Malaga, medicine and making plans for medals
Fifteen years ago a young Dean Hardy would get up, have breakfast (probably a paella), get dressed and get in the car with his dad, on his way to Atalaya Park complex, the home of Malaga CF.
“I moved over there when I was 10 and joined the academy,” Hardy recalled.
“I was there for seven years all in all when I got released as a 17-year-old scholar. I was 6-foot something when I was 12 or 13, which meant it was fairly easy to get into a professional club.
“Sadly, as I got older, they realised that as tall as I was, I wasn’t very good.”
The journey may have ended early, but Hardy has no regrets.
“Looking back on it, it was fantastic and I wouldn’t change it for the world,” he said.
“I was just a young lad who wanted to play football. But as I got older, I realised the amplitude and politics that went with football and realised that maybe it wasn’t for me.”
Luckily for Dean his dad, Peter, made sure he made efforts in his studies as well as on the pitch.
“My dad insisted I kept up with my education during my academy days at Malaga which led me down the science and medicine path, a path I’m still involved in today,” he said.
Once the Spanish adventure came to an end, Dean went back home to Manchester. He got into university to continue his science and medicine path as well as his footballing one.
“I came back to England and went to The University of Manchester to study Biomedical Science, joining the university first team,” hardy recalled.
“We played a preseason friendly against FC United of Manchester Under-21s, and they scouted me that game. I spent a season with the Under-21s and broke into the reserves and had half a season with the first team.”
Hardy found a new home at FC United but his time with the club ended abruptly.
“Since my last year with Malaga, I had bad pains in my wrist,” he said,
“It was from a one-v-one session we did. The right-back who was against me had an absolute rocket for a foot and decided to use it against me from about three yards out.
“I made the save with my wrist which was awful pain but thought nothing of it at the time. I went back to England and played through the pain until the ‘keeper coach at FC United noticed it and sent me to a private scan.
“It turns out I had a broken bone in my wrist, which needed a screw putting into it. It ended up being a 15-month recovery which meant there was no chance I was going back to the first team.
“With that said, they were brilliant in helping me get back to my best and the recovery process.”
From FC United, Hardy got closer and closer to home and focusing on his career off the pitch rather than on it. He joined Ramsbottom United and after a stint there, went to Nelson FC.
“The priority since moving back to England has been my medical career,” he said.
“Football is something I love and will play for as long as I can, but I play to enjoy it and compete, not to making a living out of it. It’s a good stress release from the job.
“I obviously know now that I’m not good enough to be a pro, so I just enjoy my time playing now, with my main focus being medicine.”
15 years since his time on the Costa del Sol, Hardy’s mornings look a lot different now.
“I live in Padiham with my girlfriend Leanne, and I’m a trainee doctor working in the East Lancashire Hospital Trust, which means I’m at the hospital daily in either Blackburn or Burnley,” he said.
“It’s a very long and tough process to become an actual doctor, but it’s something I’m passionate about.”
Football is a hobby and a stress release, something he wants to enjoy, which meant joining AFC Burnley was a no-brainer.
“I know Shane (Hudson) really well and spent time with him at Nelson and Lancaster,” he said.
“It is hard to find loyal friends in football, but he is one of them. Then Sean (Horrocks) rang me and reminded me that he played against me a few years ago.
“Funnily enough, he then apologised for angrily throwing a football at me. We laughed about it, and I knew he was another loyal person I could trust and play for.
“Sean is a serial winner, like me. We both want to win all the trophies we can, and that’s the goal for the season. I’m just looking to help the team, stay fit and enjoy my football.”