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Over the Hill – can 30+ players compete at the very top? Matt Kleinman takes a look

In the football world there seems to be a massive stigma attached to players in their 30s. Sidekick’s Matt Kleinman takes a closer look.

In the football world there seems to be a massive stigma attached to players in their 30s. There seems to be an unwritten rule that, as soon as a player turns from 29 to 30, his ability to perform at the same levels as he had done previously drops off and thus his earning potential drops exponentially too.  So I thought it might be useful to see where this theory’s origins are born out of and whether they are still pertenant today.  Is it a reality or merely a myth that the modern day footballer becomes so much less valuable in his 30s than he was in his 20s?

I encounter the same frustrations from season to season, transfer window to transfer window as our players age and enter the twilight of their careers.  The same feedback is received when trying to promote the benefits of signing our Sidekick Management clients who have been playing out of their skin but who are now in their 30s – “he’s not for us thanks, he’s a bit too old.” Or maybe, “if he was a few years younger then we’d take him all day long.”  It doesn’t seem to matter that the striker has scored 13 goals for his struggling club before the end of January. The clubs can’t or perhaps, more to the point, don’t want to look beyond his age. What’s age got to do with it?  In football it seems the answer to that question is… everything!

Let’s look at why clubs may have this view. There two dominant reasons for this:

  1. Not the same player they once were: Historically and this is more rule of thumb than it is scientifically proven, players’ form dipped off a little once they entered their 30s. Perhaps this was due to over-playing at a young age and maybe on less well kept surfaces than we find today. As a result, by the time they had reached their late twenties and early thirties they were either a bit burned out or had endured a number of injuries that had led to them losing their pace. Concerns by clubs over paying good money to players that they might not be able to get the best out of anymore or even get out on the pitch are fully justified in this case.  Michael Owen is perhaps the perfect example of this.
  2. No re-sale value: With the stigma attached to being ‘past their prime’ many clubs view taking players over the age of 30 as being a loss of income. In their minds they have to pay wages to players of this age that they will never recoup in the future and that they may otherwise do by having players that are younger and who may have a ‘re-sale’ value attached to them. In their view, all wages that are invested into players in their 30s is lost the minute they sign them as they are highly unlikely to be able to sell these players on at a later date and reimburse their outlay or make money from their association with the club. This is not so much the case when the player in question has a large commercial value attached to them whereby the club can monetise that investment by offsetting it against selling club shirts and other paraphernalia, as in the case of Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid. That said, Ronaldo is a massive exception to the over-30s rule as he still remains one of the best players in the world.
Craig Davies
Craig Davies has lead from the front this season with 13 goals (come the end of February) at struggling League 1 side, Oldham Athletic.

Perhaps the ‘over 30s theory’ was more accurate in the days when pitches were less well kept and the rules on tackling were less stringent. Anyone who has seen footage of games in the 1960s where the likes of ‘Chopper Harris’ (Chelsea) and Nobby Stiles (Manchester United) were involved will see exactly what I mean.  Football then took ‘physical contact’ to a whole new level by comparison to today’s game which has become almost a non-contact sport.  One funny story that sums up nicely the extreme side of the game in those days was when Stiles was allegedly asked during the 1966 World Cup Finals by England Manager, Sir Alf Ramsey to take one of the best player’s in the world, Eusebeo (of Portugal) out of the game.  Stiles’s  response was, “what boss, you mean today or forever?!”  Also, in those times, certain injuries that are highly prevalent today such as knee ligament tears were career ending injuries while, with the advance in medical treatment, today such injuries can be a major set-back to a player’s career but certainly don’t mean having to quit the game.

“You don’t have to look too far to find examples throughout the leagues in England of players that have played some of their best football in their 30’s and/ or are still doing the business today”

Medical advances and a better knowledge of diet and nutrition are possibly the two main factors that have prolonged players’ careers in recent years and seen many performing at their best in their 30’s.  Also, the advent of more sophisticated sportswear has undoubtedly aided in helping players train and perform better for longer.  A strong argument can be made for suggesting that older footballers, with greater levels of experience (both training and match time), develop a greater appreciation for the game – a heightened understanding of positional sense, when to expend energy and when not –  making them more efficient and effective.

There are no less number of games per season today than there were in the 70s, 80s or 90s nor is there less intensity in the fixture schedule, with league and cup ties coming thick and fast.  However, players’ training schedules seem to be better managed due to the physical demands placed on them being understood and appreciated further. Clubs today are adopting a sensible philosophy of prevention being better than cure by making players complete pre-hab work prior to training and recovery work following game days.  The likes of Nobby Styles and Norman Hunter would have laughed in your face if you’d have presented them with a protein shake after a tough game instead of a pint of lager!

Ian Henderson
Like a fine wine getting better with age, Henderson scored 19 goals last season for Rochdale at the age of 32 and at 33 years of age has 15 goals already this season for the Dale.

Perhaps another significant reason as to why players are managing to prolong their careers today is due to the financial returns that it offers.  The money in football has risen rapidly in recent years and this has filtered down the leagues into players’ wages.  While there is still a massive disparity between what players in the Premier League can earn compared to their counterparts in the lower leagues of the professional game, there is still a very good income to be earned as a footballer. Beyond their playing days there are few footballers who will ever match their income from the game through other sources of work.  This being the case, footballers are doing their upmost to maintain high levels of fitness and skill to play for as long as possible.

You don’t have to look too far to find examples throughout the leagues in England of players that have played some of their best football in their 30s and/ or are still doing the business today.  These are the likes of: David Silva (Manchester City), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United), Glenn Murray and Bruno Saltor (Brighton & Hove Albion), Sol Bamba (Cardiff City), Leon Clarke and Billy Sharp (Sheffield United), Charlie Mulgrew and Danny Graham (Blackburn Rovers), Brett Pitman (Portsmouth), Craig Davies (Oldham Athletic), Ian Henderson (Rochdale), John Stead (Notts County), Kevin Ellison (Morecambe), Adebeyo Akinfenwa (Wycombe Wanderers) to name just some.

Jon Guthrie joins Walsall F.C on a two-year-deal from Crewe Alexandra

Jon Guthrie has become Walsall Football Club’s second summer signing after putting pen-to-paper on a two-year deal. 

Guthrie joins The Saddlers officially on 1st July, once his current contract expires with Crewe Alexandra. Guthrie, who can play at full-back and centre-half, began his career with Pewsey Vale in Wiltshire before signing for Crewe in 2011.

The 24-year-old went on to make 137 appearances for the Railwaymen, scoring once in that time, and gaining plenty of League One experience.

“We’re delighted to get Jon on board to bolster our defence for next season,” said Manager Jon Whitney, “he has got plenty of experience of League One from his time with Crewe and we think he can work well with the team.”

Jon commented upon signing: “I’m really excited to join the club; the deal has been agreed for a while now, so I’m glad to get the announcement over the finishing line. I’m really excited and can’t wait to get started…There was a big attraction to come and play for Walsall, there were a couple of clubs who had made offers both in League One and Two, but I felt after meeting Jon (Whitney), seeing the training ground facilities and learning more about the club, I knew that this would be the best fit for me.”

Jon’s agent, Max Hassell, has this to add: “I am really made up for Guthers who massively deserves this opportunity. Having come through the non-league system and not a typical academy, I think it has taken Jon a while to realise quite how good he is and how much more there is still to come from himself. I think Walsall will provide the perfect opportunity for Jon to showcase himself in League One again as he looks to take his career to the next level.”

Find out more information about the professional services Sidekick Management can offer. For more information contact us.

Brad Inman joins Rochdale AFC on a season-long loan from Peterborough United

Sidekick Management is delighted to confirm the season-long loan signing of Brad Inman from Peterborough United to Rochdale AFC.

The Australian born 25-year-old started his professional career at Newcastle United. Joining the Magpies at the age of 14, he progressed through the youth ranks there before signing a professional contract. He enjoyed a successful loan spell at Crewe Alexandra while at the club and joined the Alex on a permanent basis for an undisclosed fee in 2013.

He went on to make almost 100 appearances during his three years at Gresty Road. After his contract expired at Crewe last summer, Inman joined Peterborough United. However, a broken leg in pre-season wrecked Brad’s season and made first-team chances difficult to come by once he had fully returned from injury.

“Rochdale play great football and are there or there about almost every year come the end of the season. I am sure Keith will get the best out of Brad again.” Max Hassell – Sidekick Management

The midfielder, who joined Dale on a season-long loan on Friday, admits he’s excited about the season ahead and working under Keith Hill. “The Gaffer seems likes he’s a winner and I want to play under someone like that,” remarked Brad.

“I remember playing against Rochdale last season and they were a very good team. Playing against Rochdale over the years, it has always been a tough place to come to – not many of the lads used to like coming here, so I’m excited about working with the Gaffer and the lads.”

Signing a year-long loan deal, Inman says it was important for him to join the club for the duration of the season. “I asked to come here on a season-long loan because I want to be a part of this team for the whole season, not just six months…Over the last three seasons Rochdale have almost made it into the play-offs and that’s what has driven me to this club. Hopefully I can be part of achieving the next step.”

Brad’s agent, Max Hassell, feels the move is a perfect fit: “Rochdale have tracked Brad for seasons, first contacting me about him a while ago. Once I got the call from Keith that he would be interested in taking Brad this year, it was a no-brainer for me. Rochdale play great football and are there or there about almost every year come the end of the season. I am sure Keith will get the best out of Brad again.”

Find out more information about the professional services Sidekick Management can offer. For more information contact us.

Ollie Turton signs an initial two-year-deal at Blackpool FC

Ollie Turton signs for Blackpool FC from Crewe Alexandra on an initial two-year-deal.

We are pleased to confirm that in-demand right-back Ollie Turton has penned an initial two-year-deal at Blackpool, with the option of a further third year. 

The versatile 24-year old defender becomes Gary Bowyer’s third signing of the summer, and will officially join the club on 1 July following the expiry of his contract with Crewe Alexandra.

“He’s a player who always gives everything for his teammates and this move is his deserved reward for countless years of hard work at Crewe.” Max Hassell – Sidekick Management

A product of the youth academy at Gresty Road, Turton made his professional debut for the Railwaymen in 2011 and has since gone on to establish himself as a key fixture in the side, making more than 180 appearances for the club.

He featured 50 times in Crewe colours last season and found the net against Blackpool in a 2-2 draw at Bloomfield Road back in February.

“I’m delighted to get it all done and dusted. Looking at how well Blackpool did last season getting promoted and from speaking to the manager on the phone, he said there’s so much ambition and it made it an easy decision in the end,” Turton said.

“I was in League Two last year and I felt I had a good season, I just felt like I was ready for a challenge again. This was the perfect opportunity.

“I’m going to have to work hard to get myself into the team and hopefully do well.”

Ollie’s agent, Max Hassell, had this to say: “I am delighted for Ollie who is one of the nicest lads you’ll ever meet in the game. He’s a player who always gives everything for his teammates and this move is his deserved reward for countless years of hard work at Crewe. I am delighted he is back in League One where he can once again prove himself as one of the best right-backs in the division, and hopefully now kick on again.”

Find out more information about the professional services Sidekick Management can offer. For more information contact us.

Winger Otis Khan agrees a new two-year contract with Yeovil

Yeovil Town winger and Sidekick Management client Otis Khan has agreed a new two-year contract.

The 21-year-old made 38 appearances last season and was voted the League Two club’s young player of the year scoring 8 goals and leading the clubs assist stats.

“Otis was a fantastic attacking player for us last season,” said manager Darren Way. “He has gained a lot of experience playing in his first full season of league football.”He attracted interest from other clubs so I’m pleased the board has supported me in securing his services.After a strong first season at Yeovil Town, Khan now has the opportunity to forge a reputation as one of the most promising young attackers in Sky Bet League Two.”

“We’re all looking forward to him adding more goals and assists next term” Brian Howard – Sidekick Management

“I’m really happy to get it all sorted and I’m looking forward to working with the gaffer again next year,” “I’ve been to other clubs before and not been given the chance. He’s given me a chance to prove myself and it’s nice to be able to repay him by signing a new deal.“I’m looking forward to playing at home again in front of the fans. It’s a nice positive atmosphere at Huish Park and can’t wait to get going out.“Hopefully we’ll have a good positive season next year.”said Khan after his signing

Agent Brian Howard added “Otis had many options this summer but after conversations with the management team we felt Yeovil was the right place for a player with the attitude and talent to play at a higher level to continue his football education. We’re all looking forward to him adding more goals and assists next term”

Find out more information about the professional services Sidekick Management can offer. For more information contact us.

Midfielder Ben Close extends his Fratton Park stay

Portsmouth extend deal with Sidekick Management client Ben Close for a further 2 years.

Ben Close has signed a new one-year Pompey deal, with the club holding an option for a further 12 months.

The 20-year-old midfielder has made 27 appearances since graduating from the Blues’ academy.

“Ben got some vital match experience on loan at the end of the season and is now ready to fight and earn a starting spot at Portsmouth” Brian Howard – Sidekick Management

He spent the second half of the campaign on loan at National League side Eastleigh after injuries halted his progress at his parent club.

Close said: “I’m extremely happy to have signed a new deal to remain at Fratton Park.

Now I’m ready to work hard and really kick on next season to try to nail down a starting place for Pompey.

Hopefully this will be the year when I can get a regular run of games in the side. That’s what I’m looking to do.”

Ben’s agent Brian Howard added “Ben has a big future ahead and we’ve all work hard off the pitch to correct the niggles which were hampering his progress. Ben got some vital match experience on loan at the end of the season and is now ready to fight and earn a starting spot at Portsmouth”

Find out more information about the professional services Sidekick Management can offer. For more information contact us.

Lee Angol signs for Mansfield Town from Peterborough United for undisclosed fee.

We are pleased to confirm that in-demand centre-forward Lee Angol has decided to commit his future to Mansfield Town after signing a two-year-deal to 2019, with the further option of a third.

The 22-year-old joins manager Steve Evans’ new-look squad, and is sure to play a significant part in the Stags’ next campaign. The youngster has chosen the Stags over a number of established clubs who all sought his signature.

After being schooled at Spurs, Angol joined Wycombe before making a move to Luton Town. A hugely successful loan spell at Borehamwood saw the striker net 32 goals in all competitions, as well as scoring in the play-off final to help the club into the National League. Peterborough United soon snapped up the livewire frontman for an undisclosed fee in the summer of 2015 and he quickly became the Posh’s leading goal scorer in their League One campaign, with 13 goals.

Lee is living proof of how quickly things can change around in football when you believe in yourself and have the never-say-die attitude to match it. Max Hassell – Sidekick Management

After a broken leg wrecked Lee’s pre-season at the start of 2016/17 season, he subsequently joined Lincoln City in the Conference, scoring the goals and producing the performances that helped the Imps win the National League title and gain promotion back to the Football League.

Manager Steve Evans said: “Today we have signed another talented young player. Once again, I will not speak about what he will do as his abilities will shine through when he takes to the grass in a Stags’ shirt.”

Lee’s agent, Max Hassell, had this to add: “I am absolutely delighted for Lee and his family with this move to Mansfield. After breaking his leg in pre-season this year, the immediate future seemed quite bleak from his point of view… But Lee is a true winner with an amazing spirit. He dropped down a few divisions for match-fitness and did the business for Lincoln, adding yet another promotion to his CV and now has the opportunity to achieve something special with Mansfield. Lee is living proof of how quickly things can change around in football when you believe in yourself and have the never-say-die attitude to match it.”

Find out more information about the professional services Sidekick Management can offer. For more information contact us.

Niall Mason signs for Doncaster Rovers on a 2-year-deal

We are pleased to confirm that Doncaster Rovers have signed Sideckick Management client Niall Mason on a two year deal from Aston Villa.

With Niall’s contract, due to expire this summer Rovers manager Darren Ferguson has moved quickly to make his loan move a permanent one. Niall put in a number of eye catching performances during his loan.

The former Aston Villa player came through the youth ranks at the highly regarded Real Madrid academy with the likes of Enzo and Luca Zidane before moving to England with Blackburn Rovers and then Southampton.

“Niall has more than taken his opportunity and what he has achieved is fantastic.” – Brian Howard – Sidekick Management

Mason, who is looking forward to this next chapter in his career had this to say – “Obviously getting promotion was amazing for the team and to be part of that is something I am proud of, I already feel at home here. Signing a permanent deal shows that the manager has faith in me and I hope to repay that with even better performances on the pitch.”

Brian Howard who has been working with Niall now for a number years added. “We have seen Niall grow as a player and a man and he deserves this deal. One of the hardest parts of professional football at Niall’s age is getting a loan opportunity at an EFL club and it is just as hard for players to take that opportunity, Niall has more than taken his opportunity and what he has achieved is fantastic.  He puts his heart and soul into his football, we are absolutely delighted for him and excited to see what comes from him over next year and beyond”.

Find out more information about the professional services Sidekick Management can offer. For more information contact us.

An Intermediary’s role in a player getting paid up in order to join another club

There are many complexities involved in the transfer of a football player from one club to another. Sidekick Management co-founder Alex Levack talks us through this process in his latest blog.

For this reason, there can be some potentially serious implications for a player that does not have an Intermediary who is well versed with the rules. In today’s world, it is not enough to be educated solely on the FA, Premier League and English Football League rules alone (many of which overlap and often contradict themselves) but one must also be familiar with the FIFA rulings. One area that we shall focus on here, is when a player receives a “pay up” from one club to join another and the processes involved.

There are times when a player is no longer wanted by a football club. This could be due to the player falling out of favour with the manager or perhaps owing to a new manager coming in and not rating them. Maybe it is because of a disciplinary matter. Whatever the case, rather than the player staying at their current club, taking up a place in the squad and continuing to be a financial burden without contributing a great deal, the club could look to move him on.

In certain instances, the club looking to sign the player might only have a limited budget remaining (not enough to cover off the full wages of that player). In this situation, it may be that the only way for the deal to happen is if the club looking to move the player on makes a payment to the player (known as a ‘pay up’ or ‘settlement’) to make up the shortfall in his wages.

Compromise agreements – what are they?

In the scenario described above, a ‘compromise agreement’ would need to be negotiated and signed. Compromise agreements are usually drafted by the selling club’s legal team and then passed to the player’s legal representative to review before advising the player if he should sign it. The legal representative is a different person to his Intermediary (unless that Intermediary also happens to be a qualified lawyer!).

It is common practice that a clause is inserted into the compromise agreement stating that the player’s current club will contribute towards the player’s legal costs in this matter. In our experience, this is figure is usually between £250 to £500.

What is a good ‘pay up’?

Now this is the million dollar question! (excuse the pun!) No exact figure can be placed on this as it is very much dependent on each individual’s situation.

It is important to note that the first £30,000 of any settlement made by a club can be paid as an ex-gratia payment and therefore is tax-free.

However, suffice to say that on the whole, an indication of a good pay up would be one that, at the very least, meant the player was not out of pocket when leaving his existing club. A very good pay up may be one where he is earning more than he would have previously earned had he stayed at his current club.

That said, much depends on the motives of the player – if his main driver is to get out and get more game time at a club where he feels better valued, then perhaps the money is not as important as the ability to leave and go somewhere where he will enjoy his football more.

It is important to note that the first £30,000 of any settlement made by a club can be paid as an ex-gratia payment and therefore is tax-free. All intermediaries should be aware of this fact and if they aren’t then I would seriously question their ability to negotiate a pay-up.

Timing is crucial

Since the abolition of the ‘emergency loan window’ in the UK (for more information on this topic, please read Matt Kleinman’s blog – The abolition of the emergency loan window: How this affects the opportunities for players) , all transfers (including loans) within the English Football League must take place within the two transfer windows. The two windows being 1st July – 1st September and 1st January – 31 January in each season. This clearly restricts the opportunities of players today from playing regular first team football, hence the inevitable increase in settlement packages being agreed and players moving on. I must stress at this point, that if a player makes himself ‘out of contract’ by agreeing a settlement package with his club and signing a compromise agreement outside of these dates then he would only be eligible to sign for a team at the National Conference level. However, should he sign the compromise agreement and receive a ‘pay up’ during either transfer window then there would be no restriction as to what level that player can move to (even after the window has closed).

If the Intermediary was not aware of this rule and agreed for their client to accept a “pay up” outside of these transfer windows, then they are likely to end up with a very angry player who will be frustrated at the fact he cannot play at his natural level until the next transfer window opens. This rule applies regardless of how big or small the player – or agent for that matter – may be. So, let’s say for example, that an Intermediary who is representing an EFL Championship level player makes the mistake of agreeing his or her client’s settlement package outside of the transfer windows, then the player is only able to play National Conference level for the foreseeable months.

Some Intermediaries and players also try to be ‘too clever’ and seek a pay-off from the player’s current club with another one waiting in the wings with similar or more wages than he is currently earning. Again, the timing on this is everything and chasing the extra money may prove detrimental if the club that the player is looking to move to have other possible targets and the settlement takes too long. They may simply move on themselves and the player could find himself stuck at his original club and not playing for the remainder of the season.

Another thing for a player to be mindful of when considering a “pay up” would be that, should he not have alternative employment all but agreed (and a written undertaking to this affect) from the club he is due to move to, then the club looking to sign him could take advantage of the situation. By this, I mean that they could either completely renege on the deal or simply look to offer the player a lesser financial package in the knowledge that he has few, if any, alternatives.

The 3-2-1 Rule

To make matters that much more complicated, and as shown in the recent and unfortunate situation involving Bondz N’Gala, FIFA rules that players can register and sign for 3 football clubs but only PLAY for 2 clubs per season.

Defender Bondz N’Gala’s move to Gillingham has fallen through because Fifa regulations say he has played for too many clubs this season.

I can tell you now that in nearly every case a football club is not going to register, sign and pay that player if he cannot add immediate value to the team and squad. Had the player not been advised of this by their Intermediary then they could find themselves in a very precarious position as no club is likely to sign them. The upshot of this being: no club, no income, zero security and, as the weeks pass, continuously losing match fitness. Consequently, when it comes to the next window, it will be that much harder to find a new club on the money they were previously earning.

So, contrary to what many now believe, it is not just as simple as paying the FA £500 and filling out an online form (plus having a CRB check should you wish to work with minors) to become an Intermediary. Any Intermediary who is worth their value should, and will, know all the pitfalls involved in transfers and every eventuality involved with them. This education cannot be gained by simply reading literature; first-hand experience will always trump that approach.

Within the Sidekick Management team we have over 50 years of industry experience between us, and have a wide knowledge base of all areas within the football management industry.

If you’d like any further information on the above topic or wish to ask us any question that you may need answering about then feel free to contact us.

Sidekick facilitates Kevin Stewart’s new Puma boot deal

We are delighted to announce that client Kevin Stewart has signed a deal to wear PUMA boots for 2-and-a-half years until June 2019.

Alex Levack commented “PUMA are one of the leading sport lifestyle brands who are synonymous within world football. We feel Puma as a brand and Kevin’s personality have a lot of synergy. We are pleased that they want Kev to wear their boots and we are looking forward to a long and fruitful relationship”.

I am very happy to start this partnership with PUMA. They are a leading brand in football and I also really like their products. Kevin Stewart – Liverpool

Kevin was equally pleased and can’t wait to start playing in his new PUMA evoPOWER Vigor 1 “I am very happy to start this partnership with PUMA. They are a leading brand in football and I also really like their products. I like the look and feel of the boots and the lifestyle clothing is just what I like to wear.”

PUMA [Theo Jones, Performance Marketing] are pleased to sign Kevin to the sportswear company that has been manufacturing football boots for over 70 years “at PUMA we are always looking to work with exciting talent and Kevin is exactly that. We can’t wait to see him playing in our boots and doing well for his club”.

Find out more information about the professional services Sidekick Management can offer. For more information contact us.