HE was far too handsome to be a footballer anyway!
John Halls, 35, was once a promising player at Arsenal and a member of their FA Youth Cup winning team in 2000.
A ball-playing centre half, a promising career was on the cards. However, after failing to make it at the Gunners, he moved to Stoke and then to Reading in what became an unfulfilled career.
In 2012 he quit football aged just 30 and became an internationally renowned model.
Since swapping sport for fashion, he hasn’t looked back since and walked the catwalk for Armani and Versace in Milan, as well as shot high-end campaigns with La Perla.
Looking back at his career, Halls is philosophical about his time at Highbury playing alongside the club’s greats.
“I was very lucky and privileged to come through at a team like Arsenal,” he said.
“It wasn’t until I left the Arsenal I thought, ‘oh my God, I was training every day with Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp.’
“At the time I was as a cocky young lad, thinking I was better than everyone, thinking, ‘I should be playing in front of him and him’.
“It’s only when you come away from it and think about different aspects of life you realise how privileged you were.
“I always fully believed in myself, as most footballers do, and I did have a little break at 17 or 18, making the bench at Charlton – Nelson Vivas missed a penalty and we lost.
“I did my knee after that, so I was out for a while, then I got back and was included in the League Cup squads again.
“I was on the bench when Dennis Bergkamp scored that ridiculous goal at Newcastle.”
As his opportunities under Arsene Wenger began to become more limited, he was loaned out to clubs including Colchester United and Belgium side Beveren.
But it was Tony Pulis at Stoke that believed in him the most when he brought him in on loan in 2003.
Halls soon established himself as one of the first names on the team sheet and his deal was made permanent in December that same year.
“It’s always hard to leave a club like Arsenal, as the way we were taught in my era was incredibly different to even the Championship and lower Premier League, which meant when you had to leave and go down a level, it was quite hard,” he admitted.
“But I went to Stoke City on loan and played every game for two months. I didn’t want go back to the Arsenal then, as I loved it.
“I didn’t want to sit on the bench or play reserve team football, so I spoke to the boss. I had a year left on my contract, but I wanted to play, I was young and enthusiastic. I made my mind up and went to Stoke City.
“In hindsight, I think maybe I should have stayed at the Arsenal, as who knows what would have happened, but at the time I wanted to play.
“Pulis took me in with open arms. He loved me, I loved him. He let me do what I wanted on the pitch, which is what I needed as a footballer.
“The fans were brilliant too, everyone knew my name in the town centre, and it was great to known as a footballer. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
But Halls joy at Stoke was soon cut short when Pulis departed following a contractual disagreement.
He moved on to Reading in 2005, but only managed to play two league games at the Madejski Stadium.
One of those was his first and only game in the top-flight against Bolton, but he knew his footballing dreams were beginning to fade and his talent was wasted.
“It didn’t work out at Reading,” he said.
“I don’t know who signed me, which I think is quite common in football, but (manager) Steve Coppell didn’t take to me, and I didn’t take to him.
“I didn’t suit their style. They used their full-backs to put the ball down the wings, playing safe balls, which wasn’t my game at all.
“I had injury problems and before I knew it my time there was over. And once you’re out of sight and out of mind, you’ve got to start again.
“When I left there were only a few clubs interested. I wasted my time at Reading.
“Everything I did at Reading was no good to me. I look back it now and I have no regrets, but I wish I’d got out of there a lot earlier.
“I got on the pitch as a Premier League player, which was nice, but I got nutmegged without touching the ball within about 30 seconds of coming on!
“Considering my talent, it was just a waste.”
With long spells out of the team, coupled with niggling injuries, Halls lost interest in the game as he spent more time on the physio’s table than on the pitch.
“I really fell out of love with the game. The last year at Reading I was playing reserve team football, which can really break a player.
“No one really tries too hard, except for some of the youngsters. The older boys don’t feel they should be playing reserve team football so don’t bother trying. It might as well be a friendly. I fell out of love with the game.
“I had to go down a league to Brentford, and I had a great time there as we won the league, but I felt liked I’d lost a bit of pace and all the rest of it as not playing for three years takes it toll. It all went downhill from there.”
Halls tried playing on through the pain barrier, taking in spells at Aldershot and Wycombe.
In 2012 he decided to call time on his playing career after taking advice from a specialist about a long-standing Achilles problem.
Halls confessed that his lifestyle outside of football may not have helped his body in keeping up with the demands of the professional game.
“I liked a night out, I’m not going to lie. I had a lot of friends who enjoyed a night out and I enjoyed it,” he revealed.
“The best two years of my career were at Stoke City, and I was probably going out more than I’ve ever been out in my life.
“The problem is when you get injured and you keep going out, that’s when things go wrong, as you’re not keeping fit so more injuries come from that. If I could go back, I would change that.”
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Halls life changed forever when he was scouted by internationally renowned model agency Next Models, while out shopping in Wycombe. That stroke of luck came just days after retiring.
Funnily enough, it was a career path that his sister had initially suggested he’d take during his playing days.
Since that fateful moment he’s worked for fashion giants like Versace, Giorgio Armani and H&M, as well as Italian underwear company La Perla.
“I was really lucky, I retired with Wycombe and about five or six days later I was in a shopping centre when my now agents approached me and asked if I wanted to start modelling, so I gave it a go,” he said.
“Before that, my sister made me go to a few agencies while I was still playing and she put it in my mind that it was something I could do. I did a test shoot for my agents and they signed me.
“I’ve worked with Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Marks & Spencers, Next and H&M, so I’ve been really lucky. It’s taken me all around the world, which is really nice, especially when you’re not paying for it.”
So how does walking the catwalks of Milan compare to a cold, rainy night in Stoke?
“Confidence goes a long way in football and modelling. I’ve always been very assured of myself from football and my upbringing at Arsenal,” Halls said.
“But with the catwalking, they make you get there four hours before you have to walk down the catwalk, even though it takes 30 seconds.
“For the four hours you just want it over and done with, but there’s people touching your hair and doing your clothes, so it’s a lot of waiting about. It’s quite boring. I would prefer to play a game of football.”