You might thinks that all agents are the scum of the earth but according to former Arsenal and Tottenham midfielder Rohan Ricketts, for a naive, young player entering the jungle of professional football, Mr Ten Percent can be a life-coach, a philosopher and a father-figure all rolled into one.
It’s getting to the business end of the Summer transfer window so naturally people are slagging off football agents. Everyone thinks they’re slimy, greedy middle men but there’s the other side.
Agents play a vital role for so many young players whose parents aren’t educated and can’t help them make the right career decisions. If my dad was smart enough he could have been my agent but he’s an electrician and so from the very start I needed someone to help me make the right choices.
I got my first agent when I was 16 and his name was Eric Walters. At the time he had a very small business and used to also drive a black cab and some of the other players at Arsenal used to laugh at him because he wasn’t big time. They used to joke and ask me “Where's your dad Eric?” because he's a black guy. He would turn up in his taxi and when others took the mick, he would just say “I don't need that flashy stuff”.
My first agent Eric Waters was like a life-coach, a philosopher and a father-figure all rolled into one.
But he was a really good person with strong morals and just wanted to provide a good service for players. When I was at Wolves I was tapped up by West Brom. They were playing nice football with players like Jason Koumas and they wanted me to join them in January to help them push for promotion. So they gave Eric a call but he just told me to sit tight and play my football. He wouldn’t dream of doing anything illegal.
He was like an agent, a life-coach and a philosopher all rolled into one. You could call him at one in the morning if you had a problem with your missus or something had happened to your car. He'd leave his house and come and help you. That guy actually loved and cared for me and even to this day, he feels like a father figure to me.
Today I find myself once again looking for a new club. If I get picked up this will be my tenth club in ten years. Looking back I realise that a lot of the errors I’ve made in my career are because I didn’t listen to Eric Walters.
He said to me “Rohan, don't be going from agent to agent, stay with one and trust them” and he was right. But I left Eric because I didn’t think he could get me the best deal and since him I’ve probably been through another 10 agents.
I left him because he was telling me things I didn't want to hear. He'd tell me what to do with my money. He'd tell me how to spend it, what to buy, what not to buy and who not to buy it for. But when you're a young boy who's come from nothing and you're given money, you don't want people telling you what to do with it. You want to treat your friends.
I wanted my friends to live the dream with me. I wanted to use my money to get them into certain clubs and meet certain people and enjoy a certain standard of living. But too late I realised it was all one way and when I stopped playing for the big clubs with the bigger salaries, all my so called friends disappeared...
Since Eric, I’ve had sharks, I’ve had crooks, I’ve even had agents that wouldn’t bother answering my calls. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned, it’s find an agent early who you can trust. Find an agent who understands you and who believes in you. Stay with that person and have a good relationship with them because in football you need that stability.
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