During the summer there is upheaval at most Scottish clubs with players coming in and some going out. Fans will be scouring their clubs social media hoping that their team has managed some good summer business to inspire an element of optimism for the season ahead. This summer, I have found myself right in the mix of this having left Arbroath to join East Fife. Joining a new club can leave an individual feeling both excitement and a sense of anxiety as there are several situations that need to be negotiated. There are hurdles to overcome, concerns to be addressed and scenarios you simply cannot avoid. I will attempt to list a few that I’ve had to regularly experience.
Firstly there is the obligatory tweet to let all your fans know the news. A fairly new phenomenon but something which has swept the footballing community at a rapid rate. They all appear to have the same format,
“Buzzing to sign for (Insert Team Name), Thanks to (Insert other team name) for the last couple of years. Looking forward to pre season, can’t wait to get started (football emoji, bicep emoji, flame emoji)”
I am somewhat of a twitter connoisseur but whenever I read one of these tweets, I feel a mix of cynicism and disgust. I too am personally looking forward to meeting my new team mates, kicking a ball about again and playing in some competitive games; however I very much doubt the average player is looking forward to the pre season runs. Hey, maybe I am too cynical and maybe they are looking forward to it; but where is the authenticity, the originality and the entertainment factor. Anyway I got my obligatory tweet out the way, see below.
The next concern for me is getting fit, I personally like to do my own fitness work prior to pre season starting so I can turn up with a good base level of fitness. I want to impress, I want to be at the front of the running, I want to say “Gaffer look at me, pick me” and I certainly don’t want to be behind anybody with the BMI levels of Iain “Yano” Campbell. Players differ in this regard, some like to limit their physical activity in order to fully recuperate for the season ahead, some like to take a couple weeks off before getting back into the fitness swing and some like to lift ridiculously heavy weights to help facilitate their Ocean Beach body. Whatever your preparation, you better be ready to work your bollocks of by the time the first training session comes round as it is never easy.
Settling into the new club, the dressing room and the style of coaching is another concern that crosses many players’ minds when they have moved club. Going back a few years, the proposition of settling into a dressing room filled me with anxiety. I had the fear of not being accepted, the fear of nobody talking to me and the fear of the following conversation happening,
Me: “how are you?”
Experienced Player: “Good thanks and you?”
Me: “Yeah I’m good, and you?”
The social awkwardness leaving me with a red puss and sweaty palms.
Nowadays, my attempt to settle in doesn’t really concern me as much. Having played in the lower leagues of Scotland for several years, playing against the same teams 4 times a season, you undoubtedly come across the same faces. This puts my mind at ease, as I know half the dressing room before I’ve even set foot in it.
This is something which I relish. I love being the centre of attention, I love my ego being filled and I love a bit of karaoke. So much so that I was booed off for hogging the mic in some bar in Magaluf, although I still have my suspicions that Greig “The Night King” Spence was behind the mass booing – jealousy eh.
Nevertheless, the standard ‘sing a song’ for your initiation can be a real point of dread for a player. I have seen many a confident boy reduced to a shell of a man when asked to sing. Face red, lips quivering and sweat dripping of their brow are standard sights but it does help break the ice once completed. Singing is the usual initiation process, although back when I was at Stirling University you had to down a “Dirty Pint” as your settling in task. This pint usually consisted of a concoction of different lagers, spirits and shots and had to be downed. All a bit “Rugby Lad” to be honest, much prefer the singing process.
Getting a Starting Berth
The main thing that still concerns me when joining a new club is, “How do I get into the team?”. Contrary to the belief of some people, players at part time level do so because they love and want to be playing football. I am yet to see a part time player content to sit on the bench and pick up his £100 a week. If you are not in the starting eleven for a prolonged period of time, you will inevitably become slightly despondent. I believe the phrase ‘football is a team game played by individuals’ is an accurate one. It’s a ruthless game and we all want to play, if it happens to be at the expense of a friend then so be it. Preseason is the perfect time to nail down a place in the starting line up come the opening day of the season.
The above is the likely scenario facing many players up and down the country this summer. It will be playing on their minds right up until that first pre season session. However, at part time level the majority of players will look forward with an element of optimism for the season ahead. There may be hurdles to overcome but I tell you what,
I am buzzing, I can’t wait to get started and I can’t wait to get my first professional assist for East Fife.