Striker Lee Bassett will be an Eynesbury Rovers player after the newly promoted club convinced their hotshot to stick around for its first season in the United Counties League Premier Division in 14 years. But joint manager Martin Field says he has been left frustrated and astonished by the financial demands of players he has talked to during the summer as he and Matt Plumb prepare for the new campaign.
Field said: “After getting promotion I thought we needed to add to the squad and I got sucked in to be honest – speaking to three or four lads I got fed up with the amount of money they were asking for. Some players are not into playing football, they are into making money.
“After a couple of phone calls I thought ‘what right have I got to break up this squad that has won us promotion?’”
Field joined Plumb as co-manager at the start of the 2012-13 season and together the pair built on a squad that was already full of talented young players, including the likes of Bassett and Tom Coles. That season Eynesbury finished third, just outside the promotion places – in May they went up in second behind champions Oadby Town.
The retention of Bassett, 24, is a massive plus for the club who will now enter Step 5 football with more or less the same squad that won promotion.
“We have brought in Ryan Spencer from Huntingdon and a couple of other young lads – but essentially it will be the same bunch of players,” said Field.
“The money being asked is stupid money. This is Step 5 football. In my opinion, if players want that kind of money they should be talking to Step 4 clubs.
“As a gaffer at this level you are lucky if you get six hours a week with the players. This is nothing to do with football or the ability of a manager – if I had a budget of £1,500 a week I could get the best squad together. There isn’t a single player in this country who is worth £100 a week at Step 5.”
Bassett had lots of offers – even from Conference level teams – but, in the end, the player chose to stay with Eynesbury.
“I’m not going to lie – it was difficult to keep him,” said Field. “He was offered some seriously good money and had his head turned – but that kind of money would have turned my head too.
“But we had a good chat and I said to him ‘go away and have a think – no pressure but you know what we had together’ and he came back and said ‘you know what fieldy, I think I want to stay’.
“The game is all about big money, it’s just frustrating. I don’t know what’s up with these boys today. Football should be something they do for enjoyment, a hobby. I play golf and go fishing for my hobbies but nobody pays me £130 a week to do that.
“I blame the clubs and the managers who are prepared to pay these big wages.”
This is not sour grapes after Field’s failure to sign his targets. This is a man who works hard for a living – as all managers do at this level – to fund his ‘other life’ as a football boss. When The Hunts Post rang him for a chat on Sunday, he was halfway up a ladder in the rain.
And Field’s words are echoed by Ricky Marheineke, the new manager of Step 4 side St Ives Town, who said: “Money in local football has gone mad over the past couple of seasons.No matter how we as managers moan about it, if we don’t meet the players’ sometimes ridiculous demands, there will always be another club that will.”
To be fair, the squad Field and Plumb have at Eynesbury will certainly be good enough to make the step up. There is enough chaff in the Premier Division for them to ride any problems the big spenders might cause them.
Holbeach United are this season’s cheque-book team. There are others who are splashing the cash. But Huntingdon Town, who finished second and won two trophies last time out, have now lost four players to St Ives and may struggle to repeat that success. It will be interesting to see how Eynesbury and Huntingdon measure up when they play their Hunts derbies.
Field said: “I like to think we will have a good enough squad to do alright – I am under no illusions, we won’t be challenging at the top. But these boys have been together for a couple of seasons and they know what they are doing.”