Thursday, 5 July 2012

Blog: Non league transfers - the signings who never sign

It would appear that the lower echelons of the beautiful game has finally found its answer to the transfer window - the June free for all. 

Managers up and down the country will start to breath huge sighs of relief into their red-hot mobile phones this week as secretaries confirm that new signings have been registered with the various leagues. The new lad that will make all the difference, but not that much difference that he is worth a contract, can no longer, in theory, get tapped up by rival bosses.

Non-contract players at semi-professional and amateur levels are registered until the end of May with the club, or clubs, they finish the season with. A player's new or existing club then has to register them with their league, but can only do so from July 1st. The rules can be found here.

So why, in the only month out of 12 where players cannot be registered, do we hear of clubs 'signing' players? To appease supporters? To stay in the media spotlight? Managers may like to get their business done early, but letting people know merely highlights a player's availability.

If the idea is to let people know the player is off the market, this season more than any other rubbishes that theory.

Niall Cooper, the goalkeeper who swept the board at Sutton Coldfield Town's awards ceremony in May, made it clear he wanted to leave Coles Lane to play at a higher level and find a club closer to home.

DOUBLE U-TURN: Niall Cooper 
Two weeks later, at the end of May, Sutton announced the player's 'u-turn', confirming that he would be staying with Chris Keogh's men.

However, by 13th June Cooper had signed for Redditch United, one division higher, closer to his Northamptonshire home, in a league where most of the opponents were also closer to his doorstep.

Sutton's assistant manager Neil Tooth issued a critical, yet defiant statement, accusing unnamed managers of trawling the internet for players - ironically through the club's website. 

Cooper had expressed his desire to move all along, but then had committed to Sutton verbally. Is Cooper disloyal, or should Sutton have kept it quiet? Should they have contracted the talented shot stopper? 

Glenn Howes of Poole Town was announced as Gosport Borough's new signing in early June, only for Howes to change his mind, deciding to stay with the Dolphins just four days later.

The whole episode adds spice to the rivalry between the two clubs after Borough beat Poole 3-1 after extra-time in the Southern South & West play-off final at the end of last season, with Town boss Tom Killick accusing opposite number Alex Pike of making 'cheap' remarks after the game.

Transfer dealings have also caused bad blood between two Oxfordshire rivals in the South & West Division too, with Didcot Town going a step further and announcing the arrival of four players from North Leigh on May 24th.

North Leigh argued that the players were still registered to them until 31st May and called for action from the FA - Didcot chairman John Bailey told the Oxford Mail that the players approached the club and they had done nothing wrong.

 “We never approached the players, they approached us.
“They are not contracted players, if they were, then we would have to have made seven-day approaches for them – and would have done."

Bailey misses the point that the seven day rule is for non-contract players - irrelevant of who approached who, those players were still registered to North Leigh.

As yet, nothing more has been said publicly and no FA charges have been published on their website.

In the same news release, North Leigh announced that one of the players, Kieran Sanders, had signed a new contract. Didcot have since registered the other three playersElliott Osborne-Ricketts, Morgan Williams, Brian Bowles, but not Sanders.

More often than not, a player sticks to his word, but things change at this level of football, as they do throughout the season - sometimes a change of heart is not always about self-indulgence or greed.

However, in all three of these cases, if the club had kept quiet, you can't help thinking they would have retained/signed the players in question.

In an age where transfers aren't just restricted to the back page of the local paper and player power is king, Tooth's rant holds an element of truth.

Clubs used to hold the trump card, but like all levels of the game, that is no longer the case, and non-league clubs need to be more savvy about their transfer business, especially during the summer. 

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