Alternative route gave Pompey new-boy perfect education

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David Wheeler was pencilling plans to become a secondary school PE teacher.

Then a last-gasp shot at finding a way into professional football hit the back of the net.

David Wheeler has boosted Pompey's attacking options.  Picture: Portsmouth FC

David Wheeler has boosted Pompey's attacking options. Picture: Portsmouth FC

The 26-year-old this week joined Pompey on a season-long loan from QPR to bolster promotion aspirations.

Yet, in the summer of 2013, he faced an alternative career direction should trials at Exeter and Dagenham & Redbridge fall flat.

Having caught the eye with non-league Staines, the newly-qualified sports science graduate from Brunel University sought Football League employment.

And in August 2013, Exeter put Wheeler on the path which has led to Fratton Park.

He said: ‘I was at Brighton until 16 and released, so went to Lewes, where I grew up, and played in the Conference Premier and then Conference South.

‘I always thought I as going to be a professional footballer until that point where I was let go.

‘Then it was about reassessing my situation and what else I could do if it didn’t work out.

‘I went to university and it was a case of finishing my degree and then giving football another go, that was my mentality at the time.

‘I would give it another shot in the summer of 2013 and if it didn’t happen I’d go into teaching or something like that. I’d give it the summer and, if nothing came of it, there were PGCE courses starting September/October time.

‘I had in my mind I might to do that if I wasn’t successful, probably teaching PE in secondary schools.

‘It just so happened I was successful on trial at Exeter – and took it from there.’

Wheeler started the Grecians’ opening match of the 2013-14 League Two campaign.

He went on to score 39 goals in 171 matches, before a big-money switch to QPR in the summer of 2017.

He added: ‘University has given me a different outlook on life, for sure.

‘Whenever you go to a university or similar institutions, you are exposed to so many different thoughts and opinions. A number of people I mixed with weren't interested in football at all.

‘My whole family are sports mad, most of my mates are football mad, so going from that to becoming involved with people not on the same radar was really interesting – and keeps things in perspective.’