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Christophe Berra: The Path Ahead

At the age of 37, Football Careers client Christophe Berra stands at the crossroads that will decide the direction he takes in the next part of his career.

His boots are hung up and now the former Hearts, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Ipswich Town central defender must find the right pathway to continue progressing in the game he loves. In a fascinating episode of our exclusive series, Christophe writes about his thoughts on what you should do when you quit playing, his thirst for knowledge and what he would do differently given his time again.

By Christophe Berra

Burst the Player Bubble.

What do I mean by that? Well, when you are playing you have more time to develop as a football person than you think and many of us don’t use it wisely enough. There were times for sure in my life when I lived in that Player Bubble.

I was at Ipswich Town for four years, staying there on my own, and I remember sitting some afternoons when I was done training and thinking that I should be involved with the youth teams. Yet I didn’t push myself forward, I just eased back into the Player Bubble and thought only about that.

Looking back that was a missed opportunity to make better use of the time I had on my hands. So now that my playing days are behind me and I am ready to make my mark as a coach, I value every minute I can spend on improving the package I can offer employers: from education to learning the vital skill of networking.

Knowledge, leadership, and networking


I did a diploma in Applied Football Management at Napier University in Edinburgh and I am also studying for a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Enterprise in Sport.

I’ve looked at areas like leadership and how to cope with pressure and I have enjoyed testing myself like that. I have thought about a future in America one day and I know that many clubs, universities or franchises there look for a degree in your background.

I have taken advice from those I respect within the game too because it is easy to be scattergun in your approach to applying for jobs. I’ve got different skill sets now but if I’m going to go down another route away from coaching then I feel I have to fully commit to that route.

Christophe Berra, former Hearts FC defender
Image: SNS Group

Right now, the lure of the training field is still strong for me and it is my preferred destination. In education, though, I have enjoyed putting myself through the process of being a student.

It was tough to start with because it was the first time that I’d had to write an essay since school. My first effort to the level of work I can produce now is like night and day, I know how to reference and write academically and my work is so much more structured.

I have just gone through the American Director of Coaching modules with the SFA too and learned more about the system in the States. I met Andy Thomson on my A Licence who is a fellow Football Careers client: he has worked in the USL with both San Antonio and Miami FC.

You learn about the challenges you face as a coach abroad and how to improve yourself from people like that and I feel that is very important.

The transition from player to coach


For the last four seasons, what I would do when I stopped playing has always been in the back of my mind.

I started to watch games differently on TV, to think as a coach and be more analytical. In training, I would be pondering why we were doing certain drills or functions and what the thinking was behind it.

The penny drops that you have the next part of your life ahead of you. From Talent ID to First Aid to Data Analysis, I try to cover all the bases now and make myself more rounded as a coach.

I want to be able to understand the role of everyone on the staff and I think that’s vital in the modern game. Look at the likes of Graham Potter now at Chelsea and you see they are educated and more rounded people who think deeply about the game.

I have been in this game for 20 years and when you hang up your boots, you need to still have a routine and a purpose in your life. I’ve been doing Opposition Analysis and working with the SFA Performance School to keep me coaching on the grass and give something back to younger players.

I have my UEFA A Licence now and got that finished before I stopped playing which I think was important in terms of my pathway. There is a Pro Licence intake in 2023 and I aim to be on that to keep my development moving.

I was player-coach at Raith Rovers towards the end and this has all been a journey of discovery for me. I have found that networking is crucial: getting your name out there so people know you are available and qualified when those in-house jobs that might not be advertised come up.

That’s where the advice of Football Careers and the CVs and other materials they produce is so important. For instance, as a player you might not be on your LinkedIn much, but prospective employers look at that for coaches so I have been more active there.

It’s like me as a centre-half marking a top striker, you need every edge you can get. The first one, though, is to burst that Player Bubble and get out of the comfort zone to better yourself.

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