Stephen Craigan: Short-sighted agents should put long-term future of young players ahead of making “a quick buck”

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FORMER Motherwell reserve team coach Stephen Craigan has accused some agents of jeopardising the careers of promising Scottish footballers in order to make “a quick buck”.

Stuart McKinstry, the 16-year-old winger who has been on the bench for the Fir Park club this season, has attracted the interest of English Championship contenders Leeds United in recent weeks. However, Craigan is keen for McKinstry to remain in Lanarkshire and learn his trade by playing regular first-team football before moving to a bigger club for more money.

He also admitted that the reluctance of David Turnbull, the 19-year-old midfielder who has played 13 times and scored three goals for Stephen Robinson’s side in the 2018/19 campaign, had been “frustrating” for him.

The former Northern Ireland captain feels young players’ representatives should be wary of the potential negative consequences of a transfer for their clients and should put their long-term development ahead of short-term financial gain.

“There’s a bit of interest in Stu McKinstry,” he said. “He’s been watched in the under-18s. He’s a good talent, a wide player, wants to take men on, good in possession, can go both ways inside or outside. Has a good awareness of space, of where he should or shouldn’t be.

“He’s also a Motherwell fan. I know it would be a big wrench for him to leave if he does. He always wanted to sign for Motherwell.

“He’s quite a young 16. I think he’d need a few guarantees for it to be right for him. Living in the big city? I think he’s a home kid. Talent wise and football wise he can go a long way. But at 16 you can be the best in the world and by 20 you might not be. If he doesn’t go then Motherwell have a talent who, in the next couple of years, could be breaking into the first team.

“He’s only played a couple of reserve games, not a lot of minutes. There’s a big jump to being up against guys who are 19, 20, 21. It is physically more demanding. The first six months in, they learn the habits. He’s been in for that. Now he’s settled, finding his feet in the environment and isn’t overawed training with the first team as a Motherwell fan. He’s got over that. But he’s one for the future.

“If the opportunity is there to move to on sign for Leeds, that’s a big jump for him. I left home at 17 and I felt I was reasonably mature for 17. And I got over here and realised I wasn’t, I hadn’t a clue what was going on.”

Craigan has now left Motherwell to concentrate on his media career, but he added: “David’s a frustrating one. His contract’s up in the summer. He has been offered a very good contract. There’s been four or five offers, I understand, from Motherwell to his representative. It looks like his representative wants him to go somewhere else.

“Agents have to be careful what they’re doing with young players. David has played 15 or 16 games. Why not let him stay and get to the 50 mark? Suddenly his value gets greater. It’s easy to get lost as a 19 or 20-year-old.

“There was a young central defender, Ben Hall, a few years ago played 30 or 40 games at Motherwell and then went to Brighton. It was great financially for him in the short term. But he might look now and think: ‘I should have stayed for another year and got another 40 or 50 games under my belt’. He went to Brighton and has been on loan to Notts County.

“I know the money might be there for the agent short term, they think they can get a quick buck, but I think sometimes people have to look after the welfare of the player. Not every player’s the same. Not every player is at the same stage of development.

“I think the agent has spoken to the manager before Christmas, when I was there, and spoken to the manager about David’s development.

“Maybe that’s why he’s an agent and Stephen is a manager. We’re all in different businesses, all have different roles. I think sometimes you leave the management and development to coaches and managers.

“David has been at Motherwell since he was nine years of age and he’s a fan. It would be a huge disappointment if the club lost a player of his calibre. I’m saying that because I worked with him for three-and-a-half years. I know what a good kid his is and what a good family he comes from. I just think sometimes you need to careful who’s giving you advice and where you’re going to end up.”

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