During 25 years spent working in the academies of Manchester City and Oldham Athletic, it was fair to say that Peter Lowe saw his share of broken hearts.
But while there is no easy way of telling a young player they’re not good enough to make the grade, some of the tales of woe that Lowe recounts are more like horror stories.
“I remember hearing about a director of football at one big club telling two young lads that they were being released,” says Lowe.
“Do you know where he told them? On a car-park.
“Not in the privacy of an office where they would be able to process a decision that was about to dramatically change their lives.
“On a car-park. Is it any wonder that so many players never recover from an experience like that and are lost to the game forever? Or worse…”
It is the stage of the season where trophies are won and lost.
But it’s also the time of year when the 10,000 or so boys playing in the country’s youth development system go to bed every night worrying about what tomorrow will bring.
For hundreds of them it will be bad news. They won’t be given a contract or kept on. Not good enough. Sorry and all that.
Lowe doesn’t just believe clubs can do more. He knows it.
Agents, too. Many of them will be there to pick up the pieces. But some of them are no longer interested when their 10 percent has gone up in smoke.
That’s why Lowe is so passionate about PlayersNet, an organisation that offers advice to players, parents – and even staff members inside clubs who can spot the danger signs of abuse, bullying or even a basic lack of respect.
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Lowe said: “The problem is that there is no one governing body for English football, so with the FA, Premier League and EFL all pulling in different directions, people with very serious issues fall between the cracks.
“I’ve seen it so many times where a parent will have a grievance about the way their boy is being treated at an academy, but is afraid to take it any further because they’re afraid it will damage his chances of making it.
“Agents should have a role to play in this – and there are lots of very good agents and advisers out there who will look after their players above and beyond sorting out a contract.
“But there are others who aren’t interested unless there’s a pay-day.
“I know one agent who did nothing more than give a youngster a new pair of boots every year – and the club would have supplied them anyway.”
All of PlayerNet’s directors have a football background.
Michael Appleton is a former Manchester United, Preston and West Brom midfielder who is now manager of Lincoln.
Simon Andrew also started at Old Trafford but now works in high finance, while Jason Finegan is a sports media consultant who played for AFC Wimbledon and Woking.
“We are not an agency,” Lowe is keen to stress. “But we do have a background that enables us to see where football is going wrong.
“Two players under the age of 20 have committed suicide in recent years because they haven’t been able to come to terms with being rejected by the game.
“Failure is part of football – and that will never change. Not everyone is good enough to make it.
“But there is a way to deliver bad news that doesn’t have to make young players feel like it’s the end of the world.”
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