This article first appeared in Issue 4 of The Green Soccer Journal, Autumn/Winter 12/13
You don’t really regard agents as friends. The word goes round and that’s how you judge them. These agents are good, these bad. You think they are looking out for you but all agents are different. Some players have fallen out with agents, some players have been badly advised, but there are plenty of good ones out there.
The PFA have a set fee that they charge per transfer, so it’s not always the best deal for you, whereas an agent will take a percentage of the deal or discuss with the client a figure they are both happy with, but a lot of agents are now getting paid off by the clubs. The PFA don’t get anywhere near as much in fees as an agent – they’re a union who represent the player. The benefit of using them is that they know what every player is earning.
I used a guy from the PFA when I went to Crystal Palace purely because they know the salaries. I hoped that when I signed my contract, I’d be earning a similar amount to the other players. But funnily enough, the Palace chairman, Ron Knowles – who I actually got on really well with – basically bullied my representative from the PFA and really had a go at him. And of course, my representative backed down because, being part of our union, he couldn’t be seen to be going in there and pushing the boat out for me. Ron even threatened to report my agent, which would never have happened because he didn’t actually overstep the line in any way – he in fact conducted himself very professionally.
But after I signed the contract we went away to Turkey and he said to me: “I can’t believe we got you at this price – we’ve got a £2m player on our hands!” My reply was, “Well, that doesn’t reflect in the contract that you’ve just given me!” He actually was as open as that with me, we laughed and joked about it. It is a business at the end of the day.
I was a bit naive when I left Palace – I used an independent agent, and in all fairness (I don’t mind saying this), I probably shouldn’t have. You think they are going to look after you. When I left Palace for Coventry I was really in a purple patch, a lot of clubs were after me and I should have been a bit patient. I went to Coventry for £1.2m in the end – the agent had already discussed my contract with the club before I was really in the loop. It was a done deal before I was even at the club; I wasn’t really ‘stitched up’, but it wasn’t the best deal for me.
And then, when I had seen out my contract at Coventry, that’s when ITV Digital collapsed. A lot of money was taken out of the game and a lot of top quality players found themselves out of contract. I think, at that time, there were about 600 or 700 players who were free agents.
Because of the ITV Digital collapse I was actually at Wolves on a non-contract for the first two months, so I wasn’t getting paid. I was out of contract and if they didn’t have to pay me they wouldn’t, and that’s exactly what happened. I didn’t have a leg to stand on because I was out of contract. They were holding all the cards. I just had to get my head down. I got a lot of respect for that; players on contracts – and very good contracts at that – knew I was coming in, training hard and playing well even when I wasn’t getting paid. I earned a deal there and it worked out reasonably well in the end because we went on to the Millennium Stadium and won the play-off final against Sheffield United, so got promoted that year.
I was only on a one-year contract at Wolves – Dave Jones had promised me a contract, but again, nothing in writing. Wolves had just been promoted to the Premier League and he told me I’d earned one. I went away on holiday and, just as the season was on the horizon, he gave me the news that they were going to sign Oleg Luzhny from Arsenal because he could play in a couple of positions. I could do that too, but still – he signed him and released me.
He left me in the lurch, really; to sign a guy from Arsenal, give him probably double, or treble, my salary because of his experience. Luzhny ended up only playing one game that season because he got injured. It was a nightmare, but you know, that’s the game.
I got a promotion bonus and that probably helped with the move from Wolves to Norwich at the end of the season, where the timing wasn’t great and I didn’t have much negotiating power. I was part of a promoted side, however, so I was quite fortunate in that the promotion helped out with negotiating the contract.
I signed for Norwich on the Friday before the start of the season. I went up there on the Thursday, signed on the Friday, and came on at half-time against Bradford on the Saturday. I then played the next 45 games and got promoted, and we actually won the Championship, so that was fantastic.
After all those games, Nigel [Worthington] offered me a contract in the Premiership. I signed the contract and played. But then he offered me a new contract – and this is where it all goes nitty-gritty again. He had signed Tomas Helveg from AC Milan! You do need competition for places, though, so I do understand it.
So I played 75 games in two seasons – which was a lot of games to play – and we re-negotiated my contract. The talks didn’t go well; they really weren’t giving me the contract I deserved. I’d earned the right. I’d come there for nothing, shown them my commitment and you’d think that’d get rewarded.
But as I said, the contract talks broke down. I actually said to Nigel, “You’ve been a former player, you wouldn’t sign that contract”, and he actually said, “I wouldn’t – you don’t deserve that.”
So he went away to speak to the chairman and I didn’t hear anything for about six weeks. I was still playing in the team at the time and he came back to me and said: that contract we offered you? Forget it, it’s not there for you anymore.
Very cut throat. I said, “What do you mean? I’m playing in the team, we’ve got five games left of the season.” “Forget it,” he replied. “I offered you a contract at the end of the season. You didn’t sign it so you can leave.” “But hold on a minute boss, you went in to negotiate for me! You said that you weren’t happy and were going to look after me.” “Nah, forget it,” was all I got back.
At the end of the season, we all had our couple of minutes’ window where we reflected on the campaign. I went in to see Nigel and said, “Look, I’ve had a great time, we won promotion, we played in the Premiership, it’s been great here and you’re making a mistake – it’s going to be your loss.” And that was it – he still didn’t turn back on his decision. I left on a free transfer and ended up going to Derby.
I left Leicester and Pesch [Paul Peschisolido] had just got the job with Gary Rowett as assistant, and I knew Gary from Derby. He’s a fantastic coach and also had a great playing career, same as Pesch.
So it was Pesch’s first job – a great job for him – and he called me up and told me he was going to get the Burton Albion job and ask me if I was interested in signing. It was a big decision, especially as I was starting to drop down divisions. They had just been promoted from the Football League so were in League Two, and I said I’d consider it. I was living in Derby, and it was 10-15 minutes down the road. I knew the guys in charge and thought they were great guys, so I decided to go down and train with them.
I had to negotiate with the chairman, and we weren’t going to be talking about massive amounts of money. Although I was probably the most experienced player down there, so you’d think they’d have been jumping through hoops to sign me, I wasn’t going in there being greedy in any way – I only asked for what the rest of the defenders were on. The chairman wasn’t having that. He said, “No, certain players are on more money and we are not prepared to do that.” OK, fine – let’s get something in writing where I’ll play a certain number of games and then top me up after that, but he wasn’t prepared to do that. They ended up offering me a year’s contract. I wasn’t really happy with the way they dealt with me – I realised from day one that the chairman wasn’t having it for some reason. I don’t know why.
The way I see it, if I’m not playing well on the training ground then I don’t deserve to be picked, simple as that. They offered me a year. I told them I’d sign a month instead, to show what I’m all about. The first game we played was against Shrewsbury and Pesch had played about nine new signings. Because it was his first big job he wanted to play all of his new signings – I don’t think the chairman was too happy about that as he wanted to keep the players who got Burton promoted.
We lost our first game and after that I didn’t play. When I asked Pesch what was going on he told me he didn’t think the chairman wanted me at the club on the terms I had suggested. I told him it was a good job I didn’t sign a year’s contract, then, as I was doing them a favour really.
He asked me what to say to the press, knowing the chairman didn’t want me. I said, I’ve done nothing wrong, we’re going to tell the press that the chairman doesn’t want me here, it just hasn’t worked out. The truth. The press release they actually came up with? Marc Edworthy, experienced player blah blah blah, couldn’t agree a financial package…!
So it made me look like I had gone down there and been greedy. But that wasn’t the case. So I left. Told them good luck and came back home, chucked my boots in the garage and that was it – I didn’t play again. I decided after that experience to call it a day.
I think these people hide behind closed doors too much. Why not come and tell me the reason why? We’ll have a chat – we’re not going to fall out, its business at the end of the day. The football industry is cut-throat – it’s all very opinionated, as you know; some managers think you’re great, other managers don’t. It’s the same with chairmen, so it happens at every club, throughout the leagues. I just wish he’d had enough respect to have a chat with me about it.
Although I did get my own back a bit. I didn’t do it through the press, though – I actually went to a game at Burton where I was commentating. Their first question was along the lines of: “Marc, you didn’t play many games here. I think it was only the one game you played and it didn’t work out well.”
My reply? “Yeah, it’s unfortunate. Football is very opinionated. After being promoted four times and playing in the Premier League for six years I don’t think my CV was good enough for Ben Robinson.” The commentator had to cover his mic up because he was laughing so much.