Dave Seddon's PNE Press View: Secret agent Browne
Agents are such a big part of football these days that it becomes big news when a player doesn't employ one.
Preston midfielder Alan Browne signed a three-year contract this week, a deal which he negotiated himself.
It was that angle which I based the back-page story on the next day, Browne’s haggling skills as impressive as his midfield play.
Talking to Browne about it, he said he didn’t feel the need to use an agent to talk new terms at a club he’s been at for more than four years.
That is a view he has taken for quite a while now.
When Browne signed for North End in January 2014, he had representation but was soon happy to go it alone.
The deal he signed this week was his fifth contract renewal since July 2014.
So clearly Browne feels comfortable sitting down to sort out his future.
Doing likewise wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea – what Browne does is certainly not the norm in sport.
As in any profession, there are good agents and those not so good.
Down the years some will have done wonderfully well for their clients, securing good deals and moves.
Others perhaps have not had the best interests of the player they represent at heart, leading to some rather questionable transfers.
Many moons ago when I covered a different club, I chatted to an agent before a game about the future of the player he represented.
The conversation was very much along the lines of, ‘I’ll move the lad on, I’ll line something up for him’.
It left me wondering what the player himself thought?
To redress the balance slightly, that player is now an agent himself, so clearly he saw something he liked in his agent’s work.
It must take a decent amount of confidence for a player to negotiate his own contract terms.
Across the other side of the table will be a director or chief executive used to doing financial deals in their sleep.
Browne comes across as a deep thinker and confident enough to hold talks.
Interviewing him before and after games, he thinks before answering.
There came a spell last season when he was getting the man of the match award on a weekly basis and got sat in front of the media after getting his prize to deliver a few thoughts on the game.
It isn’t the best part of a footballer’s role by a long chalk but Browne would handle it well and leave us hacks with a few pages of our notebooks filled.
If he’s doing likewise in contract talks, good on him and maybe a few others might be tempted to go down a similar path.
At times there does seem to be an over reliance on the use of agents.
Some of the bigger deals can see three or four agents involved – sometimes both clubs will have one acting on their behalf and the player has a representative or even two on the job.
That is when things tend to get a bit complicated and mixed messages come out.
At the top level, a trend of late is to see an agent attach themselves to a specific club and push clients their way.
It is not illegal but is a practice many are uneasy with.
Anyway, back to Browne and how I see him being a ‘good talker’ – a phrase used in the media for players who are happy to have a chat.
I’m sure that if you scratch the surface with any player, the majority are fine to have a chat with.
We have seen at the World Cup that the England lads are decent, down-to-earth types.
In recent years, it had been very much a different matter, in that players saw dealing with the media as a chore.
There was the nonsense at the Euros with the cuddly lion that an England player would always carry around.
We had reached the point where a player wouldn’t even talk about why it was them on lion-carrying duty that particular day.
Before and during the World Cup, the players have been encouraged to talk, let their personality shine.
As a result, it has fostered an image of the England squad being normal blokes.
Suddenly, Harry Maguire, Kieran Trippier, John Stones and Co have come across as the sort you would happily have a pint with.
Spats with the media have been few and far between, just that nonsense with the long lens capturing sight of the supposed team for the Panama game written on a notepad being carried by Steve Holland.
That, by the way, was the biggest non-story of the World Cup – it wasn’t in fact the team and too many of my profession got on their high horse about it.
I would wager that players at most clubs are decent to talk to and get to know.
I’m fortunate in my job covering Preston that the club’s press office encourage the players to talk.
They do interviews before and after games for the press and the in-house media.
It is not always the case elsewhere – the higher up you go, access to players is not as open.
That can be down not to the players wanting a low profile, but a barrier being put up by others who think their job is to protect and keep things under wraps.
It’s good to talk, just ask Alan Browne.