THE fee counter that ticks ever upward on Sky Sports is the ultimate monument to the excess of the transfer window at the top end of the tree, where greed is good and the value of a footballer is expressed only in monetary terms.
But what of life at the other end of the scale? Away from the vulgarity of the transfer window circus, the spotlight rarely shines on those who are scrapping with everything they have to simply stay in the game.
Be it through injury, bad luck or bad timing, there are talented players who slip through the net and are left on the outside looking in.
Through a combination of all of these factors, that is the situation former Clyde midfielder Steven Bain finds himself in, juggling the nine to five with a burning desire to prove that he can still make his way in the senior game.
A serious knee injury suffered a year ago and then a freak ankle injury sustained last summer have hampered the 21-year-old midfielder’s progress, and he admits there have been times when he has wondered if the sacrifices he is making to fight his way back are worth it.
“It’s been hard, I’m not going to lie,” said Bain. “It’s all good when you’ve got a club, and everything is going well, but then there is the harsh reality of the graft you have to put in when you are in my position and training part time. It’s not easy when you’ve got 200-odd other boys in the same position who are competing with you and trying to impress just as much as you are.
“I’ve had injuries that have set me back which has been hard, but it’s about keeping that motivation to work hard and try to improve and get stronger.
“The transfer window doesn’t help, because teams are looking for players who can come in during January and be up to speed straight away.
“I love playing the game, but there are times when I’ve been thinking that I can’t be bothered anymore, that it’s too much hassle. But I’ve managed to always keep telling myself that I’ll be there soon, and I’ve been able to keep picking myself up. I’m not going to give up.”
It is not only the temptation of putting your feet up after work that comes with the stresses of a full-time job, but the attraction of relieving that stress in less productive ways. Temptations that the determined Bain has steadfastly refused to buckle to.
“I work nine to five every day with the Clydesdale Bank,” he said. “I enjoy it, but after doing a full shift those nagging voices come into your head saying ‘can I really be bothered going a run or going to the gym?’ It’s about pushing yourself.
“It turns into a busy life and you have to juggle things, but I want to play football. It’s difficult, especially as you are getting older and your pals are all going out on a Saturday and you’re travelling to football games. Sometimes you think you would rather be doing what they are, especially when you get injuries and things are going against you. You think; ‘what’s the point?’
“But it has all made me stronger. Although it has been a bad experience, there are positives I can take away from it. I believe in myself and I’m confident that when I’m at full fitness, I’m good enough to be back at a senior level where I was before.”
Bain has been training with Shettleston Juniors since early last month, and despite attracting interest from East of Scotland League clubs, he is keeping his options open as he finally nears full fitness again.
He feels fortunate to be back in such a position, and admits he couldn’t have made the progress he has without the help of PFA Scotland.
“The knee problem about a year ago really set me back fitness-wise,” he said. “I played in the PFA showcase in June even though I slightly tore my hamstring the day before the game, then I was in at Albion Rovers, and then I was in at Sauchie Juniors.
“When I was there I picked up a really bad ankle injury that put me out for four months, and in that whole recovery period the PFA set me up at the Hampden clinic and it didn’t cost me anything. Things like that make you appreciate the help you are getting and make you more determined to get back. I can’t thank PFA Scotland or the Hampden Clinic enough.
“I’ve recovered now, but it’s about getting fitness, and getting back to playing at the level I know I can.”