Football League rejection, primary school teaching and battling against the odds: The unconventional road to Portsmouth for ex-Notts County and Accrington man

The phone call which changed Colby Bishop’s life arrived while eating beans on toast in a school staffroom.

Wednesday, 3rd August 2022, 11:30 am

Last weekend the 25-year-old marked his Pompey debut with a goal in a pulsating 3-3 draw at Sheffield Wednesday.

Yet three years earlier he featured for non-league Leamington in the National League North.

What’s more, he was supplementing income by working as a PE teacher at Bilsthorpe Flying High Academy in Newark, Nottinghamshire.

Indeed, Bishop was in the process of signing up for a teaching course at Nottingham Trent University when Accrington John Coleman boss swooped in July 2019.

Now, following 39 goals in 123 games for Stanley, his unconventional career has brought him to Fratton Park.

He told The News: ‘I remember signing for Leamington. Me and my dad met the manager, Paul Holleran, in a McDonald’s off a junction on the M6.

‘He trusted me from the day dot. Even when I went in there and didn’t score for a couple of games, he told me “Don’t worry you’re going to play, I just want you to play with freedom and to be happy on the pitch”.

Colby Bishop scored on his Pompey debut at Sheffield Wednesday last weekend. Picture: Malcolm Bryce/ProSportsImages

‘Playing part-time the money’s not the best, so in those days I also worked as a primary school PE teacher. I was teaching 4-11 year-olds, doing one-to-ones, it was amazing, but I’d rather be doing this!

‘The day before I joined Accrington, I was signing the papers to enrol on a primary school teacher training course at Nottingham Trent University.

‘At the time I was on my lunch break at school, eating beans on toast, when I received a phone call from a random number – and answered it.

‘It was John Coleman, who asked how I felt about coming to Accrigton and meeting him.

‘I replied: “Yes, that would be great. I’ve got PE with Year 4 in a minute, though. Can I call you back later?”.

‘He said it was no problem. He used to be a PE teacher as well.

‘Once we met it didn’t take long. It was at a restaurant and everything was agreed very quickly. I’m a teacher and someone offered me League One football – you don’t mess around!’

Until the summer of 2019, Bishop had spent two years as a teacher, a position he earned full-time after initially helping out and impressing the head teacher.

The second profession formed the backdrop to a football career which saw him come through the ranks at Notts County, only to be released in 2016 following four first-team outings.

The striker subsequently turned out for Worcester City and Gloucester City before rattling in 29 goals during the 2018-19 campaign with Leamington to earn his second chance.

He added: ‘I always believed in myself, that I could get back into the Football League.

‘Don’t get me wrong, through those non-league years I worked really, really hard to get into shape. But if you don’t believe in yourself, who will?

‘I have friends who’ve been unfortunate not to have had professional football careers. For some it works out, for some it doesn’t, and you need a bit of luck along the way.

‘Just keep working hard – and trust your own ability.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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