Shropshire Star

The New Saints defender Ryan Astles nets a fine victory off the pitch

The New Saints defender Ryan Astles is not only celebrating a tremendous start to the season on the pitch, he also has reason to celebrate off it too after securing a degree in Applied Football Studies from the University of Salford.


as he looks to continue his development and prepare for life after football.

The 29-year-old still has much left to give on the field of play, especially with his sights set on securing more domestic and European success with TNS, but he has spent three years studying for his degree in partnership with Ahead In Sport – an organisation designed to provide athletes with access to education of all levels.

Ahead In Sport are at the forefront of football and wider sport, related education and training programmes. Working globally with organisations and academic institutions, they provide industry expertise and support curriculum development to create award-winning and innovative programmes for those in sport.

Offering a traditional University pathway via a modern approach to delivery, their three-year, virtual programme has been specifically designed for those who are currently, or aspiring to be, involved in the football industry.

It also seeks to provide a solution to the barriers faced by those who may otherwise be disengaged from education, such as their training and playing schedule, being transferred to another club, the time demands of their current employment or a lack of traditional formal entry qualifications.

Astles has taken advantage of the opportunity and has been studying alongside continuing his immense displays for Craig Harrison’s table-topping side.

Speaking on this achievement, Astles said: “Having as many qualifications as possible and tools to succeed on and off the field is something that is very important to me, so it’s been great to combine my career on the pitch with three years of study off it to achieve my degree.

“I very much enjoyed the course and learnt a lot so it’s been very much worthwhile to my development and understanding of football away from the pitch.

“There comes a time when every footballer must hang up their boots, and it’s important that they have a plan for when that day comes.

“Whether it be getting your coaching badges, securing a degree in something you’re passionate about, or exploring some of the other options available, not all footballers get to retire on a beach and never do another day’s work in their life – it’s important to remember that.”

Astles’ immediate thoughts will be on Saturday’s Cymru Premier League clash at home Cardiff.

Saints, who are 12 points clear at the top of the table, will looking to extend their unbeaten start in the league to 21 games.

Speaking on what the programme has to offer, Nicola McCullough, Director of Education at Ahead In Sport said:

“The programme accurately reflects the nature of the modern game, providing content which combines learning in key areas such as talent identification, high performance, media and psychology with leadership skills and an understanding of the interaction across various football departments, allowing Ryan the opportunity to consider a variety of roles in planning for his post-playing career.

“Supported by professional insight, including guest webinars from those such as Steven Gerrard, Gus Williams, Iffy Onuora and Jayne Ludlow, learners also benefit from our unique Industry Mentor initiative, enabling them to seek advice and guidance from those who have experienced the transition from playing into education or employment, which can often be a difficult experience for many.

“We are proud to have developed a ground-breaking programme for those who wish to turn their passion for football into a sustainable career, and we look forward to watching Ryan’s continued progress both on and off the pitch.

“He has been a fantastic role model for those aspiring to be involved in elite level football, and combine that with studying for a degree, and should rightly be proud of his achievements.”

To find out more about their latest online degree programme, BSc(Hons) Football Industry, delivered in partnership with UCEN Manchester and validated by Sheffield Hallam University please visit or email