Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Freedom Can Have Negative Side Too; for the Likes of Johan Elmander, Being an Out-of-Contract Footballer Can Be like Your Birthday and Christmas Rolled into One. Stuart Rayner Finds out What Life Is like at the Opposite End of the Football Spectrum

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Freedom Can Have Negative Side Too; for the Likes of Johan Elmander, Being an Out-of-Contract Footballer Can Be like Your Birthday and Christmas Rolled into One. Stuart Rayner Finds out What Life Is like at the Opposite End of the Football Spectrum

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner

FOR a top footballer, winding down your contract is like waiting for a lottery draw knowing you have the winning ticket. A free agent can hold the key to a treasure trove.

In January, Shefki Kuqi was released by Championship Swansea City. A fortnight later Premier League Newcastle United, desperate to replace Andy Carroll, asked if he fancied wearing the famous black-and-white shirt.

But while freedom of contract might be the best thing that ever happened to the likes of Sol Campbell - yet to move for a transfer fee in 19 years - there are more losers than winners.

Nicky Deverdics is another victim of youth unemployment. It might not feel like it now he has rediscovered his love of the game at Blue Square Bet North Blyth Spartans, but a once-promising career is going nowhere fast. A few years ago the Newcastle-born midfielder was training alongside Andy Carroll and Tim Krul. Now he is considering moving to footballing backwaters to get a professional contract.

Blyth have given him a home for the season, but after that the former Gretna and Barnet player must hawk himself around again. If he has as little luck as last year, he might have to think the unthinkable.

"I'd probably have to look at every option," he admits. "I've got to kick on, I'm 23, I can't have another season out of the game full-time.

"The thought that I might have to give it in is horrible but you've got to think about it. After two years in parttime football, where are you going? I think I'm good enough but if no managers do, you're on a loser, aren't you? "I don't have a fall-back plan. I probably should but I'm so focused on getting back in. I see players in League Two and think, 'Come on man, how are you there and I'm not?'" For someone who has only known professional football, losing it was hard to take. "It's horrible," says Deverdics. "Not getting up every day to train, you can't get used to it. Training by yourself is horrible. It's not like doing five-a-sides or a bit of keep-ball.

"When you wake up on a typical English winter morning, you think, 'Do I want to go on this run?' I try to go with my mates but if they say no, it's hard.

"The sensible thing to do while I've been part-time would be to bite the bullet and say, 'Do yourself a favour and get a job.' But I've just concentrated on my football and keeping fit.

"I've been away for three years so to have been able to live with my dad and spend a lot of time with my family and mates has been lovely. But I need to get away from that, I need a new club."

Gretna signed Deverdics as they homed in on promotion to the Scottish Premier League. A year later they folded. He joined League Two Barnet but that, too, did not go to plan.

"In pre-season I was flying," he recalls. …

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