ground, they heard what happened and rushed out and next thing it was blowing up and it’s all over the media, the press from it was bad too, and I got myself into a little bit of trouble.”
Flanagan was charged with dangerous driving, and his day in court went badly – sentenced to eight months in prison.
“My lawyer said it would be a quick in and out of there and I’d probably get a bit of community service I’d have to cleaning graffiti of the walls or something, it turns out that they take your suit of you and take you underneath the court and straight to the cells. I did eight months in Lancaster Farms (prison),” he said.
“Prison isn’t a nice place to be, full of questionable characters, away from your family and friends.
“But the first night was terrifying, because it was all over the media… they knew we were going to the prison, I remember them banging on the pipes shouting our names.”
In one swift mistake, Flanagan’s dream career was over and his life had altered dramatically.
“Within a few months I was let go, my contract was paid up, that was the end of that, I was gutted, I hurt my friend, I’d gone to prison, I had destroyed my career at Manchester United, I went on the wrong path there for a while,” he said.
“Luckily a couple years later I found my way to Australia and I turned my life around.”
Fast forward a few years, and Flanagan has moved to Adelaide. He now plays for the Western Strikers and is a firefighter in the Port Adelaide MFS.
“It’s been a life lesson, there’s still the guilt there, you don’t ever get away from that sort of stuff,” he said.
“When I thought about my life and what I had been through, I thought applying for the firies would be a great way for me to come full circle and look at it from a different view.
“It brings home what the consequences are if you take risks on the road, I’ve seen it from both angles, I’ve been through it myself, I’ve been in a serious accident, and I now I attend hundreds of incidents every year so I now the havoc and stress that it causes to families and the victims.”
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