Door opens for free agents as transfer window closes

Aidy White: Determined to return to the game.''Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Aidy White: Determined to return to the game.''Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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IT is the ‘other side of football’ as Aidy White succinctly puts it.

Away from the Lamborghini and Ferrari-laden diamond-encrusted ‘bubble’ of the Premier League, where the Cristal Champagne is on tap and money is no object, the real world stalks around the corner.

Aidy White, when at Leeds United

Aidy White, when at Leeds United

Viewers may have been kept royally entertained during the all-singing-and-dancing build-up to last Thursday night’s transfer deadline, when talk of top-flight stars moving for tens of millions of pounds was commonplace.

But for those numerous free agents who have yet to find places of work in 2017-18, the hype and hullaballoo generated by Sky TV’s Jim White and company will have held limited appeal.

It is clearly not all showbiz. Figures show that in the summer of 2016, there were 844 professional footballers in England who found themselves out of contract, with just 154 signing new deals.

Of the 690 others, most were released – and the figures are likely to be similar this year.

It is hard. Especially when you see the lads go into training and you are in a totally different predicament when the season starts.

Aidy White

Another prominent statistic from last year was revealed by the Professional Footballers’ Association, who estimated that an average footballer’s career will last for just eight years.

There are many, like Aidy White, who have endured testing summers. The former Barnsley full-back was released by the Reds in May and is also battling significant injury issues.

Out of action since February with a groin/hip problem, White, who also counts Leeds United and Rotherham United among his former clubs – is doing the hard yards as he strives to complete his rehabilitation and get back to the day job.

It has yielded some tough moments, but it is very much a case of what does not kill you, makes you stronger.

Aidy White, when playing for Rotherham United.

Aidy White, when playing for Rotherham United.

On life without a club, White, currently doing his rehabilitation back at Barnsley, told The Yorkshire Post: “It is the other side of football...

“But I am still only 25 and, hopefully, have got another 10 years plus. But I will just make sure that I don’t rush back and see that I am right when I do and come back flying.

“The hardest part is the mental process. Early on, you have a lot of downs and you speak to a lot of people to make sure you are psychologically strong and stay positive.

“It is hard. Especially when you see the lads go into training and you are in a totally different predicament when the season starts.

“It is my first season when I have not been fit and available at a club, so it is hard.

“The start of pre-season and when the season actually starts are the two hardest pills to swallow. It is a similar feeling to when you are injured and watching in the stands.

“There have been a lot of down moments. But you have just got to stay positive and take each day as it comes when you are injured, I am afraid. It only makes you stronger in the long run.

“I have been at Barnsley pretty much every day, in the afternoon. They have been really good with me, to be fair.

“Craig Sedgwick (Barnsley physio) has been brilliant with me, as have my family and friends and, obviously, I still keep in touch with a lot of lads at the football and when I see them, they are always asking how I am getting on, which is nice.”

For White and other professionals seeking to find new clubs this season, there is one potential avenue to exploit with the scrapping of the emergency loan window outside of the season’s two transfer windows granting an opportunity for the likes of him and others in their quest to find new footballing homes during this campaign.

The decision to scrap the emergency window has its detractors among Football League managers.

Among that number is Bradford City chief Stuart McCall, who made his feelings known to The Yorkshire Post last week in pressing for the reintroduction of the emergency loan window.

The old system saw clubs sign players on deals ranging between 28 and 93 days in two periods outside of the regular transfer windows and it was utilised extensively by clubs outside of the Premier League.

But for free-agent players such as White, its abolition can offer a lifeline.

Otley-born White, who also had a loan spell in Yorkshire at Sheffield United earlier in his career after one at Oldham Athletic, said: “It may help me a bit further down the line with the rehab when I am looking for clubs. I have had quite a few clubs enquiring.

“But, for the time being really, it is not really the sensible thing to do – to sign somewhere, come back and potentially break down again. I have got to get myself right.

“But with the emergency window having gone, clubs may be struggling and I will be available in the timeframe when the window has shut.

“Obviously, free agents may be a good option for them.

“I want to get myself right first and then assess what is on the table further down the line.

“I have had clubs enquire, but I just have to put them on the back-burner at the moment.

“It will take a couple of months until I am there and thereabouts and back in the shop window, really. Probably around Christmas time.

“My agent has been good with me and has been keeping me informed about any interest from other clubs. It is good to know that there are clubs out there who have been interested and asking the questions about me.”