I’ve got loads of regrets. I know I have could’ve been at the top but I’m nowhere near it,’ laments Vincent Pericard, reviewing a career which seemed intent on kicking him where it hurts.
Pericard is one of countless footballers who had the footballing world at his feet as a youngster, but saw his once- promising career slip through his fingers, as injuries, prison and depression beat the love of the game out of the former Juventus and Pompey striker, whose last stop was a brief stint with the Hawks earlier this season.
‘I am retiring. My passion has gone,’ revealed Pericard, who, at 29, now views football as ‘a chore’.
It’s all a far cry from the Pericard, left, who signed for Italian giants Juventus at the tender age of 17, training alongside the likes of a certain Zinedine Zidane, Pavel Nedved and David Trezeguet.
On top of that, the Cameroon-born forward also earned honours for France under-21s.
Most football fans on the south coast are familiar with Pericard for his four-year spell at Fratton Park. Originally moving to Pompey on loan, he grabbed the chance for first-team football with both hands.
However, his venture into the English game almost ended before it had even begun.
‘Pre-season, it was so hard for me to adapt,’ said Pericard.
‘Even (Harry) Redknapp said: “this player cannot play football” because my touch was terrible, everything was terrible.’
It soon turned around, though, as a debut goal in a home win over Nottingham Forest set Pericard and Pompey on their way to a successful campaign, which saw the Blues win the first division title and book themselves a place in the Premier League.
Pericard bagged nine goals that campaign in a season he feels was his best in English football, paving the way for a permanent £400,000 deal in 2003.
At 20, Pericard thought he was just beginning a long career at the top level of football.
But instead he was beginning a career riddled with injuries and untimely interventions.
Four successive quadriceps pulls kept him out of much of the 2003-04 season, which was then followed by a cruciate injury, meaning his campaign was well and truly over.
Pericard struggled yet further with injuries for another few years and admits he has never been able to hit the standards he set before his succession of injuries.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis still saw some potential, though, making Pericard his first signing in his second spell with the Potters.
But the Frenchman bemoaned the Welshman’s style of play.
On top of that, Pericard was also struggling psychologically, having to ‘take time out of the team, as mentally I wasn’t right.’
The striker maintains he did start to find his feet at the Britannia Stadium, but this time his momentum was undone, not by injury, but a futile attempt at avoiding a speeding ticket.
Pericard was imprisoned for perverting the course of justice in August 2007 when stating his stepfather was the one driving his car at the time of the incident. He spent six weeks in jail as a result.
Pericard describes the experience as ‘a negative, positive’ one, which has allowed him to appreciate the simpler things in life, but one which wrecked his football career beyond repair.
He even suffered the desolation of being released and then sent back to prison due to complications with his electronic tag – something he defines as being ‘too much to take mentally’ after the elation of being released.
His Stoke days rolled to an end and despite a successful short spell at Carlisle, his move to Swindon coincided with yet more injuries which hit Pericard hard.
‘I thought, I can’t do it anymore,’ he said.
‘Fans couldn’t understand what I was going through. They were booing me when I was only trying my best. But I wasn’t at my best, mentally and physically.
‘I was injured and the fact that they were hurting me mentally made it even more harder. That’s why I felt depressed. I wasn’t enjoying my football.’
As he tried to get a deal with Bournemouth, Pericard went on to have one final crack at resurrecting his career with a loan spell at the Hawks.
But with the Westleigh Park club unable to pay him at the time, it was another route which was blocked off.
Pericard has now decided to call it quits, setting up his own company, Elite Professional Management, which helps foreign players adapt to their new climate and prevent them from suffering stress, loneliness and depression.
And despite never living up to his huge potential, the 29-year-old is philosophical about his trials and tribulations.
Pericard said: ‘In a way, if you look at the big picture, it could be a good thing with everything I’ve been through that gave me the experience to set up my company.
‘Maybe my company is going to be my legacy that is going to help people for the next 20 or 50 years.’