Harry Redknapp is never short of an opinion or lacking in words to say when giving his perspective on the footballing community and for good reason. He has been involved in football for the majority of his life, has an affable manner and tells it how it is. This is no different when reacting to the Wayne Rooney debacle, but instead of assessing the surface, Harry delves deeper into the looking glass and enlightens us on a paradox within football. This paradox asks the question of how you are supposed to motivate and manage young players when they have lengthy contracts that bestow upon them financial rewards. A further facet to the problem is that clubs sign up young players for fear of losing them if they do indeed turn out to be a valuable player, a sort of hedging their bets.
With the influx of money now circulating throughout the game, with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea being the main proponents within the Premiership, it is inevitable that agents will look to acquire some of this loot. With money being the language of all people and the harbinger of power, agents find themselves in a tyrannical position as exemplified by Rooney’s saga in which Manchester United were held to ransom. Redknapp quoted by The Daily Mail states further that, “The biggest problem for me is the kids. They’ve all got agents, they’ve all got long contracts. When I began in the game, then after I became a manager, it was usual for a youngster to be given a one-year contract, at most two.” Times have evidently changed and in Redknapp’s perspective, for the worse.
He also explains that, “They get their feet under the table, go and buy a big car and get a nice few grand a week. Where’s the incentive for them to practise, work hard or dedicate themselves?” The contrast between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation thus rears itself and suggests that in today’s game, if we follow Redknapp’s argument, that extrinsic motivation is the primary motivator. So money, trophies, bonuses etc. are elevated above the traditional motivators of enjoyment and simply being a part of the game. There is then the suggestion that external motivation leads to a decrease in the enjoyment and subsequent effort manifested by the individual in the game. As Redknapp confirms, “People ask me, ‘Where’s the young English talent?’ Well, half of them don’t work at the game. There are kids here with long contracts who need to buck up their ideas.”
So how do we tackle this situation and try to remedy it? Do we shorten the length of the contracts given to young players? But then in business terms, you may lose a valuable asset which you haven’t taken the necessary measures to insure against and with money being prevalent for certain clubs why take the risk? Redknapp implements the procedure of sending youth players out on loan to lower league clubs, but maintains that some players don’t make their mark and blame it all on everyone else. I mean the incentive to drop a level or two and play well is drastically reduced when you have the knowledge that you’ll return to a bigger club with a long term contract.
The problem ensues with no sign of being abated and leaves managers such as Harry Redknapp trying to deal with it as best they can. Tottenham Hotspur have certainly benefited from their man in charge and on this matter he can only conclude that, “…this seems to be a generation of players reliant on their agent.” Something will no doubt have to break if agents assume too great a power and neglect the needs of football.