The ugly game
Diary of a Pro Footballer: Former Arsenal And Tottenham player Rohan Ricketts On The Truth Behind The Transfer Window
Being a footballer isn't all about Baby Bentleys, lucrative boot deals and sexy WAGS. Former Arsenal and Tottenham midfielder Rohan Ricketts reveals the highs and lows of the transfer season from a player's perspective.
For most of the public, 31st August is just the marking of the end of the month. But in the life of a professional football player this time marks a whole different reality, filled with both suspense and hope.
With the summer transfer window about to close, I know there will be many players sitting at home wondering if they will be sold against their wishes or will they be forced to stay at a club. The worst part about the whole process is that its out of your control. In some ways you can say you are a slave to industry.
I can tell you personally, the closing of the transfer window may be entertaining to the fans who watch on, but its a time where players and their families are not guaranteed stability. Questions arise such as, will we have to send the kids to a new school AGAIN?! Do we have to sell our house AGAIN?! Daddy, why do we keep moving?!
Just imagine going into training this week not knowing if the manager is trying to flog you behind your back. But when you get home after training you turn on Sky Sports News to see some random broadcaster who you have never met, telling the world where your future may lie in the coming weeks. Total madness!! But hey, they said its the best job in the world, so you just keep your chin high and keep rolling.
I remember one time in particular, I was playing for Spurs at the time. Glenn Hoddle had just been sacked, which ended my regular role in the side. He had rang me up to let me know that David Pleat, who was caretaker manager at the time, will make it a very hostile environment, as he was not very fond of me. For reasons that we never really knew. As time passed I began to see what Glenn had warned me about. I had gone from a regular in the side, England U21 call up and a phone call from Sven Goran Eriksson to congratulate me on my progress, to someone who was not on the bench all based on what????
You turn on Sky Sports News to see some random broadcaster who you have never met, telling the world where your future may lie in the coming weeks.
Many said it was because he had spent a £1 million on Jonathan Blondel and he wanted to justify his signing. While Paul Kemsley signed me for nothing and I was JUSTIFYING my worth. It was a real frustrating period. It got even worse when Pleaty, suggested that I was not going to get games under him, so I should go out on loan.
I said to myself, OK let me speak to my agent Eric Walters (who is the most genuine agent I have met and I have met a ton ). Eric then sourced a club who wanted me on loan, which was Reading at the time. It was 1pm on transfer deadline day and I was happy that I had an opportunity to go and get some games under my belt. Little did I know, Pleaty had other ideas, contradicting what he had originally suggested. He had told me to call him if we found a club, so I gave him a call and you would not believe what this man said to me. He asked me why was I calling him, so I told him about the Reading interest. He then says, " you ain't going anywhere and how did you get my number ?", like he was the damn Queen or something. I said, David you told me to find a club and now I've found one. He then says again, that I ain't going nowhere and proceeds to hang up the phone. Cheek!!
That was a moment which really made me aware that the football business was as ruthless, if not more, than the dealings that happen on street corners everyday. It made me more thick skinned for other situations which were now inevitably visible. That's just the very tip of the iceberg.
You can also find yourself used by the kind of ruthless agents who have now flooded football. I have seen agents love me and coveted my signature to guys who have not picked up the phone when you need REAL help finding a club. Anyone can move David Beckham or a Jermain Defoe, but its going to take a real grafter to find a deal for someone who's CV is quiet bare but yet still he has potential. Don't get me wrong, there are some good agents (decent human beings) out there. They know who they are. But for the majority, they are just out to get a buck at whatever the cost. Not giving a flying toss about morals or value of others.
That was a moment which really made me aware that the football business was as ruthless, if not more, than the dealings that happen on street corners everyday.
I have been privileged enough to travel and play in different parts of the world. Some real unfamiliar parts, like Moldova where I am now. Throughout my journey I have seen many players who have had their careers dictated by the actions of a agent. Some result in a positive outcome and negative for others. I believe that for an agent/player relationship to be of any substance, the agent must have an emotional attachment to you or your goals. If he does not he will not go to war for you or should I say with you.
All the above are just a small insight into some of the emotions and scenarios which happen during the transfer window. It's not as smooth sailing as some may think. Throughout all of these unsettling scenarios which can arise, MONEY or the prospects of attaining money, becomes the psychological cushion. The finances acquired can allow the player to create a lifestyle which can momentarily provide a escape from all the noise. I hope this has given you a deeper sense of understanding of the game, let me rephrase that, the 'business' called football. As I have been saying for a while now... there is not much football in football anymore.
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