Rob Earnshaw on doing social media differently, learning the Barcelona way in Israel and wanting to be a manager
"People say, 'Footballers do not talk like this.' I am sorry. I don't fit in that box and it is not going to happen because I have bigger experiences than being a footballer."
Rob Earnshaw is discussing the tweets that turned him into a social media phenomenon in football circles. He has shared thoughts on the nature of friendship and whether we are more likely to discover aliens or the robot technology that they have left behind.
"People can be negative but I am not falling for that, the craziness of social media. You can use your platform in a positive way to change people's ways of thinking, give them hope, help people or just make them laugh. The way I see it, it is always going to be entertaining."
Perhaps it is no surprise that Earnshaw, now 40, is an original thinker. His experiences are unique. "People know me as being from Wales but I was born in Zambia and I grew up in Malawi, so automatically you have a wider sense of how you see the world," he explains.
"It is probably the most interesting question that I get when people ask which part of the world I am in now. I am here, there and everywhere. I always wanted to experience different things. You are only on the pitch a few hours, the rest is about your life."
His football career once took him from Israel to Canada but for now he is back home in Wales having completed his UEFA Pro Licence. There is a serious side to the fun-loving former Cardiff City favourite and he has designs on a move into management.
"I am ready to be a manager," he says. "I have confidence in my own ability."
Earnshaw has put the time in, a work ethic that he picked up from his mother, a care worker. "We started in May 2020 and it has been a long process to get to the end of it."
Studying with the Welsh FA, there have been seminars with Gareth Southgate, Roberto Martinez, Mikel Arteta, David Moyes, Thierry Henry and Liverpool assistant Pep Lijnders.
"It is the highest qualification in football coaching that you can get," explains Earnshaw. "It gives you so much knowledge and information that you are able to elevate yourself to a different level. I know I am a much better coach now than I was a year ago."
Earnshaw is the answer to a familiar quiz question - the only player to score hat-tricks in the Premier League, every level of the Football League, both domestic cups and for his country. But it was his time in Israel that marked the real turning point in his coaching journey.
That loan spell with Maccabi Tel Aviv, during which he won the title, grabbed headlines because it coincided with trouble in Gaza that had Earnshaw and pals scrambling for shelter.
"The alarm would go off and you had to go to the side of the building or the bomb shelters. There were missiles and rockets, things outside of football that I was right in the middle of. It was a crazy situation but that is why I went - to venture out into the big wide world."
While it was an anxious time, it was also notable for shaping his ideas about the game. "The director of football was Jordi Cruyff and the coaches came from Barcelona, so there was a very Spanish way of working on a day-to-day basis," Earnshaw explains.
"Tactically, it was a completely different way of thinking about the game to what I had been used to. The way I understood football changed, how you move, how you play with the ball, how you can win games. Naturally, you learn in that environment. It was great."
He began coaching in Vancouver, working as an individual coach, and further experiences in North America saw him explore youth coaching and working with senior players. "Put me in a room with people and I will enjoy picking their brains. I am just interested in people."
That curious streak continues. His recent social media activity includes playing chess in Shoreditch and appearing in a music video. "We had fun filming it. I hate to be put in a box and told, 'This is what he is'. I am passionate about music. It is part of who I am."
One wonders whether Earnshaw might just be too interesting to become a football coach, tied to the training ground day after day. There is his media work and who knows what else. But whichever club does acquire his services next is unlikely to be disappointed.
"I don't know what the future is but it has to be something that fuels my passion," he says. "Experience has taught me that you cannot predict where you will go and what you will do. There are things you might not know you wanted but when it comes up you will enjoy it.
"That is the thing with me, you never know what the future holds but you know that maybe it will be something a little bit different. I am definitely not afraid to try new things."
Just check his social media work if you ever doubt that.
"Sometimes it is planned, sometimes it is unplanned," adds Earnshaw. "But you can always expect something. Every day I am curious about something."
Robert Earnshaw is supporting McDonald's Fun Football. Free football sessions for 5 to 11 year olds are available nationwide this autumn. Visit mcdonalds.co.uk/football to sign up and play.