New beginnings are not as straightforward as just joining a new team and updating social media profiles. They come with numerous emotions and pressures on top of having to perform. So how does it feel to join a new club and have to prove yourself to people once again? Why do some players struggle for form after being on fire at their previous club? Let’s have a look at what comes with new beginnings within football.
Reasons for moving football clubs
The ‘one club player’ as they are called are often hailed, yet in football, there aren’t many players who will spend their whole career at the same club they began with.
Whether we want to or not, most of us will find ourselves joining new clubs numerous times throughout our careers. Squads are always changing with the decision sometimes out of our hands. The reasons are vast and below are some of the more common ones:
- Transfer target– Another club has identified a player and wants to sign them as their player.
- A loan– A temporary move but still a new beginning that comes with emotions and pressures.
- Family reasons– Sometimes players have to choose between what is best for their families and what is best for their career.
- Not to the managers liking– Football is all about opinions. Sometimes a manager just doesn’t think we’re good enough. It is hard to accept but we can’t mull over it. It is ONLY their opinion and we can’t let that affect the next stage of our career away from that manager. However, this is easier said than done!
- Playing style– Similar to above but maybe a new manager has come in and is changing the playing style (e.g. from a possession-based team to a more direct team). The player’s style of play isn’t suited to the new style and it’s in the best interest of everyone for the player to move on.
- Club ethos– Again similar to the two above, with the club potentially having an ethos of bringing through the youth and the player is now approaching the latter stages of their career. On the other hand, they may be a young pro just breaking through and a club may be looking for someone who has “experience”, so a loan move may benefit the player.
- A falling out– Disagreements between people in a football club happen all the time and sometimes the damage is beyond repair, with a player having to move on.
Emotions when moving football clubs
Regardless of the reason for the fresh start, moving clubs comes with many emotions. They depend upon the reason behind the move and the character of the player, but any of the emotions below can be experienced as the player transitions between clubs:
- Excitement for the fresh start and the endless opportunities that come with either a new slate or joining a better team.
- Anxiety and nervousness because a new beginning represents a fresh start and perhaps the unknown.
- Regret and sadness because things maybe didn’t work out and the player is moving on from a club they hold close to their heart, or was settled and happy at.
- Relief because the player may have not been enjoying their football and a new beginning gives them a chance to play with a smile on their face again.
- Stress because of all the pressures that come hand in hand with the move, that I will cover below.
Pressures that come with joining a new football club
Moving clubs is guaranteed to come with pressures. If it isn’t on the pitch, then there is bound to be pressure felt off of the pitch that can affect the transition. Different pressures come with different situations but below are a few pressures I have encountered myself and others that I have witnessed first hand:
Leaving home is a huge upheaval regardless of age and whether we are moving alone or with our family.
If the new club is a long distance from home, moving away from family as a young player can be tough, especially if it is the first time. One of the many upsides to football is that we often find ourselves with a lot more time on our hands than other occupations, but this can also be a player’s downfall.
Living away from home can mean a lot of time alone. It’s important we are comfortable living away, or that we can find things to do that distract us and fill our spare time, without hindering our ability to perform.
Maybe we have family who is going to be moving with us. Matters off of the pitch like school placements for children, finding a suitable place to live and work opportunities for partners are all things that add to the pressure of a fresh start. Juggling our personal life with matters on the pitch can be difficult to manage, especially in a period of transition.
Player liaison officers are now roles at most clubs, however, in the lower leagues, such luxuries aren’t available. We are expected to seamlessly fit in at new clubs, when the reality is it’s not always possible because of factors away from the club.
Are we fortunate enough to be the subject of a big-money transfer? Or maybe we’re dropping down a league?
Pressure to hit the ground running will be high and people will expect us to be firing from day one.
This isn’t always going to be the case and you only have to look at some players who have moved for incredible money at the top of the game, to realise that sometimes expectations are too high and footballers are also humans who sometimes struggle to adapt.
Sometimes we need time to adapt to our new surroundings and teammates. Unfortunately, time isn’t always something we are afforded. It’s a results-based business and if positive results and performances aren’t happening, the pressure can build which can then affect team selection, which then impacts life off of the pitch too.
Adjusting to new surroundings:
Meeting our new teammates, integrating into a new changing room and a different philosophy. For example, just because a player was the star player at their previous club, that doesn’t mean that they are going to walk into the starting 11. Every club and changing room is different and this can take some getting used to. We have to find our feet and our place within the team, whilst learning a new playing style and what the manager wants from us.
If we are moving away from home we also have to adjust to living in a new area, either miles from home or in a different country. Both come with different difficulties and both require adjustment and patience.
Maybe we are joining a new club off the back of an up and down season personally and we’re desperate to not have a repeat of that season. Our determination to prevent it from happening again weighs heavy on our shoulders and can add unnecessary stress. On the other hand, perhaps we have “done the business” in the lower leagues and we have earned our move to the leagues above, but expect things to go as smoothly as they did previously.
Moving clubs comes with enough pressure without putting extra pressure on ourselves through our own expectations.
Fear and mindset of players when moving football clubs
Dread and fear used to be my overriding emotions when faced with change because I was worried about what could go WRONG, instead of what could go RIGHT.
Deep down I always knew what the RIGHT thing to do was, but it wasn’t always what I wanted to do because of the fear of starting somewhere new all over again. I liked to play things safe and all my decisions were based on worst-case scenarios instead of the best-case.
This goes back to my days in Sunday League all the way through to recent years. I would be at a club where I felt like I belonged and was happy, so I was cautious of leaving what I knew behind.
My mindset towards new beginnings was all wrong.
I didn’t like change.
I was focusing on the negatives INSTEAD of the positives.
I didn’t think about the opportunity to reignite a stalling career. Instead, I wanted the comfort of what I knew. By thinking about what could go wrong, I couldn’t see the positives that a fresh start would bring to my career.
Yet, every time I have ventured out of that comfort zone, I feel I have grown, both as a player and person through the experience.
My understanding of the game has improved through experiencing different footballing environments, whilst also becoming a better player from those new environments.
That’s fine, I often am too before a big change like moving clubs and I think most players would say the same.
Do I stay somewhere I am comfortable, knowing that I’m not improving as a player and things are safe and easy?
Do I take the plunge into the unknown and have a fresh start that could enhance my career further?
I have asked myself similar questions many times throughout my career and sometimes I have aired on the side of caution. However every time I have taken that step into the unknown I have never regretted it.
New beginnings are a great chance to rewrite or further our careers. It presents us with an opportunity to expand our knowledge of the game and grow as a player.
From my experience and players I have played with, joining a new club can be tough. We must acknowledge that some transitions take time whilst some just simply aren’t meant to be. Adjustments are needed with a fresh start and they don’t all go as smoothly as we hope.
The journey we are on isn’t always plain sailing, so we have to take the smooth with the rough and use the negative experiences and setbacks to make us a better and more complete player. Sometimes we have to trust in the journey we are on and take the leap, even when we can’t see where it is that we will land.
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