Former Newcastle and Chelsea midfielder Gavin Peacock has spoken to The Christian Institute about his life as a top footballer and why he traded punditry for the pulpit.
Peacock left school at 16 to play professionally for Queens Park Rangers, but fulfilment wasn’t to be found in football.
“I’d achieved the schoolboy dream, if you like, I’d achieved everything that the world says will make you happy – the fame, the potential fortune, and the great career. And yet I wasn’t satisfied as I thought I would be, because football was my god.”
After accompanying his mother to church one Sunday evening, the young pro was invited to a youth group at the minister’s house.
He immediately noticed a difference between the other youngsters and himself.
“I pulled up in a nice car, I had that bit of money in my pocket, the career, I was in the ‘in-crowd’, they weren’t”.
“And yet when they spoke about Jesus Christ, when they prayed, there was a joy that they had, and a reality that they had that I didn’t.”
Over the next few weeks, he heard the Gospel preached and recognised his sinfulness and need of a Saviour. Aged 18, by God’s grace, he was saved.
With his new found faith, he was able to continue with his career, no longer idolising football, but putting God at the centre.
He said he knew it was important both to be a good steward of the gifts he had been given, and also to be a good witness.
He had some good conversations with teammates about his Christian faith over the years, some of whom have since become Christians.
Pundit to pulpit
After an 18-year career, Peacock retired from football in 2002 and soon began working as a pundit for BBC’s Match of the Day and Football Focus.
But while working at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, he read Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to “Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2).
He began to preach at his church and took up theology at Cambridge alongside his media career, later describing his call to ministry as a “joyful compulsion”.
In 2008 he moved his family over 4,000 miles away to Calgary in western Canada to complete a masters’ degree in divinity away from the public gaze and where he would be known for his faith, not his footballing past.
‘No greater privilege’
Drawing comparisons between football and faith, he said: “I’ve played in front of 100,000 people at Wembley, and in front of millions on TV, in the biggest of stadiums, and against some of the great players.
“But nothing quite compares to going up there on a Sunday, whether it’s 25 people or 2,500 people, and preaching God’s word.
“Because eternity and heaven and hell hangs in the balance and you’re dealing with people’s souls, and there’s no greater privilege.”
Peacock is now an elder and pastor at Calvary Grace Church in Calgary.
See the interview in full below.