We have now entered the part of the season where the madness starts!
Regardless of where your team are in the league right now I can guarantee you are already thinking about what is going to happen next season. In fact, the scramble for players has probably already begun.
I have already started to sound out my players about their plans in a panic that they might be thinking of moving on or that someone else has spoken to them with a promise to move into better things in the summer. It can be quite a stressful time for a manager. Usually I can pinpoint the players who are having doubts. Little differences stick out for me like not contributing as much in the team group chat, not giving as much effort or snapping at their team mates during games. These are things that boys in the team might not notice but as a Manager you have to be really tuned into them. I think it’s important at this stage to be bullish and approach the player to find out what he is thinking. If he’s good enough then it’s worth the arm round the shoulder for that feeling of still being wanted at the club. For every conversation you have with one of your players you can bet there are four or five guys he knows at other teams having the same chat with him or them. These players begin to have irrational thoughts to justify there excuse to leave and convince themselves that because you played him in a couple of games out of position that he should move on to where he will always be played where he is naturally best. Ultimately if a player wants to leave your club then he will think of the easiest excuse to give you as to why he wants to move on. Normally it’s a lie that the player thinks will soften the blow for you to take.
Having said all that, the other side of the coin for a Manager is trying to convince fresh blood that your club is where they want to be next season. It’s not nice to have players poached from you but it’s part of the amateur game to do a bit of poaching yourself. Obviously you want the best players to be playing for you, that goes without saying. This side of management is all about timing. You can’t rush in when a player is doing well and enjoying his football at his club, but if you leave it too late the ship might sail and someone else could have his ear and promise him the World before you get a chance. Having trusted players in your squad who have been around the game a bit is vital for recruitment. If you can get them to plant seeds with your identified targets then this can go a long way to getting the signings you want in. Follow this up with a phone call or go and watch the player and you are almost there.
Keeping the bulk of your squad together is definitely the most important job in pre season. In the past I’ve had registrations forms signed in March by my players for the following season to try and make sure they stayed on for another year. I know full well that these forms aren’t worth the paper they are written on as players can get released at the drop of a hat now, but sometimes it’s enough to hold on to what I have. Signing that form means they can tell potential suitors that they have already signed with a club and if we are all gentlemen then the shake of hands with me should mean another confirmed player for the us.
Its a long time from now until the season starts in August and I’m sure we will all lose a good bit of sleep over this until then so this year I’m going to try and not stress about it as much as I usually do and always have in the back of my head that the ones who want to leave don’t matter, it’s the ones that want to stay that do.
In the words of Jim White
“The clock is ticking”