Joe Hancott

Ex-Portsmouth FC Player, Primary School Sports Coach and Semi-Professional Player at Bognor Regis Town FC


After three years of combining his studies with his career, Joe Hancott is proud to have received a 1st class BSc(Hons) Degree in Applied Football Studies, an outstanding effort by Joe and one that all at Ahead in Sport were delighted to hear about after his dedication and hard work whilst on programme.

Like many of his peers on the Ahead In Sport’s BSc(Hons) in Applied Football Studies degree, Joe Hancott’s career began in football. When he was younger, he started playing in a Sunday League team and, by the time he was 8 years old, he had been scouted by Portsmouth Football Academy. Joe was later signed by Portsmouth FC and in August 2017, at the age of 16, he made history by becoming the youngest ever player to debutant at the Club – a truly remarkable achievement!

A lot of young people dream of playing professional football, but the journey wasn’t always easy for Joe and there were some bumps along the road.

“Portsmouth went through a few different transitions while I was at the Club. When I started, they were in the Premier League and the First Team had just won the FA Cup, and as an academy and youth team, we were playing against the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham – the best teams in the country. Then Portsmouth had financial difficulties and went into administration, dropped down the leagues and the academy followed. We were playing teams that were good but not as established as team such as Liverpool or Arsenals. But it was brilliant, and I loved it.”

He even got the chance to play against and watch some of today’s biggest Premier League stars while they were playing at the academy level.

“I played against Jadon Sancho who now plays for Manchester United and England. At the time, he was at Watford Academy when I was at Portsmouth. I played left back, this meant that we went directly up against each other, and he was very good. I also played against Bukayo Saka who was at Arsenal’s Academy – he has done so well. Finally, Jude Bellingham, I was on the bench, so I didn’t get the opportunity to play against him, but I saw how good he was. He’s one of the best I’ve seen, I thought ‘this guy is going to go right to the top!’ You could see that even when we were 14.”

Throughout his time at Portsmouth, Joe also went out on loan to non-league teams such as Basingstoke Town and Bognor Regis Town.

“I was 18 or 19 at the time, and it really made me grow as a footballer and as a person, because you go from training and playing with people your own age in the Academy or in the U18s or U21s, to playing with men who’s wages and livelihoods are on the line, you have to quickly learn the differences between that and Academy Football.”

After returning to Portsmouth, Joe’s career took an unfortunate turn. He ruptured his ACL, which took him out of football for nearly a year, followed by an additional knee problem which required surgery. Around this time, Portsmouth made a managerial change and then Covid hit.

“Before you knew it, I was out of contract and that was it really, it was tough and I had to go through another transition. But as I said, the experience was brilliant. I met a lot of people through it that I'll be friends with for life, and I've got experiences that are invaluable. Even though I am not a professional footballer anymore, my time playing shaped the person I am today. It’s made me into a resilient person, and I’ll never forget the experience I got from it.”

Whilst Joe’s career started in football, he’s currently forging a new path for himself incorporating his love of sport with education.

“For the past two years, I’ve been working full-time at a school with children with special needs, which I really enjoy. I work with the children in small groups, doing intervention-style things. It’s very rewarding in a different way – helping people and supporting the students.”

Although his degree has an emphasis on football, Joe found the modules were relevant to his current role and considers it a viable option for anyone seeking to further their education, regardless of whether they decide to pursue a career in football.

“When I went into the role I have now, I had just started the course, and I had the thought ‘will the course continue to be relevant?’ But with football and sport, so many skills are transferable. For example, some of the modules are on the principles of coaching and learning, and that’s exactly what I’m doing day to day now. Other modules focus on managing people in a business environment and other aspects of leadership, which is also very relevant to what I’m doing. So, the modules on the course, the content that I’m learning from them, as well as data analysis, are relevant to what I’m currently doing, albeit not directly. Also, the principles you take from the modules are transferable and have helped me in my new role. Although you’re learning about the football industry, and your assignments are based around that, the things you get from the course, and from the teaching staff and other students, means you can take it into all different aspects of life.”

That’s not to say Joe may never return to football. In fact, he still plays part-time, non-league football and coaches. The degree, which he recently completed, will allow Joe to complete a PGCE and qualify to be a teacher and he’s likely to continue down that path as he’s really enjoying it. But he acknowledges he’s still considering his options. Long-term, he would like to get back into professional football.

“I would love to work back in football at a professional club one day, whether that be on the business side or whether that be coaching or a role in the Academy. I don’t know, but that would be the long-term goal.”

Whatever Joe decides for his future he feels Ahead In Sport have given him a foundation for success and we look forward to watching his career progress.

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