Ask any current footballer who or what inspires them as a player and most are likely to reveal a soft spot for the swashbuckling sophistication of Barcelona.

This definitely applies to Torquay United's summer signing Craig Easton, although perhaps not entirely for the same reasons as his peers.

"Barca: amazing," he enthuses, the 33-year-old referring to Graham Hunter's book about the Catalan club as opposed to the team's tiki-taka style of play.

"I can't get enough of it. Every player and manager should read it. It's a great insight. The way Graham's put it together in terms of his research, the time he's spent with the team and his inside knowledge...even his football insight; it feels as though he's played the game at the top level. He understands because he's been around football a lot."

Easton is well qualified to pass comment. The experienced Scot has played professional football for 17 years and knows a thing or two about the game, while he's also a burgeoning writer in his own right after finishing a degree in Professional Sports Writing and Broadcasting at Staffordshire University.

Footballers have traditionally been more likely to fill back pages with their on-field exploits rather than write about them, but Easton is one of a growing number of players turning to journalism, or similar opportunities presented to them by the PFA. For some, it's a viable career alternative. For Easton, it's a passion born from a favour for his hometown newspaper, the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser.

"I got into writing when a guy asked me to do a column for my newspaper back home," Easton explains. "I really enjoyed it. I'm passionate about it and it's something I want to continue. That's why I ended up doing a degree, I wanted to learn more about writing.

"My degree was a four-year Honours course condensed into two," he continues. "I'd go to the university once a month, the rest was done online. Most of the lectures were done that way.

"I always preferred the writing side to broadcasting. I learnt about sports and media law as well as writing columns, features and different types of articles, such as match reports. I really enjoyed it. Most of the lads on my course were current or ex-footballers and we all tried to help each other through it."

Funnily enough, Easton's experience of writing match reports has changed his perception of sports journalists.

He now sympathises with the guys and girls who fill the press boxes around the country when matchday comes around.

"I used to read reports and think: 'was that guy even at the game?' Yet now I understand how hard it is [reporting on matches]," he laughs.

"I found watching and writing about games - as opposed to simply viewing them for enjoyment - very tough. You're always thinking about what you're going to write or taking notes. It's easy to miss things, particularly if there are last-minute goals or things happening at the end of a game. That can change the whole piece you're going to write."

Easton has written a variety of blogs and articles for a range of websites and publications and, whilst a Swindon Town player, he wrote a column for the local newspaper, the Swindon Advertiser.

On the whole, his pieces have had positive feedback - his written word seemingly as eloquent and well received as his phone manner.

"Most of those comments are my friends being nice," he jokes. "But I do get some people giving me feedback and it's nice to have them comment on my work in a positive way. It's great, I get a buzz not only writing but getting stuff published. If people like it, that's brilliant.

"I like to think I'm improving, too. My grammar's better, although even now it needs editing. I'd say my style hasn't changed too much since I started writing. I guess it's more honed and less chatty. It's still informal, just less so. My blogs have a bit more structure to them.

"I've written a couple of pieces on other sports. In fact, I've just written one on Andrew Strauss and the England cricket team. I like a wee bit of cricket and, although I find writing about other sports more challenging, similar things apply across all sports.

"If you're passionate about sport in general you can write about anything, you just have to do a bit more research. Football can learn things from other sports and vice versa and I find that quite interesting."

Ultimately, Easton aspires to see his work published in The Blizzard, a pay-what-you-like magazine that describes itself as 'part book, part magazine' and which he considers the pinnacle of football journalism.

However, any talk of him swapping his boots for a computer on a more permanent basis are premature. The midfielder, who started life at Dundee United and who has made more than 400 appearances at various levels in England and Scotland, joined Torquay United in the summer and football remains his raison d'être.

"I've got no idea if it will happen, but you have to have something to aim for. The Blizzard's edited by Jonathan Wilson who writes for the Guardian, among others. I like his work. I also like Sid Lowe, a guy who writes about Spanish football. I enjoy reading the Independent and I follow the Guardian on Twitter.

"I hadn't had a club since January, so to sign for Torquay in the summer was brilliant. I missed football and it's great to be back playing and being around a dressing room again. There are a lot of players out there without a club so I fully intend to take the chance I've been given."

Easton and his team-mates are once again on the fringes of the Play-Offs after a win against Rochdale last week.

The Gulls are hoping to make it third time lucky after narrowly missing out in the Play-Offs in consecutive seasons.

"Torquay had a great season last year, they just ran out of steam a wee bit. It was unfortunate because they were unlucky against Cheltenham Town in the Semi-Finals. Torquay have been unlucky in the last two campaigns. I remember playing them the season before last when I was at Southend and they were a good side; it took one of our best performances of the season to beat them.

"They've been so close to promotion that it makes us more determined this time. We all want to be up there again and involved in big games."

In signing for Torquay, Easton linked up with boss Martin Ling for a second time, having worked under him at Leyton Orient.

And the Scot admits he would like to follow Ling's footsteps into management, proving he has plenty of versatility when the time comes to pursue another career after his playing days come to an end.

"I've always thought about what I can do next in life. I love football and I'm doing my coaching badges.

"If we're talking about what I want to do when I finish playing, I'd like to coach and eventually manage."

Easton's temperament is well suited to the rigours of the touchline.

But if it doesn't work out, there's always the writing.

"I love a lot of things in life. I'm passionate about music and I like relaxing - going for walks and stuff like that.

"And of course, there's the writing. I'm not sure if it will be my full-time job [after football], but I don't think I'll ever stop for the rest of my life."

Whatever happens, Easton will do whatever he can to ensure the next chapters in his life are thrilling page-turners.

For all the latest news on Torquay United please click here