Whilst the Agueros and Artetas got all the headlines this transfer window the Cutter looks at some of the forgotten men cast out into football’s cold. They are the released.
One of the most intriguing aspects of last week’s transfer deadline was the calibre of player casually discarded by Championship clubs and made available as free agents. Such is the harsh realities of the modern game that even recently relegated outfits such as Birmingham – who are still compensated by a healthy parachute payment – simply can no longer afford to retain players who are not essential to their immediate plans even if it means relinquishing talents such as James McFadden and utility-man Stuart Parnaby who could conceivably still provide quality squad cover.
So they are released from their contracts and thrown into a temporary wilderness, technically unemployed even if there’s little chance of spying them down the jobby anytime soon applying for carpet fitter apprenticeships. Most will contact former clubs and request that they be allowed to use the training facilities to keep their fitness levels high and this can sometimes prove to be a solution in itself. Jason Euell was released by Blackpool at the start of this summer and used his contacts at Charlton Athletic to be granted permission to train with their youth team. After impressing the Addicks with his dedication he was duly awarded a one-year contract at his former club.
Arguably the highest profile free agent this window was Marlon Harewood – again a Blackpool cast-off as they adjusted their wage bill to suit the Championship – and being such a big name paid off as he was immediately offered terms by several top-flight clubs. Strangely he snubbed them all and chose instead to ply his trade in the relative obscurity of the Chinese League One with Guangzhou R&F. No, me neither.
‘We’d love you here Gavin. If we could afford your wages of course!’
Released players further down the divisions can often find it extremely difficult to find new employers and sometimes face either a long spell getting by on meagre savings or having to drift away from the game altogether. It’s an unfortunate knock-on effect from the top heavy financial disparity in the modern game and though they find laudable assistance from the PFA it’s a plight that needs more addressing in the media. An annual ten-minute sombre feature on Football Focus doesn’t cut it.
In the Championship however we’re talking about players such as Danny Webber, Pablo Counago, and Gavin Rae who possess ample experience and quality and shouldn’t be experiencing the humbling ordeal of pounding the treadmills alone in a gym without a game each Saturday to justify their effort for too much longer.
That is of course if they’re prepared to face a harsh reality check and realise they may need to take a step down a level in order to kick start their careers, which additionally can often mean taking a hit on their bulky wage demands. The latter can sometimes prove to be a sticking point.
A comment from a Chesterfield supporter summed this up succinctly in a recent interview ex-Cardiff midfielder Rae gave to Sky online. ‘We’d love you here Gavin. If we could afford your wages of course!’
Here are some of the most well-known footballers currently scrambling about for a club and a contract and the sides they could easily enhance.
James McFadden – Blighted with injuries the Scot is still capable of producing magic on his day and would – if fit – improve half the teams in the Premier League. Presently undergoing a trial at Wolves.
Stuart Parnaby – A surprising offload from Brum considering the Ex-Boro players versatility. Can play right-back, centre-back or across the midfield and would be a very useful addition for one of the ‘smaller’ Championship sides such as Barnsley or Millwall. As will probably quickly become a recurring feature in this list however he might have to take a significant cut in wages.
Richard Kingston – Jettisoned by Blackpool Kingston is a decent keeper who has represented Ghana on eighty-nine occasions. Could have his pick of League One sides.
Gavin Rae – Bags of experience and still only 33 Rae has played for Scotland on numerous occasions and combines a tenacious work ethic with two-footed flair. Would probably favour a return to his native Aberdeen to see out his career.
Michael McIndoe – A left winger with tricks aplenty, electric pace and all the ability in the world. Unfortunately McIndoe’s ego outweighs even this high appraisal and consequently he has never managed to settle anywhere, always believing he is destined for greater things. Perhaps being turfed out by Coventry might be the shock to the system he needs and his talents are certainly being wasted at present. Would be a useful asset for anyone requiring an injection of creativity or inspiration. A club currently languishing near the foot of the Championship perhaps? Oh, that would be Coventry then.
Clause Davis – On his day a formidable stopper of the old school Davis is a mobile yet sturdy centre-back who has exclusively played in the Championship for the past eight seasons for Preston, Sheff United, Derby and Palace. Now aged 32 and with the Eagles relinquishing his services the Jamaican with 64 caps might need to reassess and downgrade. A League One side with a porous defence should snap him up immediately. Brentford have ambitions of the play-offs but a mid-table rearguard and the close proximity to Palace wouldn’t require a house move.
Michael Boulding – Unfairly known more for his tennis abilities (Boulding was once in the top twenty of British tennis players though to be fair so is the lad down my road merely through finding a racket with no strings at the local recycling plant) the Mancunian winger/striker has never quite managed to fulfil his early potential and has drifted through a plethora of clubs ranging from Barnsley to Villa in largely undramatic fashion. It was at Grimsby however that he made his mark and though a return there would mean a severe drop down to the Conference after being let go by Derby perhaps a player-coach role would suit a player who’ll turn 36 this season.
Richard Hughes – Embroiled in one of the messiest contract disputes in recent times at Portsmouth before being released last week Hughes needs to re-establish his credentials on the pitch quick-smart. An unspectacular but efficient defensive midfielder this 32-year old Glaswegian needs to accept that he has one last shot at things before his unspectacular but efficient career winds down. With 131 appearances apiece for Pompey and Bournemouth he obviously favours living on the south coast and with the Cherries struggling this term a return there makes sense for all concerned. Though, yup you’ve guessed it, wages would be an issue.
Danny Webber – Plagued by injuries during his recent two year spell at Pompey Webber needs games to sharpen up a game that’s built around predatory poaching. Clubs in dire straights will always be prepared to take a gamble on a possible match winner and if Webber is willing to initially sign on a pay-as-you-play deal any number of League One sides would be happy to take him from the cold.
Pablo Counago – It seems strange that the enigmatic Counago is still without a club considering his lumbering former Ipswich cohort Shefki Kuqi – inferior to the Spaniard in every possible way – is never without another gullible suitor. The skilful frontman has a decent enough strike ratio throughout his career but now, as the legs become slightly weary in his early thirties, perhaps a move back home might be his best option. Anyone from Rayo Vallecano, Hercules, Real Oviedo, or even La Liga’s Getafe would benefit from his wily trickery.