The train to Leicester on Saturday from London was meant to be a quiet one. I had been down with the cold all week and at one point was even deliberating whether it was a wise idea to go to the game. Bearing in mind that it is a decent walk from Leicester train station to the King Power, and I was about to stand in the cold for 90 minutes, I was relying on that train ride to catch up on some rest.

Anyway, as I took my seat with two Spanish guys at the table, I couldn’t seem to close my eyes as they chatted away about football. Little did they know that my Spanish isn’t that bad, as I quickly figured out they were heading to the same game as I was.

We got talking and it turns out they were both football agents, one of them being Leicester’s recent summer signing Vincent Iborra’s agent. It is amazing how many topics you can cover in such a short space of time…

The first was obviously Rafa.

The agent was pretty adamant that what we see from Rafa is all just a character. I for one do not know who the real Rafa is but I guess it is true that all managers have a certain character that they have to live up to. He argued that now Rafa is a big well known name, he has a certain public profile that he has to conform to. Either way, I don’t really care so much because I like the character, I am sure that we all do.

In a way, I kept saying positive things about Rafa, in the hope that one of the guys would come back to me or give me a sign that they agreed he was a top class manager. However, I didn’t really get that feeling. What it confirmed for me is that this is a guy who is under appreciated everywhere, except for on Tyneside and Merseyside.

Who knows what it is about him that the rest of the country doesn’t seem to find so loveable. Perhaps his football is a little boring unlike Guardiola, he doesn’t act like a caged animal on the touchline such as Conte, he doesn’t give the media something to talk about with a stupid excuse after every defeat such as Mourinho, nor does he generally act like a buffoon all of the time such as Klopp.

Yet, this is a guy who has been a success at almost every club he has been at since Tenerife back in the early 2000s (with the exception of his very short spell at Inter Milan), so I was surprised by their lack of enthusiasm for Rafa.

The second subject that came up was the Youth facilities in Spain compared to that in England. I was lucky enough to spend some time at Villarreal when I was a kid so I know well how some of the youth facilities are in Spain.

I think this is an area that Rafa has made a priority. For a club that isn’t going to spend lots of money, the academy set up has to be seen as a source of talent and revenue, now more than ever.

During my time in Spain we were constantly told by the coaches at Villarreal about how bad their facilities were, and how they were in desperate need of an upgrade, in order to not be left behind.

As kids, this always amazed us as we knew that if Villarreal’s facilities were picked up and placed in England, they would be amongst the best youth facilities. One of the main reasons for this is that clubs in Spain have to rely on bringing through youth players far more than clubs in England. In England, the clubs have so much money that if they need a new left back, they just go out and buy one. In Spain, there is so little money flowing through the system that clubs are having to rely on bringing kids through.

The academy is an area that Rafa has to address. I wrote a previous article a while ago which showed just how few kids Rafa has brought through in his career at all of the clubs. Yet having grown up in the system, I can say it is an issue that is widespread throughout the country, not just in the North East.

If you are an 18-year-old in Spain and Holland, and you play right back for the youth team, then there is a mentality within the clubs which states that this given right back is the first team’s 5th choice right back until his last day with the club. What this means is that there is a clear line of progression to the first team. So if ‘X’ Spanish/Dutch club has an injury crisis in which the first team full backs are injured, the u23 player is out on loan, then the 18-year-old full back will be called up. He gets his chance and invariably they take it.

In England it doesn’t work like that. In order to have any chance of getting near the first team, even for training, you have to be a special player. One of the chosen ones, I like to refer to them. In my age group it was Adam Campbell and Remie Streete. So if the same situation throws itself up in England and there is an injury crisis, then everyone will be juggled around so that an ‘experienced’ reserve team centre back plays right back and one of the ‘chosen ones’ steps up to the bench… in this case Remie Streete.

Some may think this is the best way of working it, but it is just a first hand explanation that I can provide of the differences between England and those on the ‘continent’.

According to the agent, the way clubs are set up is having a greater impact upon the decisions players make in their future. This was probably the most interesting thing I took away from the conversation. Football players coming from Spain are far more likely to choose a club set up like Leicester City or Watford than they are compared to Newcastle.This is because in Spain, they largely operate on the ‘Sporting Director’ model, which is the person that largely runs the football club, while the manager is in charge of running the team.

The beauty of this model is that, it doesn’t really matter who the manager is, the philosophy of the club carries on, the structure of the youth set up is the same and the club has to have a certain style of play. On the other hand, a club like Newcastle which has no distinct philosophy, no obvious structure, and is largely ran by one man (who could go at any time), it is not an attractive proposition for any player.

If ‘X’ Spanish player comes to Newcastle on a five-year contract because of Rafa, and he then leaves, then where does that leave the player? It is likely the next manager may come in with us own ideas and style, and that player will be shut out on loan to somewhere he doesn’t want to be.

If that happens at Watford or Leicester, then everything just carries on as normal, the style of play doesn’t change that much, a similar manager will come in and their place in the team isn’t under as much risk. This is a perfect example at Leicester where Shakespeare was sacked, and Puel has come in, only to make minor changes rather than the classic overhaul we are used to.

Finally, we got onto Spanish players at NUFC. Amazingly, he didn’t seem to know who Ayoze Perez was! Although, having moved over here as a relative unknown from Tenerife maybe it’s not that much of a surprise.

He mentioned that there has been a bit of disappointment in Spain regarding Manquillo, who was categorised as a young player with a lot of potential in the Spanish national set up.

Noted also that Newcastle did well last summer to pick Florian Lejeune as he was well sought after following a strong first season with Eibar. There was also a few laughs at the mention of Marcelino, Albert Luque and Xisco.

Last but not least, a question I always ask people when I can…

“How big of a factor is London, or coming specifically to the North East, for players?”…well, it’s massive apparently.

The agent commented that unless you are going to go and play for Man U, City, Liverpool or Everton… then Leicester is about as far north as most of his players would want to go. Something I wish wasn’t true but it is a fact I hear more and more today.

Newcastle are going strong at the moment, yes, but the club is nowhere near being set up like a proper football club yet.

Rafa appears to be the glue that is holding just about everything together right now. This is why a takeover is needed now more than ever, as it will allow to the club to start building some solid foundations for the future.

I worry that if Rafa was to leave in the summer then the whole house of cards would tumble.

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  • Monkseaton Magpies

    Even when Keegan was manager and we were top of the league it was not easy getting players in. While every one on here has a pop at Mike Ashley there is a lot more going on behind the scenes and Rafa knows this. So when we get new owners (if ever) there are a handful of people on here who are realistic enough not to expect top signings knocking at the door to sign.

    • TheFatController

      I’ll take your well-informed word for it that there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about.

      Just not youth set-up, commercial revenue building, stadium development, playing staff investment and supporter relations ….

      • Jezza

        What would he possibly know about goings on behind the scenes at St James’s Park? He’s not a Newcastle supporter and he’s never even been to Monkseaton. Don’t feed the troll.

  • Leazes.

    Are you sure they weren’t winding you up?

    As far as I can see Vicente Iborra doesn’t have an agent at the moment…. and the last one was Federico Moro who is an Italian.

    Comments welcome!

    • Jonathan Drape-Comyn

      Yes I am sure.

      Just to appease you though Leazes, not that I have to, I looked him up afterwards… even went as far as Iborra’s instagram page to confirm it.

      • Clarko

        What was his name? What Instagram post?

      • Leazes.

        What’s his name?

  • TheNutJob

    oh, Clarko`s beamed down to put everyone on the right track.
    who needs Google when you have Clarko

    • Clarko

      As opposed to being “beamed down” to tell lies and spread misinformation like you do.

  • Dillon Tovak

    At the beginning I thought this article was a parody or something.

    • Leazes.

      Probably something

    • Jezza

      I read the whole thing and thought it was a parody.

  • S.G.M.

    “Bit of a cold and debating whether it was worth the trip” FFs.
    You would have to remove both my legs.

  • Coach Clagnut

    “Yet, this is a guy who has been a success at almost every club he has
    been at since Tenerife back in the early 2000s (with the exception of
    his very short spell at Inter Milan), so I was surprised by their lack
    of enthusiasm for Rafa”.

    I guess winning the Supercoppa Italiana and The F.I.F.A.World Club Championship with Inter Milan doesn’t count.

  • Gary Linskey

    They said that Perez is unknown in Spain yes? But I remember him getting the winner in a 2-1 win away at Spurs two seasons ago & the Spanish media were all over him, wanting statements & interviews from him. So that sounds a little bit strange. Also, apparantly when we signed Perez there was supposed interest from Spanish clubs for is signature at that time???

    • Dillon Tovak

      This article is essentially, I met a guy who is a manager at my local Asda so he gave me deep insight into the running of Walmart.

  • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

    These agents didn’t like going beyond Leicester yet the train you were on was clearly heading south from Newcastle. Something is not right.

    • grantham mag

      First line of this story states the train from London, there’s the clue, and your never wrong BLOBBI……..

      • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

        The picture clearly shows the train heading south.

        Btw, it’s you’re not your.

        • Coach Clagnut

          Maybe that train was heading south….back in 1946.

          • Andy Mac

            Or maybe it was the new replacement service now that Virgin Trains have taken their profit and fkd off.?

            Just in case you didnt know there is now a clear choice between an alleged not for profit contract with Stagecoach, (who have failed in the past) or public ownership to run the line .

            For those Tories among us who shiver at the thought of state controlled services, bear in mind the last time the NE line was “profitable” was when the service became a subsidiary of Directly Operated Railways, formed by the Department for Transport as an operator of last resort when National Express refused to provide further financial support to its National Express East Coast.

          • Coach Clagnut

            It’s a pickle for the Ayn Rand shower of Tory’s in charge though but. They’ll probably row-back safety standards so their chums can make a quid or two on the cheap. Make it attractive for their tax avoiding low life donors.
            The current train services throughout the U.K. are, largely, abysmal since they got flogged off.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            Oh dear, a workshy whining sicialist, fantastic.

            The service is far better throughout. Far more efficient as well.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            When it was East it was not paying a franchise fee so the treasury did not gain. It also didn’t have to cope with the line improvements that virgin had to deal with, it also avoided the service commitments the private company had.

            If you want to be stranded by strike action in Aberdeen bucause the unions have called a strike in support of a ticket kiosk operator in Penzance, support a nationalised rail industry. If you want an efficient service, a train turning up as per the timetable and attractive food choices, private all the way.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            Clearly it’s heading south and clearly it’s after the early 1950’s as the tender has the later design of the British Railways emblem. Also, it wasn’t a sunny day when the Author travelled so I’m finding it difficult to accept this story.

          • Coach Clagnut

            What emblem? The only visible clue is the engine number.
            Reckon you can abracadabra the livery colours despite it being monochrome, you’re such a smarty I’m sure you can.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            I reckon it’s black, post war livery

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            In actual fact, I think it’s pre-war given the train number. Pre- nationalisation based on they aren’t on bleeding strike.

          • Andy Mac

            Clagnut are you work shy as Ms Fleckman suggests ?

          • Coach Clagnut

            Done my 45yrs Macca and enjoying the fruits of my labours. If I was as smart as Tory Bobbi I’d have done those 45 in 10.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            If it was the 19:46 he’d have never got to the game.

        • Andy Mac

          Ooh scratch your eyes out ?? Hell hath no fury when a woman gets found out or whatever that proverb is ?

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            Unless the train is backing into central station, the story does not add up. If it’s backing in, why is it in the down line going over the King Edward bridge?

          • Coach Clagnut

            Backing in….over a bridge? Seriously?

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            Exactly, it’s not, it’s pulling and heading South. The author had his picture taken on a different train than he claims to be in, can he even talk Spanish?

        • grantham mag

          Its a picture of a STEAM TRAIN BLOBBI they stopped running out of Newcastle in the 60s.
          Thanks for the English lesson, your education was not wasted, well done.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            What, it’s not the train the author was on???? Well that was misleading and had me fooled.

          • grantham mag

            You fooled, I am in shock, BLOBBI.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            That’s right, I was taken in by the Mag’s hoax. He wasn’t on that train at all, well I never.

  • Andy Mac

    Mention of Adam Campbell reminded me of the time some friends were at the SoL for a derby match (remember them) and Campbell was in the lounge with other non players for that day. When friend went to talk to him about the game and offer to buy him a drink he was ignored by the little ginger tw#t. Now he’s at Morecambe and probably still a tw……………

  • Phil

    The whole article has a scent of 🐂💩

    • Jezza

      Agreed. The writer got his dates mixed up. He meant to post the article exactly 10 days ago.

  • Jimmy_toons

    Coming to London or the north east is a massive factor for Spanish players…. Didn’t put off Manquillo, Perez, Merino and Joselu – some wish it did.
    Newcastle as a city and the region generally has developed over the last 10-15 years and with foreign student and European workers, together with most of us having travelled across Europe, and with more flights between Newcastle and European/worldwide cities, the area offers more than just the tired old media ‘How will these players cope with the Bigg Market and a diet of pasties and stotties’ garbage.
    Not every footballer has grown up in the salubrious suburbs of Madrid, Paris or Barcelona, but are from similar places to Newcastle, and having lived in London for 10 years, I can assure you it’s not all that.
    As this article has stated, the writer doesn’t speak fluent Spanish and I’ve sat opposite many, many people on trains talking carp. Would appear Jonathan has taken poetic licence in his writing a bit too far.

    • Toonrobbybobson

      And then there was brexit…

    • Coach Clagnut

      ‘How will these players cope with the Bigg Market and a diet of pasties and stotties’ garbage.

      At least it’s a leg up from slag heaps & drunken whippets.

  • gallowgate26

    Well if he didn’t know who Ayoze Perez was before the game, he sure did after!

    • Andy Mac

      I have to say if the agent was Spanish and had no clue about Ayoze he’d have to be a pretty plss poor agent ?

      • Coach Clagnut

        Perhaps Spanish wasn’t their native tongue. Wouldn’t surprise me with this bloke.

      • Cockneytrev

        Exactly,,, Perez agent is also Felani agent and actually worked for the sun as a journalist who went over to Spain to cover the Beckham transfer before he became an agent… Perez offers from several big Spanish clubs before he chose us and was well known in Spain

        • Andy Mac

          From journo to agent in one easy lesson ? F F S no wonder this game is becoming alien to the average fan as chancers queue up to cash in on the TV money spewing out from the massively corrupt PL ?

          What the fk happened to the beautiful game ?

          • Cockneytrev

            The full story of it is even more jaw dropping,,,Agents are the curse of the game,,,

  • Dan Robson