By Full Contact News and Views
Following on from our recent article about the prominence of non-league football and Full Contact’s concerted recruitment efforts at that level, we consider another marketplace of real value to us.
Full Contact’s Head of Football Lee Payne was one of the earlier pioneers: leaving English football and Reading in 1990 he signed for Dutch club Veendam where he quickly became a fans’ favorite – indeed the supporters player of the year award became the Lee Payne Trophy. After five seasons in the Netherlands, and once Lee’s playing career had ended prematurely due to injury, Lee became a scout (and then an agent) and it was of course the Dutch market he immediately turned to. Recognizing the innate talent of the Dutch players, technical ability and fluency in various positions encourage by the ‘Total Football’ system – but also the financial draw of the English game to the Dutch players – he soon carved out a niche for himself as a talent-spotter. One of the first players Lee identified was a strapping 20 year old defender playing for Zwolle and he recommended him to Port Vale. Although such a signing would have been well within their financial reach, Port Vale were not moved – and perhaps they would not have been unduly concerned at missing out when they heard later that season (1993) that the defender in question had signed for another fairly small Dutch club, Cambuur. Maybe even his move in 1996 to PSV Eindhoven did not cause much more than a minor stir – but one would have thought that one or two in the Potteries noticed in 1998 the Dutch transfer record being broken when Manchester United paid £10.6 million to sign Jaap Stam!
Other spots would not be ignored by English clubs; a Veendam team-mate of Lee’s came highly recommended and Manchester City would sign Gerard Wiekens – who went on to play over 180 League games for City. Birmingham City signed the keeper Bart Griemink from lowly WKE and – moving forward over 20 years to Full Contact – his goalkeeper spotting ability would continue with Kelle Roos.
So this summer Full Contact have identified a number of players who they will be bring in to the English game; restoring a focus held by Lee in the early stages of his agency career and now partnered by our Dan Chapman who – as well as being half-Dutch and harboring a slightly unhealthy obsession for Dutch football – is proud that his middle name Hendrik is in fact the christian name of the late, truly great Hendrik Johannes Cruijff; better known worldwide by his anglicised name Johan Cruyff.
As Lee explains, “Just as we are showing time and time again the potential and value for clubs in recruiting players to their professional ranks from non-league football, we are finding so much value in the Netherlands. For example, we are representing a full-back who is in his early 20’s who has over 100 games under his belt in the Eredivisie, playing week-in, week-out against the likes of Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord – this is an extremely high standard of football. This lad is desperate to come to England, he has managed to get to a point contractually where he is a free agent and – to be frank – he is used to earning less money than many League One player earn. We’ve a striker who has been scoring goals and causing havoc in the top division for seasons – and he is still only 25 – and he is desperate to come to England. There are more, but what is common amongst these players is their desire, great attitude and natural Dutch confidence whilst their technical ability speaks for itself – when you ally that to the economic expectations, it is astonishing to us that more English clubs are not exploiting this market more regularly.”
Dan added “Whilst we have in England such an incredible depth to our domestic game we also have professional players playing in the fourth and fifth tiers earning big salaries with no resale value to their clubs and with no realistic potential to play higher. In the Netherlands there are only two professional divisions and even in the second flight the clubs are very small, so it is not uncommon to find players of immense talent who are either amateurs or – if professional – paid very modestly. The opportunity to bring such players to England is huge and we’ve got a great network now in Holland of trusted partners and scouts, so it should be an exciting period for us.”
We shall see; we are as much advocates of the English non-league as we are the Dutch leagues. Essentially we are mere advocates of good recruitment and, of course, good footballers…….
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Full Contact News and Views includes articles contributed by Associates and professional contacts within the Full Contact team and includes opinion on sports law, PR and media, football agency and more.
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