BLOG: DEAL OR NO DEAL? BLOG: DEAL OR NO DEAL?
By: Bescot Banter •

BLOG: DEAL OR NO DEAL?

In the latest of his weekly columns, Scott Brotherton takes a look at Dean Smith's decision to delay the majority of contract discussions until the end of the season.

In the latest of his weekly columns, Scott Brotherton takes a look at Dean Smith's decision to delay the majority of contract discussions until the end of the season...

In his time at the Walsall helm Dean Smith has never been much of a fan of the mid-season contract renewal.

The Saddlers boss broke the mould recently with deal extensions for the likes of James Baxendale, Sam Mantom and Richard O’Donnell. However, he will only do so when a player shows exceptional promise.

His usual move is to wait until the end of the season and then take stock. This method does have advantages but isn’t without its problems.

Striker Craig Westcarr is reported to be frustrated over the lack of action regarding his contract, and who can blame him?

You would think being the top scorer would be enough to earn an extension at most clubs, but things are a bit different at Walsall.

Yes, you can argue that this approach means the players put in 100 per cent until the last game because they are all playing for their future, but there has to be a place where you draw the line.

When a player has been pivotal to your campaign, it is surely naΓ―ve to leave it until the last minute before offering them fresh terms.

It’s a good idea to set out when you will deal with contracts as Deano does in the summer. It lets players know where they stand so they can be comfortable to just go out and play their football.

But when it backfires it can do so spectacularly. Last season’s loss of the triple threat: Grigg, Brandy and Paterson, highlights this.

Aside from Paterson who joined Forest for a six-figure fee, they were lost on free transfers (although a tribunal later ordered money to paid for Grigg).

Youth product Grigg joined Brentford despite lengthy negotiations, and Brandy went to Sheffield United even after the manager’s famous drive to the airport in a last ditch attempt to get a deal done.

Another club would have tied down the pair as soon as they both hit form early in the New Year rather than leaving it until the summer months.

Obviously you don’t want to reward a sudden spike in form but Brandy and Grigg maintained their performance level and should have had extensions sooner. They might not have stayed anyway but it would have been worth a try.

Leaving it until the last minute means that other sides start to sniff around and see the possibility of swiping a player from under our noses. Then agents get involved, the player’s head can be turned and you are fighting a losing battle.

I like Dean Smith and am glad he has secured the services of key players like Mantom and O’Donnell. Plus I know the budget is tight and he can’t commit to extra long-term contracts.

In an ultra-competitive league it is imperative that you keep your best players. Throwing words like ‘philosophy’ and ‘vision’ at them is fine but nothing works quite as well as a bit of financial incentive.

Walsall will lose players to wealthier rivals: that is inevitable. Losing them for free however leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

And there will continue to be mass exoduses like this unless teams are made to pay to get their man. The Saddlers cannot keep rebuilding forever without one year ending up with a team that falls short.

By: Scott Brotherton.

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