Book Review: The Transfer Market: The Inside Stories
The Transfer Market: The Inside Stories
by Alan Gernon
Published by Pitch Publishing
Liam Rosenior didn’t pull up any trees in the time he spent at Reading Football Club between 2007 and 2010. Brought in on transfer deadline day in August 2007; that the deal was a swap with Fulham for Korean international and scorer of spectacular goals Seol-Ki-Hyeon; that it came after the team had massively over performed to achieve an eighth place finish in the Premier League the previous campaign and that Rosenior was brought in to challenge popular club captain Graeme Murty for the right back berth all marked the transfer out as a puzzling one.
Rosenior had wondered out loud during this spell at Craven Cottage as to why he hadn’t been considered for England duty and those early games in Berkshire led me to feel that perhaps being able to control the ball and pass it straight might be a help with that. There was a feeling with the Londoner that his abilities never matched up to his opinion of his abilities and while he went on to have a few good games once Reading had slid back into the second tier a season later, it was definitely an underwhelming spell in the blue and white hoops.
But Alan Gernon’s new book, The Transfer Market: Inside Stories might help us understand some of the background to Rosenior’s lack of impact a little better. As one of the book’s interlocutors, he is as open and honest as you would expect from a man who is forging a burgeoning media career having retired as a player on his release by Brighton this past summer. Rosenior doesn’t mention Reading by name but he does talk of one transfer where the deal to sell him was made behind his back and left him with no alternative to leave his current club in order to continue in gainful employment.
Gernon’s volume provides a fascinating insight into the behind the scenes events that colour a player’s ability to settle at a new club. As fans, we expect players to come into the team straight away and hit the ground running, with the immediacy of social media only amplifying this feeling. Players are denounced as rubbish before we’ve even seen them complete a half of football, the hashtag #getrid is bandied around like so much confetti and our inclination to be sympathetic, impatient supporters that we are, is very much impaired.
The various interviewees in the volume provide a host of reasons as to why all might be what it seems when a new signing arrives at a club – newcomers are often severed from family and forced to live in grim Alan Partridge-style hotels, they often lack match fitness and may even have niggling injuries, they are often unwanted by the current manager and, for most Football League clubs, they are usually the best that can be afforded.
The situation is especially stark for players from abroad – and Gernon is particularly insightful on the subject of player liaison officers. Yes – the bigger clubs leave no stone unturned in this respect – but often the service provided to a player – from finding him a home to deciding what washing powder to buy – can leave the average 21 year old from Auchtermuchty to Algiers in a position of having been mollycoddled and entirely ill equipped to grow and develop as a human being.
The players Gernon has managed to interview for the book are a low key bunch in the main – there are no Becks’s or Rooneys here – but their testimonies are perhaps all the more interesting for that . As well as Rosenior, his former Reading team mate Leroy Lita appears to provide colourful accounts of his ‘have boots, will travel’ career – thirty years ago, switching between Bristol City, Reading and Middlesbrough would have been viewed as adventurous – now, these travels look like small beer compared to Lita cropping up in Crete and Thailand.
Indeed, it’s the chapter on British players playing abroad that really stands out in Gernon’s book – Charlie Sheringham’s views on playing in Bangladesh are especially interesting while that well known wanderer Rohan Ricketts also appears, having experienced serious highs and lows from Canada to Moldova and all points in between. That British players are somehow ill-suited to playing abroad is a myth that is comprehensively refuted – their tendency to travel in lesser numbers than Brazilians or Serbs is currently down to the bloated finance in the English game while not everybody fits within the journeyman label – Jadon Sancho is proof of that while ex-wunderkind John Bostock has begun to carve out an impressive career for himself at a decent level in Belgium and France.
There is a chapter devoted to agents – with the pluses and minuses of that particular breed of human being debated – while the statistics are carefully chosen to complement Vernon’s good humoured and engaging prose – he is the author, you’ll remember, of the excellent study of players post-football lives, Retired.