Of the sofa with Jeremy
The shadowy world of the football agent is one that is cloaked in secrecy amid accusations of greed. Thankfully, we've got one of the good guys on board to lift the lid on what life really is like at the sharp end of a notoriously cut throat business.
By The Secret Agent - @SSSecretAgent. Last Updated: February 28, 2012 11:56am
Lifting the lid on football's dark arts
All transfers 'should' be regulated and approved by a country's governing body (The FA for example), under the guidance of Fifa's jurisdiction, while a licensed agent, lawyer or registered family member 'should' be the only individuals who conduct deals between players and clubs.
However, with the increased money involved in the game on a global scale every Tom, Dick and bloke from the boozer wants a slice of the action - especially if they have a mate at work whose sister is going out with an average former Premier League player.
Now I've always tried to do everything by the book, with the reams of paperwork Fifa and the FA send to me duly attended to with all the enthusiasm a vegan reserves for a butchers. As Licensed Agents we must revise, pass and pay for an exam every five years to allow us to conduct our business. It's not cheap either. However, more and more players are using what are known as 'inbetweeners'.
These inbetweeners are not too dissimilar to the foursome that have now made it to the silver-screen. They aren't very bright, probably don't have any luck with ladies and are unable to hold down a pint. That said, just like the TV characters, they are worth watching and keeping in touch with.
Somehow these geezers/wide boys are getting in with more and more high-profile players. You can imagine the way they try 'to hang' with the boys in the footballer haunts of Manchester like Panacea or London's Movida club on a Saturday night. Sending over a £250 bottle of Belvedere vodka to get an introduction is not uncommon. My boys get a pint of bitter and a pack of nuts.
If these inbetweeners want to try that way of getting in on the action then there's not much us 'proper agents' can do about it - all's fair in love and war and all that. After all it's their credit card the millionaire footballers are using. But when it comes down to getting a new club for his 'mate', and I use the term loosely here, they soon realise they can't complete any deal as the clubs involved won't work with an unlicensed agent or an inbetweener.
Empty promises soon sound hollow when the inbetweener can't sort it out after all. They quckly become out of their depth amid the politics and procedures that inevitably consume a deal. Trying to complete a transfer without the right contacts and credentials is like peeing into a gale.
I recently picked up a player after his inbetweener set up a deal with a big Championship club. The transfer was completed but the FA flagged up a problem as the deal was done by an unlicensed agent. The club and player got a slapped wrist while the inbetweener never received the £20k he hoped for.
The inbetweener does complicate matters with his old-school way of trying to sell a used car, however, it's not such a bad thing to keep in with them as they have a way about them that attracts some of the (even) less intelligent footballers around.
I'm currently 'working' with one now, don't ask me how, but he is helping three former Premier League players looking for one last big pay-day, possibly here or overseas. So despite avoiding going through the legitimate process of being an agent, they have their place and they have their uses - occasionally.
I'll let you know how it all works out in my next blog.
You may remember in one of my previous columns I wrote about a recent episode where one of my lads went against my advice and decided to stay in League Two, instead of joining a higher profile club in a better shop window with more exposure. Familiar surroundings and home comforts won out over ambition.
Well as predicted, his current club are struggling and the team he was 24 hours away from joining are already setting the pace in their respective league. I wouldn't say to his face I told you so, but it does give me some sort of smug feeling to know that I was right. Don't think he'll question me again!
One thing that is always disappointing to see is when a player of mine is dropped from the starting 11 of his team. I used to be the avuncular figure who put an arm around them but I've changed tack of late. Instead of feeling sorry for the lad and texting him to say 'never mind you'll get your place back', I've started to issue a few home truths.
I now tell them they've got to knuckle down, work harder and do more on the training ground and more importantly, the pitch. I don't want to have to find these boys new clubs when they come to me with a tear in their eye in 12 months' time. I'd like the situation to be flipped, with my days spent fending off enquires for their services from other clubs. It's called tough love and touch wood, it seems to be getting some decent results.
It's getting harder each year to stay in the game at all levels. Players need to realise this. It is hard, but you've got to keep working at it. You can't take your foot off the gas for one second. Do well for six months and the chances are you'll be rewarded with a new longer deal or a move. Wake up, smell the coffee and get your arse into gear lads.
As I write this I'm in the lounge of a Stoke hotel waiting to meet with an overseas player and his agent in the expectation of completing a deal in the next couple of days. I'm paying a quick visit to see how it is progressing and that's how it is with two weeks of the window left. Meetings, driving, phone calls, paper work, verbal abuse and more ups and downs than you get watching West Brom.
Now the season is under way and the matches have started the queue of agents wanting to see managers at full-time is ridiculous. I tend not to hassle a manager after a match. There is an art to working out when the best time is to contact the boss, head of recruitment or chief executive.
You have to weigh up the latest result, anticipate what sort of mood they will be in and give them some time to digest another embarrassing performance. If they've lost heavily you can't just wade in there with a list of centre-halves before the hair-dryer has been switched off or while the bottles are still flying around the changing room.
It's not just about having the right players, it's also all about managing personal relationships. Make a call at the wrong time and you'll be shunned quicker than Flavio Briatore after another QPR defeat.
To say I'm looking forward to this window closing is an understatement. It's been a long summer, which started as soon as the Football League season finished back in May. I'm already planning on doing absolutely nothing during September. I've got dozens of episodes of Jeremy Kyle to watch on Sky+ while stuffing my face with Jaffa Cakes. I know how to live.
Roll on the 1st, until then look out for me whizzing up and down the M6. I'll be the one throwing his mobile phone out of the window!
I'll be blogging throughout the summer for skysports.com so if you've any questions or feedback fill in the feedback form or catch me at @SSSecretAgent and I'll look to address them in my next column.