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Football is in my blood. I can't remember when I first became entranced by the "beautiful game". I just know that it was a long time ago. My Grandad had been a successful professional footballer and golfer and my Dad had been with Tranmere Rovers. I was offered trials with the same club but declined and decided to pursue a degree and a career. I never regretted the career. But I should have gone to the trials. I had been spotted and I could play.
Now people pay to watch my sons play and I coached them largely myself. Thus, I was weaned on it and so were my sons! I was always playing football or watching it or talking about it. I developed a depth of knowledge which now stands me in good stead. I know a players strengths and weaknesses and understand team tactics and systems of play. I watch 100s of games each season both "live" and on television. I have worked with a lot of managers (some world renowned) and many trust my judgement.
That doesn’t mean I know it all. You never will. A few seasons ago, I saw a Watford defender take a piece of paper from his sock to check the number of the player he was detailed to mark!! (He did this as a corner was about to be delivered!) I also saw a goal scored past the Liverpool goalkeeper after deflecting off a beach ball! This is why I love the game. I am always learning and acquiring knowledge. I am always evolving. I love passing information on to players if they are prepared to listen. I want to make them better. I do make them better.
I approached player X at the beginning of last season. A Conference North player, I had seen him play before and to me he stood out. He was a forward but did not have the attributes of an athlete. Perhaps that is why he was missed. Managers want athletes. They want big, powerful players who work hard for the team. Then they wonder why their teams miss chances. This guy hardly missed! He ran intelligently although not blessed with searing pace. He had good feet and linked up play well with his teammates.
He was economical in his work rate, but when the ball came within 30 yards of goal he came alive. When he had a chance at goal he was ice cool and his finishing was truly outstanding. He had two feet and wasn’t bad in the air although not overly tall. He was a predator. A highly trained assassin. He was the spider waiting for the fly. The only thing that surprised me was that no one else seemed to see it.
I obtained his number and rang him. He was sceptical. How could a solicitor from Hoylake help him?! He asked around about me and was satisfied. An informal bargain was struck. He agreed it was helpful to have someone in his ear on a one to one. He had a target of 30 goals for the season. I set him 45! He said that that was impossible. We spoke about his lack of fitness and that his physique needed work. He agreed and embarked on a more rigorous training routine. Strong willed and determined, under my guidance he became extremely focused. I was as he put it "the wasp in his ear that he could never get rid of!"
The hard work paid off. We talked about his weaknesses. We briefly discussed his strengths. On rare occasions we disagreed. I hardly ever had to take him to task about his goal scoring. He was lethal. The goals flowed. He set records. He was to score at least once in 10 consecutive League matches on two occasions last season. People were starting to notice. He became newsworthy. I used my media contacts to write stories about him. Scouts started to watch him more. He became linked with clubs. All a coincidence you might think? Nonsense!
The reality is that this was all by design. Planned and worked for by the two of us. Goals set and achieved. Literally! He would go on to score 44 goals. He failed to reach target but it was an acceptable failure! What gets measured gets done! He never scored in either of his last two games but achieved the highest league tally by anyone in England for the top six tiers of football. To my knowledge, only Lionel Messi beat him in the whole of Europe and he was ahead of him for most of the season!
I scout for a professional club in the Scottish Premier League. I invited them to watch him and the assistant manager came. In a game when he did little he scored a sublime goal of improvised genius clip chipping home from a ridiculous angle. They were interested. He was watched again. The manager trusted my judgement of the player as a man and my assessment of his ability. He watched him. He liked him. A Contract offer came. A minimum of four times his salary.
For reasons best known to Player X and for some that will always remain private he declined the offer. In his words he subsequently admitted to me that it was the biggest mistake he ever made. He signed for another agent who in my view neither understood him nor the game. Player X needed to go to the next level and now this would be denied him.
He made a commercial decision. As a business man I understand and respect it. We had become friends. We will stay friends. But I know I did my best and mores to the point, I know I can do it again with anyone just as long as the ability and desire is there!