Footballers live extremely intense short careers full of highs and lows, but what happens when they retire?
Some continue their lives in football through coaching or move into the boardroom, but many end up following totally different paths.
One such player to find a new career is former Newcastle left-back Olivier Bernard, who now owns a pub in Blyth – a town 15 miles north of St James’ Park.
The Frenchman played in one of the Toon’s most successful teams under the late, great Sir Bobby Robson.
He was renowned for his marauding runs down the left and played in the last Newcastle side to reach the Champions League.
While playing in UEFA’s premier competition, Bernard faced Barcelona and Inter Milan, and in the Premier League, the Toon were challenging at the top.
Bernard left in 2005 to join Southampton before returning to Tyneside a year-and-a-half later, via Rangers, and retiring in 2007.
But the defender became an adopted Geordie and has settled 567 miles from his city of birth, Paris, to live in the north east of England – and now, Bernard is a pub landlord.
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But how did a former Champions League star end up owning a family pub?
Well, in his own words, it came totally out of the blue.
Speaking exclusively to talkSPORT.com, Bernard revealed how he now owns The Mason Arms by ‘accident’.
“It was a good friend of mine who knew Blyth quite well, and I was the first one he spoke to, and we decided to go ahead with it.”
However, little did he know a global pandemic was about to hit the UK to ensure a difficult beginning.
“By the time we signed the papers, COVID started, so we had a nightmare start.”
Thankfully things have returned to normality and the pub is thriving.
“More and more people want to go out and celebrate and enjoy themselves, so the pub is getting busier and busier.
“The chef is fantastic, so things are looking up, and the atmosphere is improving.
“It’s a good little pub. We put all the Newcastle games on, so it’s a sports bar/family pub.”
The north east is ingrained in Bernard’s life, so owning a pub near his family home was an opportunity he didn’t want to miss.
“My wife is from Newcastle. My kids were born in the north east, so it was important for me to settle in the north east and having a pub is definitely a good start.”
But this isn’t just something Bernard has put his name to and isn’t involved in, he is regularly in the pub and has switched from marking Robert Pires to keeping the finances in order.
“I do the accounts for the pub, so I am there every other day.
“People who go there know that I am often inside, and we have a lot of regulars.
“It’s a good atmosphere, and the Sunday dinners are fantastic, so if you want to see me on a Sunday, you just need to go to The Masons Arms in Blyth.”
Bernard doesn’t just sit upstairs away from the action. Instead, he and the family get stuck in and serve drinks to the growing number of regulars.
“When we get busy. I have to get behind the bar at times.
“Even the wife and both daughters have worked behind the bar, so it’s very much a family pub we are running.”
The 43-year-old is enjoying a brilliant life away from football; however, there is one infamous on-pitch moment he will always be remembered for.
Ironically, though, he doesn’t recall it at all!
While playing for Newcastle against Leicester in 2003, the Frenchman received a thunderous ball to the head from his teammate Laurent Robert.
The winger was known for having a cannon of a left foot, and his attempted clearance smashed Bernard in the face, who was knocked out but got up and carried on.
“I don’t remember anything about it.
“It was only on the Monday back at the training ground we had a meeting so that everybody could laugh at me on the big screen.
“I had no idea; even looking at it at the time, I was like’, that didn’t happen’.
“It’s always going to be a part of me, but it’s a bit weird because I don’t remember.
“I played on and got an assist, so I should have got knocked out a bit more often.”
Bernard’s journey from Premier League ace to pub landlord is quite remarkable.
It shows there is life away from the pitch, even if he will always be remembered for being on the receiving end of that vicious Robert clearance.
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