Football Agents: I Was Let Down & Left To Rot
Vital Manchester City received the following from a recently retired professional footballer. The source shall remain anonymous.
When I left school and headed to Southampton to begin my career as a wide eyed 16-year-old not knowing what the future held for me, the furthest thing from my mind was having an agent, in fact back in those days you didn't hear much about them, only that they existed.
Wet behind the ears!
I spent seven years at the Dell and after a succession of managers and a failure to make the break through as a regular in the first team; Alan Ball gave me that chance at Portsmouth. I remember the meeting with Dave Jones well. I went into his office to ask about my future and whether I had one at the club. He made it clear that a move was the best thing and he informed me of Portsmouth's interest in me. He then asked me if I had an agent and suggested that I meet up and spoke with his agent. I didn't see what harm it would do and agreed. Thinking back now I wonder if there was a hidden agenda in there somewhere, but that's just me being cynical.
I met up with the agent at Southampton airport and spoke with him for about 20 minutes and we decided on what I could realistically expect to get at Portsmouth and we put a plan together. It was agreed that he would do all the talking about money and that a 10% fee would be paid out of my signing on fee and that would continue every year.
The late great Alan Ball
So Alan Ball came along and I know he wasn't the most popular Manchester City manager ever but he was probably my favourite manager to play for. The agent then started to big me up, saying what an exciting young prospect I was and the club were getting a bargain etc. I had played under Alan at Southampton so he knew me well. Anyway, I remember looking at the agent and thinking, you have never even seen me play, what are you talking about. As expected the deal was done and I was happy as my money had gone up significantly and I was about to get regular first team game.
Throughout my time with an agent I was supplied with free boots, various kit, a Christmas card and bottle of champagne. However as time passed by I began to notice the phone calls had all but dried up, in fact I ended up chasing him, weird or what.
It didn't take me long to realise where I was in the scheme of things. I soon learnt friends of mine at the time, Kevin Davies who had just made a £7.5 million move to Blackburn and Wayne Bridge were also clients of my agent, and I remember asking them what they thought of him. They had nothing but praise and said that he was always in touch with them. I wonder why? I also heard how this particular company had a lot of players on there books and this also made me wonder how important I was to them.
More you earn the bigger the profile
Basically, the bigger the earner the more high profile the more interested the agent is in that player, its not rocket science and this is where there bread and butter was. The other smaller ones on their books were just small change at the end of the day.
Yet the one guaranteed phone call I would get was when the money needed paying.The one thing that he could provide was free entry to 'The Cafe De Paris' night club in London and I saw him in there acting more like a superstar than the players he had on his books.
I was beginning to like him less and less
When my time at Portsmouth came to an end it was Reading that put a bid in for me and after a lot of persuading from Tony Pulis (he had to sell players) the club accepted the bid from Reading and that I actually decided it was for the best. It was nothing to do with my agent yet when the contract negotiations were required he was pretending that it was him that had engineered the move. It was a good deal for me and I wasn't a trained negotiator so to keep the peace I let him do his stuff again.
What was the agent doing for me?
Next stop for me was Oxford after three good years at Reading. I had the choice of a few clubs (incidentally only one of those clubs had been contacted by my agent) - the others contacted me directly. I really started to wonder what he was doing for me. I spent four years with Oxford and it ultimately resulted in relegation out of the League and into the Conference.
I made the decision that I wasn't ready for the lower leagues, well not yet anyway hence this was the time in my career when I needed my agent the most. I left it in his hands and I went off on a well needed holiday. Whilst soaking up the UV's my agent called saying that a club had shown an interest from up north. I asked him to talk to them and get a feel for money etc. He soon came back to me saying that they weren't interested, which to be honest I found strange. Anyway there was another club who he said were interested and it was between me and another younger left back. He was confident that he would sort it out.
I waited and whilst on holiday I had a strange call from the assistant manager of the club who called and asked whether I would meet them for a chat without my agent present. I said I would when I returned and asked why they didn't want him there. They said that he had been pestering the Chairman and although they never said it in as many words (I guess for a payout or perhaps something less than honest) and that they would not do business with him. I called my agent and informed him of this and he launched into an attack of the club and me and would you believe it, the next few days they signed the younger left back.
I was left really struggling and time was running out to the start of the season. I then contacted the physio of the first club who contacted him from up north. I knew him from my Oxford days. I asked him what had happened and he said that the manager had told my agent where to go after he had tried to make demands on the club again. Because the finances were slowly going out of the game at the lower end of the scale, the days of signing on fees had gone and now my agent was trying to negotiate a fee for himself on the back of the club signing me!
I really began to lose patience and in the end the phone calls between us stopped and that was the last time I spoke with any agent and I vowed to do it all myself. Agents hold the career of a footballer in there hands and I figured if he had a client list of 10 left backs then how was he going to get all those left backs out of contract at that time all a club.
Needless to say the world of agents is one filled with money, greed and an f*** you attitude towards young men who are only trying to get ahead in the game. When if needed mine the most the bast**** went missing.
Vital Man City thanks the author for being open and honest. Cheers mate.
One of the flashing lights is you but what about everyone else.