I’m a former Wolves striker but I left football behind to become a vicar because of the money

RICHARD LEADBEATER became a Christian while on Wolves’ books in the 1990s.

Ten years later, the striker would hang up his boots for good in order to take on a full-time role with the church.

PARichard Leadbeater played up front for Wolves, Hereford and Stevenage[/caption]

He would quit playing at 26 to become a vicar

The promising forward came through Wolves’ academy during Graham Taylor‘s time at Molineux, going on to debut under the former England boss’ successor Mark McGhee.

Leadbeater told Wolves Heroes: “For me, it was a shame Graham left.

“If Graham had stayed, I think I’d have got a longer contact than the one year I was offered under McGhee.

“He didn’t know us, so he didn’t want to commit to longer.”

Leadbeater made one first team appearance for Wolves in 1996, before being loaned out to Hereford the following year.

He scored seven goals in 15 games on loan at Edgar Street, including a memorable hat-trick against rivals Kidderminster in a 4-1 win.

The striker had become a Christian at 16 after his older sister had revealed that she had started going to church.

And following his Wolves release upon the conclusion of his loan spell at Hereford, his interest in the ministry only grew.

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After a series of trials at Football League clubs, Leadbeater joined Hereford on a permanent deal.

Just six months later he was on the move again, when Stevenage offered cash-strapped Hereford £20,000 for his services.

After two-and-a-half seasons with Stevenage he moved to Hednesford Town, with his love for the professional game on the decline – partly because he was being paid to play.

He told the Hereford Times: “My passion for the game had started waning while my passion for being involved in the ministry was increasing.

“One of the things I wrestled with towards the end of my career was being paid to play sport. When you are paid to play it stops being a sport and starts becoming a business. I found the two were often an uneasy fit.”

During later spells at Halesowen Town and Redditch United, Leadbeater began studying theology at the University of Birmingham.

And at just 26, he retired from football to focus on the church.

He spent four years as a pastoral assistant at St Stephen’s Church in Selly Oak, Birmingham.

And after being ordained at Birmingham Cathedral in 2010, he took his first service.

It was a 5-6 year period where I slowed down one career and started another one

Richard Leadbeater

On his journey with the church, he later told Your Herefordshire: “It was a long process, I become a Christian at 16, the older I got, the more I wanted to work full time in the church.

“I began a process of dropping down the leagues and whilst doing that I took some studies and explored different avenues, it was a 5-6 year period where I slowed down one career and started another one.

“I was ordained in the Church of England and moved to Guildford in 2014 where I’m based at the King’s Church.”

Despite the culture of “mickeytaking” in football, Leadbeater does think there are similarities between his old profession and his current one.

He added: “I like to think my sermons are like being in a football changing room. I feel like I’m rallying the troops.

“I try not to mention to people about my football past, as it can come across as arrogant and it was a long time ago.”

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