For most of us, the first song of the swallow conjures dreams of sandy beaches and a well-earned rest. For Phil Ridgwell, CEO of the Core Sports football agency, it must chime like an alarm clock.
With football clubs looking to do their business earlier than ever to avoid deadline-day panics soundtracked by the shrill tones of Jim White, Ridgwell spends his summers dealing with countless requests from for his most in-demand clients.
“It’s certainly busy! We’ve had interest from Premier League and Championship sides for some of our boys in the last few months - particularly in the last transfer window,” Ridgwell tells HITC.
“We regularly speak with scouts and directors of recruitment from top clubs, and we’re lucky that we have some amazingly talented footballers on the books.”
Take Charlie Kelman for example; the 17-year-old Southend United striker who shot to fame in February with an outrageous effort from his own half against Plymouth Argyle. We challenge you to find a better debut goal in Football League history.
Speaking to HITC last week, Kelman was at pains to point out that he is still loving life at Southend despite their perilous position in the League One relegation zone. But the vultures are circling with West Ham, Bournemouth, Burnley and Aston Villa all casting admiring glances in the teenager’s direction.
“Charlie is focused on playing his football with Southend and continuing to break into the first team there. He’s keen to progress this season and carry on doing what he does best - scoring goals!” says Ridgewell.
Kelman, who netted 61 times at youth level in 2017/18 and shares an eye for the spectacular with his idol Wayne Rooney, is certainly not the only Core Sports client who has made headlines in recent months.
Promotion specialists and award-winning goalkeepers
At 35, Glenn Morris looks sharper than ever in between the sticks at Crawley Town. The former Leyton Orient and Gillingham stopper dominated Crawley’s end of season awards in May with the Player of the Year gong taking centre-stage on his mantelpiece.
It would take a brave man to bet against arguably League Two’s finest goalkeeper completing another clean sweep next year.
“Glenn is a fantastic professional - both on and off the pitch. His experience and consistency in the game is second to none,” Ridgwell says. “He’s also a great person and an asset to the Crawley dressing room. There’s some fantastic talent in League Two and I have to say that Glenn is up there with them.”
And don’t forget Jake Beesley, the 22-year-old centre-forward who has come a long way since helping Salford City win the National League North title in his debut season at Moor Lane. Now, a year on and via successive promotions, he is leading the line for The Ammies in their first ever Football League campaign.
“It’s always brilliant to see players doing well, and particularly ones that you have always been confident will be able to make the step up and succeed. (Kelman and Beelsey) have both got their heads down and work incredibly hard every day to be better players.”
With Kelman, Beelsey and Morris on their books, it doesn't take a genius to work out that Core Sports specialise in players from the Football League and below.
So no wonder the addition of Paul Hayes, a striker who scored goals for fun at Scunthorpe, Wycombe and Barnsley, was welcomed through the doors with open arms when he announced his retirement from a nomadic playing career in June.
“Adding Paul to the agency was fantastic and shows how far we have come as a business,” Ridgwell adds of a new addition to the Core Sports family whose experience should prove invaluable to the likes of Kelman.
“(Hayes) is a huge asset both from the experience he brings from the game, but also his driven and focused approach to doing the best he can every day.”
A simple mission - but a positive one
In a week where agents once again made the headlines for all the wrong reasons after a certain Liverpool-born striker swapped the North West of England for the North West of Italy, the values and principles of Core Sports are refreshing. They keep their clients close to their heart while others would happily agree a money-spinning contract before you can say 'comission'.
As Ridgwell himself says; “We have a simple mission - to help the most talented people reach their goals and achieve their ambitions.
“The key thing about Core Sports is that we’re there with our athletes all year round. It’s easy to be super engaged during transfer windows or contract negotiations and then be distant from players for the rest of the year, but we’re constantly working with our talent to ensure they are comfortable and given the tools they need to succeed.
A simple mission it may be, but it’s one that should be applauded.
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