RICHARD LEADBEATER became a Christian in the 1990s while on the Wolves books.
Ten years later, the striker would finally give up his career to take up a full-time position at the church.
The promising striker came through Wolves’ academy during Graham Taylor’s time at Molineux and then made his debut under Mark McGhee, the former England manager’s successor.
Leadbeater told Wolves Heroes: “For me it was a shame that Graham left.”
“If Graham had stayed I probably would have had a longer contact than the one year I was offered under McGhee.
“He didn’t know us, so he didn’t want to commit any longer.”
Leadbeater made his first team appearance for Wolves in 1996 before being loaned out to Hereford the following year.
He scored seven goals in 15 games while on loan at Edgar Street, including a memorable hat-trick against rivals Kidderminster in a 4-1 win.
The striker converted to Christianity at 16 after his older sister revealed she had started going to church.
And following his release from Wolves following the completion of his loan spell at Hereford, his interest in the ministry only grew.
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After a series of trials with Football League clubs, Leadbeater joined Hereford on a permanent deal.
He was back on the move just six months later when Stevenage offered financially struggling Hereford £20,000 for his services.
After two and a half seasons at Stevenage, he moved to Hednesford Town as his love of the professional game was in decline – partly because he was being paid to play.
He told that Hereford Times: “My passion for the game began to wane while my passion for serving in the ministry increased.
“One of the things I struggled with toward the end of my career was getting paid to play sports. When you get paid for it, it’s no longer a sport, it’s a business. I found that the two often didn’t mix well.”
During later spells at Halesowen Town and Redditch United, Leadbeater began studying theology at the University of Birmingham.
And at just 26 years old, he retired from football to focus on the church.
He spent four years as a pastoral assistant at St Stephen’s Church, Selly Oak, Birmingham.
And after being ordained at Birmingham Cathedral in 2010, he conducted his first service.
It was a period of five to six years where I slowed down one career and started another
He later talked about his journey with the church Your Herefordshire: “It was a long process, I became a Christian at 16, the older I got, the more I wanted to work full-time in the church.”
“I started moving down the leagues and along the way I did some studies and explored different avenues. It was a period of five to six years where I slowed down one career and started another.”
“I was ordained in the Church of England and moved to Guildford in 2014 where I work at King’s Church.”
Despite football’s culture of cheating, Leadbeater believes there are similarities between his old job and his current job.
He added: “I like to think my sermons are like being in a football locker room. I feel like I’m rallying the troops.”
“I try not to mention my football past to people because it can seem arrogant and it was a long time ago.”