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Young players should take the money and run

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Jim Spence | 21:51 UK time, Thursday, 21 January 2010

The Steve Miller Band did a great number called "Go on take the money and run" and in today's football world every young player should have it as their mobile ringtone.

Rangers pair Danny Wilson and John Fleck are the latest, but certainly won't be the last, to discover a yawning chasm between what they think they're worth and what their club thinks they're worth.

It's a battle of wills played out regularly at every football club in the land.

Every player is just one career-ending tackle away from professional oblivion. A fortunate few will have stashed away enough cash to ensure that football heartbreak doesn't equal financial uncertainty.

But a whole lot more, and particularly young players, will discover that if their football life ends tomorrow then the game just doesn't care enough about them afterwards when the bills have to be paid.

wilson595.jpgThere are exceptions to that rule of thumb. Celtic's highly honourable behaviour with John Kennedy being a case in point.

But in general forget the platitudes about playing the game, learning your apprenticeship and letting the money take care of itself.

The sensible advice is to get as good a deal as you can as soon as you can and then play your football, safe in the knowledge that your future is secure.

In recent times one First Division Scottish player on £800-a-week was wanted by several SPL clubs. The best deal on the table was about double that.

A Championship side offered him £5000-a-week, plus an extra £750 every 15 starts. He now squirrels away £6500-a-week.

So what should he have done? Continue to learn his craft in Scotland or quadruple his earnings, thereby ensuring his future at a young age.

What would you have done, or advised your own son to do?

He took the sensible view that if you're being asked to do a man's job in the first team, then you're entitled to a man's wage and not that of an apprentice.

Another SPL stalwart picked up £100 appearance money for his club, pocketing £8000 after 80 games.

After his move to a Championship side just eight games allowed him to salt away the same amount of money, with the going rate being £1000-a-game appearance fee.

That is the financial reality facing all Scottish clubs, including the Old Firm.

The Glasgow pair have traditionally cherry-picked the best from the rest.

Now the day of reckoning is at hand, and they face the same potential fate with clubs like Birmingham, Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion easily able to outbid them on players' wages.

So, youngsters like Wilson and Fleck have highly attractive options open to them.

In the case of Wilson, I had occasion to talk to his father who was on duty at the Livingston v Dundee game, in his role as a senior police officer.

That position doesn't necessarily qualify him to sort out the global economy, but it's a fair assumption that a man who has reached high standing in such a demanding job, is a reasonable sounding board for his son, in matters of financial advice and career choices.

As a sensible father he has weighed up the offer received by his son and reached the conclusion that his boy's worth is not being adequately reflected in the offer made to him.

That's business. A club must do the best it can for itself, and a player must take appropriate advice and do the best he can for himself.

A year and half down the line at the end of their current deals both Wilson and Fleck can walk, with Rangers picking up only Uefa compensation for them.

The value of both players in the current transfer market probably exceeds that figure by a factor of ten.

Rangers are on the horns of a dilemma. They either up their offer in line with the market rate and keep two very good young players, or risk losing them for a fraction of their worth when their contracts run out.

Some will argue that in the long run it's better for young players to knuckle down and learn their trade fully before being entitled to the rewards earned by more senior figures in a team.

There is some merit in the argument, but as the economist John Maynard Keynes said: "In the long run we're all dead".

Who can blame young players in a short-lived career industry, which often treats them coarsely and as commodities, for taking the Steve Miller approach to the money.


  • Comment number 1.

    Fair points made there jim your spot on, maybe these kids should take all they can get as it can be a short career especially if you do pick up a injury you used john kenndy as example i look back at guys like scott nisbit,alan mclaren two good young players that retired from the game well before there time, these young boys are no different to the rest of us we all take what we can get.

  • Comment number 2.

    Financially it does make sense to take as much as you can as soon as you can. Its not just the leg break tackle, but the Charlie Miller approach to failed potential that could ruin your career too. I think youngsters need to look at the bigger picture, not just in football but in employment in general. Even if your career does end at 25, and say salary of £1000 a week from 17 till then, the mortgage surely is paid off. And your left with the prospect of finding a 'normal' job, living a 'normal' life, its not the end of the world. There are plenty of 25 year olds I know that would give their right leg to be in that position.
    But that opens the 'footballers are overpaid/don't live in the real world argument'.
    Good article though Jim, enjoyed it.

  • Comment number 3.

    Why all the attention on Wilson and Fleck? Are they really better than Thomson, Robinson, Driver, Wallace and Jonsson at Hearts (and before them Berra); Wotherspoon and Hanlon at Hibs (and before them Fletcher); Fyfie and Paton at Aberdeen; Goodwillie and Kenneth at Dundee Utd; McArthur at Hamilton (and before him McCarthy)... Fleck in particular flatters to deceive and has Wilson really been put under any pressure playing in the SPL?

    I predict both Wilson and Fleck will disappear only to reappear in Scotland with a non-old Firm club and push on to become Scotland squad members from there. It's happened so many times before.

    Are you panning to reply to comments this time Jim, you know, as you're supposed to in a blog? I noticed you didn't reply in your previous one about anonymous posters but I'm interested in your view of the Daily Record running a back page exclusive about Scott Brown being told he has no future at Celtic - with the only source of the info coming from an anonymous source. So there you have a newspaper not only expressing views but making money on the back of anonymous comments.

  • Comment number 4.

    CircleK: I gave my right leg to become a footballer. Unfortunately I had to retire almost immediately because I only had one leg. Fortunately I'd signed for a big club in England and they're still paying me 50K a week.

  • Comment number 5.

    Decent article today, spoiled by the naïve guff written about John Kennedy’s contract. While there was a chance of recovery, Celtic retained his services; when he was medically ruled out of the game Celtic put in the insurance claim and released the fella.

  • Comment number 6.

    Re #5
    That may be so but they have now resigned him as a scout.
    I am one of a rare breed, a diehard Scotland & Rangers fan, so while I am annoyed at the amount of former players getting on great at the Championship, i.e Burke, Gow, etc. This will be great for Scotland in the long term.
    Looking at Fleck & Wilson, part of me agrees with your sentiments Jim, you'd be mad not to go where you can ensure a decent return for your services. Though, I would want guarantees, look at Alan Gow's move to rangers, was a guaranteed first team player at St. Mirren only to fill the bench at Gers. I am sure that non old firm are seeing the parallels and laughing their heads off about the fact that now the old firm are being picked clean and if i was neutral i would agree.
    However, looking at the big picture, the SPL will implode if this continues, it's the classic catch-22, no-one can afford the good players becuase they have no money, and they can get no money because they don't have the good players in which to get bums on seats

  • Comment number 7.

    Rabbity, What the Daily Record does is up to them, but there is a difference between using an anonymous source whose identity a journalist knows and is verifiable, and the spreading of innuendo,unchecked facts,rumour and personal attacks by people who hide behind anonymity.

    I'm not having a pop at the everyday anonymous posters who indulge in the general blether of football along the lines of "Joe Bloggs is mince," or "our manager couldn't pick his nose never mind a team" type comment. But there is a huge difference between someone's honestly held views and opinions even though strongly expressed and the highly personal vindictive type of attacks of some posters, which was what I was driving at in my last blog.

    As to whether Wilson and Fleck are better than others is not really the point. My view is that any player at any club should look first to secure his financial future rather than gamble it on the hope of medals and other people's views on what constitutes a succesful and rewarding career.

    Medals don't pay mortgages.

  • Comment number 8.

    Very well made points Jim, and I was quite swayed by them. However, there is also the ambition of these young players with the ultimate aim of becoming even more 'valuable' by forcing their way into their national team. Once a player is part of a national squad they become proper hot properties and their earning capacity is multiplied considerably.

    There are a few I could quote that have damaged their ambition in reaching a higher level than the Old Firm, although I could quite easily use other English clubs. I have made a bold assumption that they have an ultimate aim of playing for their national team. I mention Alan Gow and Willo Flood, who were starring for their respective clubs before moving to their boyhood favourites, Rangers and Celtic. Theyu obviously increase their wage packet considerably, but disappeared from their higher national profile and are now going down the 'noticeable' ladder. They may be happy earning more money, and if that's their sole objective, good luck to them. But, if they ever had high ambitions they will take a long long time to get back to where they were.

    My advice to these players in their predicament is to stay for an extra year to two years with their current lesser club in order that they establish themselves as more likely 'first team picks' with a bigger club instead of sitting on the bench (if they're lucky) and fading down the visibility rankings with many managers.

    Thankfully Rangers and Celtic are beginning to experience what the rest of us have had to put up with for decades. Now they know how it feels!

    I think my view is based on the relatively small numbers of players who are injured young and put out of the game before making a decent amount of money for their short career.

    I want to see these players go to a bigger club and go straight into and hold their place in the first team. Skippy has been one of the few in recent years, although it looks like he will be shipped out shortly (if so, Championship Rangers - even if Boyd goes).

    The few exceptions who have eventually made it despite initial failures are Kenny Miller and Faddy (although he took his time at Everton after passing on Preston and staying at Well). In fact these are the only two I can think of right now - leaving work shortly!

    I hope this has put another perspective on the dilemma of the young players and money v fame.

  • Comment number 9.

    Jim, its very true that medals doesn't pay mortgages, but surely on the wages even an SPL player gets, a mortgage wouldn't be a 25-30 year deal like the rest of the working masses. And isn't being a footballer all about the game? When I was young everyone wanted to play for the big teams, for Scotland, win trophies and leagues. I don't remember anyone saying they wanted to be a footballer for the wages.
    Although maybe that's what happens in playgrounds these days, and if that's the case, if the passion to be great player is overshadowed by the life style, the cars, the women, the houses and such, its no wonder our grassroots level is suffering. I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see Fleck turn out like Charlie Miller or Eion Jess, or the thousand other potential Scotland greats who threw it away.

  • Comment number 10.

    Sorry Jim, I used to like your blog but I have to say that recently you seem to be clutching at ever shorter straws. Take the money and run? How many tried and found they were surplus to requirements after a year? Even Plymouth has proved a grim graveyard for a once-promising career for a Scot on the make. Rememember Bobo? A man obviously content to take the money and put up with fan hate for the dosh. What happened to him? Surely in these times it is better to earn decent money for 10 years than great money for two. I have seen poor-performing reserve-team teenagers who got used to a fab lifestyle, including Bentleys, at Crystal Palace (better money than old firm) only to find themselves in the bin a year later with no way to look after themselves...they couldn't even clean their own shirts! Now you are seriously encouraging kids to concentrate on their agents before their ability! Please god no one in football takes you on as an advisor. Don't forget that these kids use their first salary to build up massive debts (houses, cars, gambling etc) and find themselves in deeper trouble than Paul Gascoigne! Sorry mate, you know less than I thought.

  • Comment number 11.

    Sorry, just to clarify...How many of the big scottish names that graced the English game in the seventies and eighties actually came from the Old Firm? I think you'd be surprised how many came from performing at their best for Aberdeen, Dundee, Hibs, Motherwell and other youth-based teams of the time, rather than Rangers or Celtic. Scottish reserves ain't going to get 1st team football in The Championship, never mind the Premiership. If they could, why do so many reserve players from England get 1st team loan places in the SPL! Your answer is?

  • Comment number 12.

    Sorry Jim bit of a shoddy article-aye football might be a short career but even the average SPL player makes about £90,000 plus a year-whilst we would all go elsewhere to do the same job for more money, one thing you've failed to add is contentment-no amount of money and the severe materialistic objects it can buy. So Wilson and Fleck turned down delas-if anything all it shows is the mercenary mentallity is alive and well even in young players-what happened to playing for the jersey or even just for the love of the game?

    What saddens me more is the fact a pundit, who bemoans the state of Scottish football wishes our youngsters to beggar off to earn a better crust for themselves-clearly you really haven't thought off the massive implications this will have on the Scottish game-we might be lucky and get a decent national team but our clubs need to basically become feeder clubs for English/French/Spanish/German/Italian ones? And for what price? Next to nothing?

    If football is all about money then truth be told the clubs in Scotland would be as well shutting down, the only form of football that would exit would be amateur, unless we can get to a stage that the players realise the are in a priveleged position, one that most of us fans we saw our own arm/hand/ear off in order to just have a chance to do something we dearly love. That is play for the clubs they are paid so handsomely to represent.

    What you have also failed to mention is those who leave clubs in order to get more money do NOTHING for their career-Burchill went to pompey played a couple of games and was mince-now at Kilmarnock.

    Russell Anderson-same thing left Aberdeen to get more money and the chance to play in the prem got injured, been released-couldn't even tell you what club he is at now.

    Alan Gow- Left Falkirk, went to Rangers, never got a chance went to Plymouth, been garbage down there, no clubs in for him, once he gets realased he'll be lucky if a First Division club in Scotland comes in for him.

    Stephen Crainey-another example Left Celtic, went to Southanpton, injured, came back was mince, went to Leeds, got found out, released, now at Blackpool doing ok but that's it.

    I bet if you asked everyone of these players what their biggest regret is and I wouldn't be surprised if they said it was moving Clubs, that may not have paid as much as the ones they are at now, but at least they would be playing first team football.

    In conclusion i suppose what the main points im trying to say are:

    1: No player is bigger than the club

    2: Money isn't everything

    3: Leave for more money but you might not play-this in turn leads to the fading into obscurity

    4: Agents stop bleeding clubs dry with their ridiculous demands for young players, and their own pockets.

    5: Clubs in Scotland will die if all are talent leaves for more money

  • Comment number 13.

    In an ideal world you want your CV to have a mixture experience and success on it.

    They maybe should 'take the money and run' but that 'career ending tackle' could happen at any time. If the disappear into the abyss of english lower league football first they really wont be in a much better position will they?

    Furthermore, a successful player with rangers is almost always going to be a attractive target than a financially league 1 campaigner to a big club surely?

    This whole 'greed culture' that Maggy Thatcher bled into our culture has been a very unfortunate change in Zeitgeist and one from which we may never recover.

    Need i remind where greed has gotten us?



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