Despite last weekend's disappointing defeat in the Scottish Cup Final, most Rangers fans are looking forward to their first season back in the Scottish Premiership. Last season's generally successful campaign is a big factor - especially when we consider the excellent football we played for long periods under the guiding hand of Mark Warburton and Davie Weir. However, just as important, were the signings we made last summer and the same will be the case this year. Our transfer activities have never been more important!
With that in mind, Gersnet has interviewed football agent Grant Smith to try and find out what might be happening in that sense. Grant, a well-travelled, seasoned player himself before working as an agent, represents our forum's player of the year Barrie McKay as well as one of our transfer targets Matthew Knox so is extremely familiar with how our club operates in this regard.
Q1: Football agents: greedy mischief-makers or misunderstood football facilitators?
Unfortunately I would say it's 50/50. Like in every walk of life there's good guys and bad. Especially when there is so much money involved in some deals, it attracts the worst kind of people.
Q2: England, Finland, Australia and Singapore: to what extent is your own much-travelled playing career useful to your work now?
Yeah it's been a good aspect of having a varied career as I've still got a lot of friends and contacts in Oz and Finland so it helps me a lot now. I never actually played in Singapore. The league were asking for players to go there but I had the chance to go Oz at same time and it was miles better. It's mainly helped these days as a lot of boys I played with are now managers or scouts.
Q3: How much has the game changed since the Bosman ruling was introduced in 1995? Is it easier or harder for agents to do a deal?
It's definitely changed for the better. The clubs had all the power then and treated players poorly in most cases.
Q4: How important is it to form good relationships with your clients? Trust must be a big factor on both sides?
Yeah it's probably on a par with maintaining contacts. Most of my players like Barrie I've had since they were 16. There was obviously the bad times when he was having to find a loan club but things like that help the relationship now, as he knows I was doing a lot of stuff just to keep him in the game and not after any financial aspects.
One of things I'm most proud of though is signing a couple of the young Celtic boys I have. Obviously I have strong links in my past with Rangers and both boys' families are huge Celtic fans but I think it showed I was doing things right as they both chose me to look after their sons which took a lot of trust. I mean I was drinking out a green and white '67 mug when I was visiting their house for the first meeting. That meant a lot when I signed them.
Q5: Football agent deregulation can only add to the ruthless nature of the business: how do you separate the wheat from the chaff?
It's one of the biggest mistakes they made. It was a disgrace actually. How they can imagine it works better without regulation is crazy. Before we had to do the exam which was tough and be a fit and proper person registered with the FA of an Association. Obviously clubs will know who is legit etc but a lot of young players can get tricked into signing with someone who has no credibility at all.
Q6: Transfer windows: good or bad?
Good. Occasionally some clubs will be dragged into a deadline day deal but if you look at all the top clubs and top managers they do their work long before. Bayern signed boys two weeks ago and they are top players as well. So if you have good recruitment and work hard the windows needn't be a problem.
Q7: Similarly, what about the media: how helpful and unhelpful can they be to your job? Has social media made things more open or more problematic?
Can be good and bad. I have a few good guys I deal with in the media whom I trust but there is the occasional snake who is out to stitch people up. It's just part of the business I guess.
Q8: Deadline day: a media circus or an opportunity for all?
Show business. :D
Q9: How difficult can it be to avoid working too closely with certain clubs? Or is some sort of retainer a positive in such a competitive industry?
I don't have any problems really. When I started out there might have been a small worry from Celtic's point of view in dealing with me as my dad Gordon was a director at the time with Rangers. However when I did deal with people in there they realised I had the boys' best interests and never any issues. Celtic are a really good club to deal with in my experience.
Q10: Frank McParland and Mark Warburton at Rangers appear to have modernised the club’s transfer strategy. Do you think stat-based factors have a place in scouting and acquisition? Is it something you provide for your clients?
Yeah the stat-based detail has definitely come more to the forefront in recent times. I think it's definitely got a big part to play for sure. As much as clubs use it though, I don't think it can replace someone like Frank McParland's eye for a player. That's why an experienced scout like him is a vital part of a club. Rangers are lucky to have him.
Q11: I know you’re a fan of poker. When do you know if folding or going all-in is the best strategy? What deals are you proud of?
It's probably the same view I have in poker as my agency where a good fold is better than a good call in the long run. It basically comes down to my clients at the end of the day. If I don't sign good players then clubs will soon stop answering my calls. Recruitment like at any club is the biggest factor for this business.
Q12: Bigger clubs seem to want to invest in younger and younger players. How difficult is it to advise a 16 year old who wants to be the next Messi? Can parents be too close?
Parents are a huge factor. I've walked away from trying to sign a really good young player in the past simply because one of the parents was so difficult. It's a tricky part of the business actually. The parents only want what's best for their kid in the long run but they can get caught up in everything and it tends to always end badly. It's no coincidence that my players that have all done well have got really down to earth parents who trust me to make the right decisions along the way. I told a parent once that if my kid wanted to be an astronaut I would let an astronaut offer advice. I wouldn't say "nah I watched 'Gravity' once so I think I can do this on my own". It can be very frustrating.
Q13: Super-agents: Inspirational or avoidable?
Fair play to them. To have that power and do that much business is pretty impressive. Helps when you have one of best players on the planet though.
Q14: Best or Dalglish? Gazza or Gough? Messi or Ibra? Would you prefer Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde on you books?
I have to say growing up as a Rangers fan Gazza was my first superhero. I remember getting the paper everyday just to check the back pages with him in pre-season and his first games etc. I was at the Steaua game on his Ibrox début and the guy was a genius. Maradona was probably my footballing hero until Messi came along though. I think he's the greatest ever without a doubt.
Q15: Let’s finish with a funny story. What’s your favourite anecdote from your time in the game?
There's loads of funny stories from my career but I'm getting just as many from some of the kids I look after. Let's just say some of them better have good careers because they won't be doing any PhD's when they retire!
I have one kid that I went for breakfast with last week and he didn't know what an avocado was. He's 20!
Another kid text me to say Adidas sent the wrong size boots because they too tight. I was in the process of calling them when he text again to say it's ok he fixed the problem. He'd taken the paper out them!
Never a dull day. :D
Gersnet would like to thank Grant for taking the time to answer our questions in such good humour. You can follow him on Twitter here and check on all the latest (and most credible) transfer rumours surrounding Rangers via our live summer blog here.
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