x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Andrew Cole: January transfers are unsettling

I have some advice for any footballers considering moving in the January transfer window. Don't do it.

Andrew Cole has some advice for any footballers considering moving in the January transfer window. Don't do it.
Andrew Cole has some advice for any footballers considering moving in the January transfer window. Don't do it.

I have got some advice for any footballers considering moving in the January transfer window. Don't do it.

I did it twice, in 1995 from Newcastle United to Manchester United for what was then a British record transfer fee of £6 million (Dh34.1m). And seven years later when I left United for Blackburn Rovers for £8m.

The circumstances of both moves were very different, but similar issues affected me.

I had to move from Newcastle to Manchester overnight. It did not matter that my partner was heavily pregnant with our first child, I was just expected to transfer myself to a new city, walk into a dressing room full of people I did not know and start scoring from the first game I played.

It wasn't like an earthquake or natural disaster had rendered me homeless so I am not expecting any sympathy, but I am trying to give you insight into what lurks behind the smiling face of the footballer holding his new club scarf for photographers. Oh, and if you have come on a record transfer fee, people will expect you to be better than Pele. It is not easy.

Every club plays and trains at a different rhythm so adjusting can be difficult.

Newcastle played some wonderful football, but the fitness levels were better at Old Trafford.

I am not being disrespectful to Newcastle, but standards were higher at Old Trafford. The dressing room was a who's who of world-class players and I struggled to get my head around it at first.

So many things were going on in my life and I felt that I was still a boy who was still learning my trade.

Brian Kidd, the assistant manager, welcomed me to the club and said: "If you think that 40 goals a season at this club is good enough then you are wrong."

Then he walked off. I could not believe it, but over the years I realised where he was coming from.

Goals were not enough at United, you had to become a team player, the complete footballer. Goals were not enough to keep Ruud van Nistelrooy at the club.

I didn't know how my new team mates would take to me. I was absolutely buzzing playing with them, but they might have viewed me differently. Ryan Giggs was especially friendly with me socially and invited me out a lot, while Mark Hughes, the man who should have felt the most threatened, was ultra professional.

In one of my first games for United, a player caught me with a bad challenge. I could look after myself, but Hughes came over.

"Don't worry," he said. "I'll sort that out." Minutes later he took revenge the lad who had done it. I was impressed and came to realise that great teams have players who look after each other, but there was no respite. Later in the same game, Hughes looked at me and said: "Any chance?"

"Of what?" I replied, unsure what he meant.

"Of working harder?" I got the point. There was also talk of Hughes leaving because I had arrived. I did not want him to go, but wanted to learn from him.

It was very, very hard for me and there were other problems. If you move in January then you are likely to be cup tied. I could not play in United's FA Cup run where the team reached the 1995 final.

That meant you could go a couple of weeks without a match at the time you need to be playing every week to settle in.

I would advise players to move in the summer if they can, to start pre-season with the rest of their teammates, to play the friendlies and get to understand how your new teammates play and to let your family move to a new city in good time and not overnight.

Players don't always have a choice when they change clubs though.

My move to United came with me knowing nothing until a day or two before, while I asked to leave United seven years later. I wasn't playing every week and wanted to play in the 2002 World Cup. I was 30 and thought it was my last chance.

My agent had a cosy relationship with Blackburn and sold the idea to me. He should have given me several options. He offered me one, but at least it meant I did not have to move house.

In hindsight, it was a mistake to leave United, though you couldn't have told me that at the time. Sir Alex Ferguson tried to and I would not listen.

With respect to Blackburn, who are a fantastic football club, what I should have done was look for a bigger club, Champions League regulars.

But it was January, when such decisions are made in a rush and not always for the right reasons. I know, I've been there.

sports@thenational.ae