By Paul Firth
The ‘Free’ Transfer
News out of Bradford City tends to be as scarce as hens’ teeth at the moment, so we supporters have to rely on what snippets are available. Two soundbites have grabbed my attention in recent days.
The first was Colin Doyle’s radio interview after the Southend defeat. These interviews are done live and not long after the player has showered. So, when the right questions are asked, they can be quite revealing. City’s number one was asked about his contract coming to an end and said, with total directness and, one must assume, honesty, that he had not received any new offer.
That was the state of affairs, then, with one week of the season remaining. It is probable that the other players whose contracts are also about to come to an end (see below for more details) are in a similar position. Recent history, it would seem, is at risk of repeating itself.
Then came an interview in the T&A with Simon Grayson. Some of this had been trailed in recent times, but the crux of the interview can be summed up in this short quote. “There will be a turnaround of players, regardless of who is the manager. There has to be. The group hasn’t been good enough to get promotion.”
That opinion, particularly the last sentence, may not be seen by all as definitive, but few would disagree with the general direction of the current manager’s thoughts. While some would argue that ‘the group’ was good enough up to January 1st, what has happened since then has to go a long way to suggesting that the present staff – players and management as a group – are not going to win promotion for Bradford City in a year’s time.
So then I had a look at just what might happen in the next few weeks, after the last ball has been kicked. I wondered if any of those players soon to be out of contract might be offered a new deal and whether they might take what was on offer. The following squad members, using Width of a Post’s own information, for a variety of reasons have no contract with Bradford City for the start of next season (names are listed purely in order of shirt number):-
Doyle, Law, Dieng, Taylor, Sattelmaier, Warnock, Gilliead, Guy, Pybus, Raeder, Webb-Foster, Gibson, Lund, Peters, McMahon, Hudson, Laird, Gunner and Grodowski.
We already know that some of those – Taylor, Warnock and Pybus, for example – will not be around in August. How many, if any, of the others will still be here is for the moment open to speculation. We must wait to see how many are offered and accept new contracts. If, in the worst case scenario, all of these players are in the ‘not good enough’ category, then it will be a relatively simple task to release them. (Purely as an aside, my personal view is that they do not all come within that category.)
But there is another list, perhaps one rather more at the forefront of Simon Grayson’s mind in that interview. There are no fewer than 17 players who, at the time of writing, do have a contract for next season and, in some cases, for a season beyond that. And so, again using Width of a Post’s data and listing names in order of shirt number, here are the players who might make life a little more complicated for whoever decides these things:-
McGowan, Chicksen, Reeves, Kilgallon, Vincelot, Wyke, Poleon, McCartan, Hanson, Jones, Brunker, Knight-Percival, Devine, Robinson, Patrick and Staunton. These 16 will be joined by George Sykes-Kenworthy when his new contract takes effect.
Having experienced some recent pre-seasons where the first team squad has had just seven or eight players in contract, all of whom could be absorbed into any new group, suddenly we have double that number, the majority of whom have been first team regulars or thereabouts for much of the season.
What will happen to any in this ‘group’ who are ‘not good enough’?
‘Let them go’ is the obvious answer, if need be on a ‘free’. But life is not so simple. Each of these employees has a contract; each can insist on the contract being adhered to, unless the employer comes up with an acceptable alternative. Such alternatives may require the co-operation of new employers, such is the football business. Most will include the involvement of the employee’s agent.
These alternatives are not, in fact, ‘free’. Let us examine the options.
Player A (let’s call him Alan) is not good enough, but refuses to leave. The club has to keep paying him, even if the manager doesn’t pick him. Alternatively, the club can simply pay up his contract and let him go. Either way, he is a drain on the player budget, a budget which may (or may not) be reduced by the fall in season ticket sales.
Player B (Bob) is not good enough, but his agent has found him another club. Sadly, the other club is offering £500 per week less, but the agent says that for a payment of, say, £500 times 52 weeks, Bob will agree to a transfer. The agent’s fees plus the £26,000 are less of a drain on the player budget than Alan would be, but far from ideal.
Player C (Chris) is not good enough, but another club is willing to pay a small transfer fee to secure his services. The transfer fee is less than was paid to bring him in, but the agent says the wages on offer are the same or better, so Chris is willing to leave without further payment. His present employer is left with the painful dilemma of writing off some of the transfer fee previously paid or hanging on to the player.
Player D (Dave) is in an identical position to Chris, but the ‘buying’ club will take him only if there is no transfer fee. The dilemma is that much the greater.
Finally, player E (Ernie) may actually be good enough, but for one reason or another is willing to move. He might even bring in a fee bigger than that previously paid for him, if indeed any fee was paid. He could bring in the club a handsome profit, minus the agent’s fees, and take one employee off the wage bill. Of course, if Ernie is that good, it might be tricky to replace him with a player of equal ability and any perceived profit or savings might swiftly be eaten into in acquiring a replacement.
So, there seems to be a long and, at times, conflicting list of issues to be resolved. We can all put names into categories; we can each decide who we would keep, who we would give away (if we could), who we would want to sell and for how much. But none of these decisions will be in the hands of supporters and some will not be entirely within the control of anyone at Bradford City. Now there’s an interesting thought!