Danny Higginbotham: How I hit upon deadline day dirty tricks

Clubs delay deals as a way of getting more value from their side

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The Independent Football

It’s been an exciting week for fans spent wondering which player their club is signing but I can tell you it’s a different story for the players who are caught up in that deadline day frenzy – travelling across the country, handed contracts with just a few minutes to read them and sign and, if you are not careful, being left worse off financially.

The deadline day when that was all driven home to me came early in my career, when I knew I was probably surplus to requirements six months after my club had been relegated and were needing to bring money in quickly. I knew a good side were in for me but it didn’t help my nerves that I was injured just before the transfer window.

Deadline day was on the Friday and, though it was moving along nicely on the Monday leading up to it, by the Tuesday my agent was saying that my club wanted more money for me. Wednesday came and went and still the impasse held. I offered to ring my club chairman. We had a good relationship. But my agent said: “No, leave it.” The sun dawned on Thursday – then set. Still no movement. So I took it into my own hands and rang the chairman. “There’s no problem,” he said. And that’s genuinely what he thought.

I felt my position growing weaker and, although I’m not saying it happened to me, I now know clubs often delay deals as a way of trying to get more value from their side of the arrangement. 

Here’s what happened. Because of the delays, I only arrived at my prospective new club at 3pm – two hours before the deadline closed – which meant there was no time to blink before the contract was in front of me.

 

In hindsight, I should have headed straight back and played hardball. I’m sure I would have received a call in the car to say the offer had been increased. But I signed, earning far less. Everyone wants a part of the pie when there’s a transfer. It gets murky, I can tell you.

Financially, it was very bad news for me. I’d already lost 20 per cent of my wages when we were relegated, and the deal I signed meant me taking another 10 per cent cut. But at that time it wasn’t about the money. It was about me furthering my career, and that turned out well. I believe you get what you deserve.

I hoped for an improvement in the package if I played 30 or 40 games. And that landmark came and went. Nothing. That’s how it can be when you are in the position that a lot of players found themselves in on Monday – surplus to requirements and being moved on. You see a lot of talk about players holding clubs to ransom but very often it can be the other way round. What players want most of all is games. Money is nearly always secondary.

I’ve seen stories about the cameraman who photographed new arrival Aaron Lennon at Goodison being under scrutiny because the player looked so miserable. Nonsense. Look at the pictures of him the day he signed for Tottenham from Leeds. He looked gloomy then, even though it was a great move for him. Lennon doesn’t do camera smiles, just like I never did.

It’s a short playing time for us all and, although my outlook having finished playing is to look ahead – I hate the expression “ex-player” – while you’re in the game you just want to play. That fundamental desire in a sportsman gives clubs a lot more power in weeks like this than you might think.

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