Ben Burgess column: Play-offs so great but this can be worrying time for players

Ben Burgess leaves for the play-off final of 2010, his last game for Blackpool
Ben Burgess leaves for the play-off final of 2010, his last game for Blackpool
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The play-offs have once again proved to be a wonderful spectacle and a fabulous way to end the season.

As the end of the season nears, it’s time for some tough decisions!

A lot of people believe that since the Bosman ruling came into play all the power is with the players, who can just sit back and let their agent choose the next wealthy club to swell their bank account.

Unfortunately, that only really applies to the top end of the Premier League, where the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic plays the contract game to perfection every couple of years, earning himself mega wages and no transfer fee.

Anybody who has ever been around a football club towards the end of the season, when all the youth team players find out if they will be given a professional contract or if they will be shown the door, will testify that it does not make pleasant viewing.

It’s like a cruel version of ‘The Apprentice’, but with fewer scripted jokes.

It must be the hardest part of a youth team coach’s job to deliver the devastating news to the lads he’s seen grow from boys to men.

For the players themselves, all their dreams can rest on that one meeting.

As a youngster, I was fortunate that contracts were never really an issue for me. Blackburn Rovers had me tied down for three years when I was 17 and how much money I was earning didn’t particularly faze me.

I just wanted to be playing football.

I had no family to support, no mortgage to pay and I had complete faith that I would always have a club wanting to sign me.

As I got older and began accumulating injuries (like Cristiano Ronaldo accumulates goals) my laissez- faire attitude towards contracts and my future took a rather serious twist.

Having been informed by my surgeon at 21 that my career would not last much longer, I began to worry.

Also, the fact that my knee had so many big scars from surgery that it looked like a London Underground map didn’t help when it came to the idea of passing a medical.

Agents are often vilified by the media and fans because of the vast amount of money they take out of the game and, yes, there are many unscrupulous and dodgy agents out there.

But there are also many who look after their clients well and stop them being exploited by the clubs.

At Blackpool, my contract was due to expire three weeks after the Play-off Final we won against Cardiff to reach the Premier League.

From January onwards of that season my agent was trying to get a contract offer from the club.

I’d had a decent season and played in over half the games but I was limited by the fact that I couldn’t go to any other club that would demand a comprehensive medical.

As much as I enjoyed that end to the season, for my family and I they were nervous times, with the prospect of me being out of contract and not earning any money. It was two days after the game at Wembley that myself (and many others) had a meeting with Ian Holloway. I felt like a 16-year-old kid waiting to see if I would get my chance to play in the Premier League.

In the end, the club were in no rush to offer me something and I needed to sort my future out.

I made the horrendously tough decision to move elsewhere and fortunately managed to earn a two-year contract at Notts County. I was one of the fortunate players. Sadly hundreds won’t be this summer.