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The time of year which is most difficult for Pards & Co
SOME people may think that managers, especially the ones finishing in midtable, will be saying ‘roll on the next couple of weeks so we can put our feet up on a beach somewhere for a month or two’.
But that is far from the truth.
In many ways this is the most awkward time for the bosses as contracts have to be looked at and preseason planned.
As I have said many a time, young players trying to make their way in the game have got to be called in.
On my day it used to be on their 18th birthday, now it’s probably this time of the year, and they are desperate to be told they are getting a longer contract.
The worst thing is when a manager has to say ‘sorry, we can’t keep you.’ Believe me, you feel for each of the youngsters.
Being at a higher level is a little bit more helpful because I used to be able to say to the players that I would try to fix them up with another club lower down.
Many of our youngsters who came off the conveyer belt made a good living elsewhere.
I was pleased to often see them say they had a good grounding at the Dell.
Not only does a manager have to speak to the youngsters, there is always the case of the senior players who are just as anxious to know what the future holds for them.
Imagine the scene when a player in his mid-30s, who has helped the club progress but his legs can perhaps no longer keep pace at the next level, has to sit down with the manager.
It’s no good agents or advisors trying to do this job for him. He needs to hear it from the horse’s mouth.
Is there a future? Can the manager help?
It all depends on the situation of the club as finances play a bigger part than ever.
We read yet again of our neighbours who probably would want to keep people like David James but may have to release him on a free as his contract will be up simply because they cannot afford the wages they have been paying him.
The player in this case will not be too perturbed because he knows other clubs would want him and pay the wages he has been getting.
Goalkeepers also go on that much longer than outfield players.
But imagine the scene when a senior player has to go home and tell his wife he has not been retained.
They probably have a young family, and depending on how long he has been at that club they could be well entrenched in the area.
Again, depending on the level he has played at, if in the lower divisions he would certainly have not made enough money to retire and then has to sell his wares around.
This is where the agents have to earn their corn by getting out, knocking on doors and trying to find other clubs.
He then comes home one day and says to his wife ‘good news, I’ve got a club.’ ‘Where is it?’ she will ask and then finds out it is 100, 200 or 300 miles from where they are living at present.
The contract may only be for one year and then the big decisions – do you move house, take the children out of school?
I know many cases with managers where the family is in one part of the country while the men are miles away in rented apartments.
It’s not all the rosy picture painted by the Premiership millionaires.
And not everyone can go on to be a TV pundit like some of my signings, such as Matt Le Tissier, Andy Townsend and Alan Shearer, who are making a good living out of it.
Many players nowadays are fortunately taking advantage of the many courses in coaching and management available through the players’ union and the LMA.
But then they will find there are only 92 professional clubs and even the queue to take over at non-league clubs is getting longer.
If we look at Saints this season it has been a fantastic time as far as Alan Pardew and his reputation is concerned.
The harshness of the ten points in addition to relegation had to be overcome.
An unsettled dressing room had to be sorted out in a very short period and the rest is history that we just fell at the last hurdle.
But great expectations are there now for next season.
It will be wrong to expect every game to be won because every game, particularly against clubs with no chance of promotion, will be more like cup ties.
Alan will need to know what money is available before he can decide on the futures of some of his squad.
He has a number of contracts which are up and, like most managers’ wishes, he would want contracts of certain other players to be up. But because they’re not, he will still have to have them in the squad.
This is the other thing about movement of management – the average tenure is less and less at one year and three months, yet the first thing on arrival is to look at what players are there and how long their contracts are for.
Sometimes managers will discover the players are on three, four or five years and yet don’t figure in the first team.
That can be a problem because players are not daft. They realise they’re not going to play a part but they still have to turn up every day.
That’s where a manager’s staff are important, to be smelling the air in the dressing room.
They must be looking for little groups, listening for any comments which can be detrimental to what the management are hoping to achieve and sorting them out.
After all this is done, often there is little time left for a manager to spend with his family, especially these days when children who are at school are not allowed to take holidays in term time.
By the time the schools break up the manager is back in training with his squad.
Would mangers swap it for anything else? Definitely not.
But more and more of them, if you notice, are getting grey hair sooner than other professions ...