After a 10 year playing career for Ulster and Northampton was cut short due to a serious neck injury, Paul Shields decided to stay in the game. He moved into the team manager role at Northampton Saints, where he has been ever since.
Having had success both as a player and part of a coaching team, Paul finds it hard to pinpoint an individual highlight in his career so far. He says
“Playing for your country is special and I was fortunate enough to have done it with Ireland. Aside from this, winning the Aviva Premiership final in 2014 was the most amazing experience. The game was won with the last play of injury time and it was that tight, the decision was made by the Television Match Official. Hollywood could not have scripted it more dramatically.”
While Paul no longer has to deal with the gruelling physical aspects of rugby, his average day is still one that requires hard work and dedication. Outlining an average day at the club, he says:
“I like to have my emails cleared so the first part of the day is spent dealing with them. The rest of it is spent organising community appearances, sorting travel and hotel logistics for the weekend if we are away but the most amount of time is spent on the recruitment and retention of players.
“A more dramatic day would be negotiating contracts and agreeing a deal. It can be a lot of back and forth as you try to finalise everything and drill down with the players and their representatives to the finer details. Sometimes it is very time sensitive so my phone is generally stuck to my head. Drawing up the paperwork and sending it off for approval can take time so it can feel like a race against the clock.”
Asked what is the hardest thing about his job, Paul gives the same answer he always would have done as a player:
“Losing. It is the same for every club: so much time and effort is put in by so many people over the course of a week to achieve a win at the weekend. When you lose and things don’t go to plan, everyone feels the disappointment because it matters so much to you.
“But on the flip side, the most satisfying part of the job is winning matches. We go into every game as not just a squad but as a club. When we win games it shows that all of the hard work by the players, backroom staff and club hierarchy is paying off.”
Away from his job, Paul is a very family orientated person with 3 children taking up most of his spare time. Paul says:
“I’m constantly taking my kids to rugby, football, hockey, gymnastics or swimming sessions. I find that watching them enjoy what they do is one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a parent and it’s always a great way to switch off from work. Any free time I do have for myself involves keeping active. I still enjoy training and feeling fit even now that my career doesn’t depend on it.
“I did a few ultra endurance events for charity but I am very conscious now that I need to look after myself and my knees especially. I am not built for running but I do love it and it is such a good release and way of clearing your head.
Like many Mammoth customers, Paul was inspired to test drive Mammoth as a result of referrals from others. And like many other former players it was the pressure relief in relation to longstanding injuries that encouraged him to switch from his old mattress to a Mammoth.
“Comfort and sleep quality is hugely important for me. I retired from rugby with a neck injury and still feel the effects from it today. I know I’ll always retain some problems with my neck but I was keen to do anything I could to ease the pain at night so that I could get the rest I needed to ensure that my day-to-day life was not affected.
“I know I have to sleep on my back generally, otherwise I end up in a lot of pain. But not every mattress allows me to lie this way in comfort. I aim for 8 hours a night but my sleep is typically pretty restless and I frequently get less sleep than this.”
“I have a number of friends and colleagues at the club who sleep on Mammoths and they all gave me glowing references about how good they were. One of my friends has serious back problems and he said that the mattress has made an enormous difference to his life. He is a physio, so that was good enough for me!”
Having taken delivery of his mattress in 2017, Paul says that he has experienced a noticeable difference since sleeping regularly on a Mammoth.
“I bought the Performance 240 Regular from Kettering Beds as I wanted something firm without being too rigid. It has made a difference to me already as I have been sleeping soundly. The mattress actually allows me to sleep on my side for periods which I have not been able to do since before I suffered my career-ending neck injury.”
Like every Mammoth customer we speak to, we asked Paul: If you could have a (purely platonic) late night chat with anyone, dead or alive, who’d be worth losing sleep over – and why? In response, Paul says:
“I think it would have to be Sir Alex Ferguson. I am a huge Manchester United fan anyway but to have sustained success for over 25 years is remarkable and to find out how he did it and maintained the hunger and passion for it would be fascinating.”