02 May 2014
From pitch to pulpit
When your career as a Premiership footballer finishes around the age of 35, you are forced to look for another adventure.
For some it’s the pundit’s chair, for others managing a bar or even becoming a football agent. But for former Chelsea, Newcastle and QPR midfielder Gavin Peacock, it’s training for church ministry.
After a successful career in the media, he surprised many in the football world when he moved to Canada to become a church pastor.
Peacock had successfully navigated the path of footballer to pundit, combining his eloquent punditry skills with a suave appearance complete with goatee beard, adding an extra dimension to Match of the Day 2 and Football Focus.
After finishing his time at the Beeb after Euro 2008, he and his wife Amanda along with Jake, then 14, and Ava, then 11, uprooted to the oil-rich city of Calgary in Canada. Peacock then studied for a three-year Masters in divinity at Ambrose Seminary.
Six years on and he’s now missions pastor and elder at Calvary Grace Church, a reformed Baptist church in Calgary, Alberta, which attracts 200 people through its doors each week.
Peacock also leads Canmore Mission, a smaller weekly gathering.
Contrast this to the buzz and global audience of the Premier League and life couldn’t be more different.
It represents a journey: from the football field to the pulpit; from sharing laughs in the dressing room to praying together; from peer pressure to the need to be above reproach as a church leader. Being mobbed by teammates after scoring to experiencing the joy of the holy spirit.
A completely different trajectory and one which must have been hard to adapt to.
Peacock, aged 46, said: “I find lots of people ask what aspect of being a footballer I miss the most. They are surprised when I don’t answer that it was playing the game.
“I had a long and blessed career. I was a decent player. Although I wasn’t the best I played to the best of my ability.
“The two things I do miss about it are being super-fit and also being with the guys in the dressing room.
“There’s something about men being together, playing and fighting for a bigger cause – that concept of working together for a greater good.”
It’s this he feels represents the strongest similarity between the pitch and the pulpit.
“Now I do a lot of teaching about biblical manhood; it’s a need of the day. My background of being in a male environment helps.”
In his career, Peacock scored 135 goals in 635 games – an enviable record for a midfielder. Football was in the blood with dad Keith a former Charlton player and assistant manager.
“Now and then I see John Terry leading the Chelsea boys out; you get a bit of a nostalgic twinge. We get Premiership football on the television over here and I watch it with my daughter. Even though football wasn’t my god, there’s still that football atmosphere you’re used to.”
Peacock – who retired in 2002 – said: “The media work went well but I never felt it would be forever.
”The Lord called me to ministry quite powerfully when I was reading the Word and praying.
“I was at the BBC at the time – in some respects my profile was higher as a pundit than it was as a player. We prayed through the idea as family. Two months after covering Euro 2008, we were in Canada.”
Now he starts each day by driving into Calgary to learn Hebrew and Greek.
Does he ever get moments where he wonders if he made the right decision?
“This last six years have been the hardest six years of my life. I think it’s Charles Spurgeon who said: ‘If you can avoid going into the Christian ministry then do so. What he was trying to say is that it must be a divine call to go into it. “I was blessed to play football, and there’s nothing wrong with football; it’s a God-given sport which – played with the right intentions – can glorify God. But to be dealing with God’s people and shepherding them, there’s no comparison.”
For more information please visit www.calvarygrace.ca or follow Gavin on Twitter @GPeacock8 or the church @Calvary_Grace.