(Editor: Yeah, we screwed the numbering up)
4 JAN 2017: The window opens tomorrow. Over the month or two the questions, what will the squad look like (a) in the second half of the season and (b) next season, have gradually become clearer as I’ve gone about the business of renewing contracts with Hapoel Ashkelon FC’s players.
I’ve been doing this at a relaxed pace, one player at a time. Each time a new contract is signed reflect on how the composition of the squad is developing and where we stand on budget.
This slow, reflective, process makes for careful analysis, which helps to prevent me making rash decisions – by which I mean making offers, especially over-generous offers, to players I happen to like.
I began the process by excluding:
- The players I wanted to ship out during the window: Hadad (ageing backup playmaker); Swiza (consistently underperforming striker); Itsrin (unreliable left-sided defender); and possibly Ben-Hemo (a centre=back who’s decent at man-marking, but slow).
- The players I’ll be happy to let go when their contracts expire in the summer – of which there are several. They include Snir Mish’an. The initial report that I’d received from my assistant manager led me to expect great things from Mish’an, but he’s proved maddeningly inconsistent. I’ve learnt to manage him by waiting until he has a nightmare and then dropping him for a few games while he gets his act together. There’s a limit to how long I’ll put up with that for.
- Players in on loan contracts that can’t be recalled. They include some of my favourites, but I’ll worry about them at a later date.
This left a few players I felt unsure about. This included Galván, whom I like as a set-piece taker and captain, but who is probably a little on the wane.
With the remainders, I began with the back-ups. Doing so would give me a feel for how demanding players would be and also reassure them that they’re wanted.
Most settled for wages equal to, or only marginally higher than, the wages they were on. That was satisfying, though also hinted at a lack of ambition in the squad.
A few rejected my offers and I had to wait a while before they consented to return to negotiations. I didn’t mind that. It provided assurance that I wasn’t being overly generous.
Two major gains resulted from the process. First, the new contracts contain bonuses to incentivise players.
Second, I’ve restructured the bonus policy. At the start of the season I tended to offer a bonus for avoiding relegation, usually equal to approximately 10% of the annual wage. Now, as I allow myself to feel a little more confident, I’ve been reducing this to more like 5%, but supplemented it with an equivalent bonus for Euro qualification. Though I wonder now whether I should have been more bullish.
Third, wherever possible I’ve inserted a clause giving the club the option to extend the contract. I love getting that clause in. You sometimes have to pay a bit more to get the player to accept, but it provides a major bonus in terms of the flexibility it provides when it comes to planning.