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The Ben Smith column: That time of year

As a lower league player this is the time of year where you starting thinking about what the future holds and whether you are going to get offered a new deal by your present club. Whether you want to stay there or not it is always nice to have the option.

Unless you are a talented youngster or the star player or both it is more than likely the club will let your contract run down and then discuss the situation at the end of the season.

At Crawley last season, when we won the league at a canter, the manager didn’t discuss new contracts with any out of contract players until the season had ended. While it isn’t ideal for the player I can see why the club would do it.

Why increase your liabilities before you have too. Lets be honest a thirty three year old like myself is more of a liability than an asset. Obviously by this I mean on the balance sheet although some may argue on the pitch as well!!

This can be an insecure time when you’ve had an average season let alone a terrible season like the one I have endured this year. As a senior player you know that unless you have ‘torn it up’ on the pitch the best case scenario is a small wage increase.

Reduction in wages

The way football has gone over the last few years it has now become more and more common place to be offered a reduction in wages.

This can be a tricky situation for a player. If you are settled at a club you have to weigh up whether it is worth uprooting you and your family for a few extra quid or take a contract which you are not particularly happy with.

As a rule I don’t particularly like having an agent as I think I can do the vast majority of the services they offer. However, I think they can be of use when you haven’t had a particularly good season.

When you are playing well I don’t think they are necessary unless you are moving up a couple of levels and you don’t know what the going rate would be for a player of your ability.

I remember when Weymouth were on the brink of going bankrupt. I was having a good season and within two days of their financial difficulties becoming common knowledge I had twelve clubs ring me and offer me a contract.

Piggyback seekers

I didn’t have an agent then, although a few agents rang me trying to piggyback onto some of the deals. I also loathe paying the fees that a lot of agents try to charge players. At my level more often than not the clubs won’t pay the agents fee, although some do.

So the standard charge for a player is normally 5% of your annual wage plus VAT. I got stung with this once and it will never happen again.

Also at times I see agents pushing players towards the club where the deal is more beneficial to them than the player or to the club where the agent has a good relationship with the manager. A good agent, and there are quite a few out there, will do what is best for the player.

A twenty year old player should be going to the club which will best aid his development not the one that pays the most money. At thirty it is a different story as you don’t have much time left and need to make yourself as financially secure as possible.

When I left Hereford in 2009 I was really struggling for a club. I spoke to an agent and managed to come to an agreement where if he got me a deal I would pay him a flat fee. I thought this was fair as all I was asking was for him to put my name about. I wasn’t expecting him to negotiate the deal and travel up and down the country with me.

Just say no

This agent then went on to ring me and tell me every time a club said no. I told him he didn’t have to do this and to just ring me if anyone actually wanted me!! That same summer I sent out CV’s to a lot of managers. A League Two manager rang me to tell me that he didn’t want to sign me. I was amazed.

I think he must have thought that if I hadn’t heard from him I would just turn up to his team’s ground with my boots and kit expecting to sign a contract!!! It’s fair to say that summer nearly finished me off.

As for this summer who knows what it will bring. I would love to carry on playing full time as, on the rare occasions I have played, I’ve felt great. However I am also a realist and understand that a thirty three year old who has started about fifteen games isn’t exactly going to be in high demand.

In a strange way I am really relaxed about the situation. I know I have prepared myself as much as I can for life after football and if this is the year where I have to go out into the big wide world then so be it. I am in a nice situation where I don’t have to rush into anything and can assess any opportunities that come my way.

If they aren’t right for me or my girlfriend I can reject them and wait until something comes along that I will really enjoy and excites me.

By Ben Smith 

Follow me on Twitter: @bsmudger7

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