‘We were the lowest offer on the table....but I knew what buttons to press’ - The inside story of Jake Hyde’s transfer to FC Halifax Town
Pete Wild and Chris Millington have been up and down the country this summer, talking to players and agents in their attempt to rebuild FC Halifax Town’s squad for the 2020-21 National League season.
What happens when they identify a player they want? How do they convince them to join The Shaymen? What is the process of signing a player?
The Town boss took the Courier behind-the-scenes through the recent signing of Woking striker Jake Hyde to explain all.
“When you watch, as I do, comprehensively, the next team you’re playing, you fall upon the same team a few times because you watch your opponent’s last three games,” Wild says.
“When I’d be watching Woking and looking at what their strengths were, this lad kept popping up every time.
“I remember him as a younger player in the league with Swindon and Barnet, really good player.
“Every time I’d fall upon Woking, he’d score, he’d be the threat.
“When we played them down there, we were expecting him to play but I think he was injured, but we knew they’d try to thread the ball through to him, he’d drop in and try to link the play.
“He played up-front on his own last season and Woking did very well. He scored 17 goals and probably would’ve scored 20-plus if it hadn’t been for lockdown.
“So it gets to lockdown and I was starting to narrow down my targets. He was on my list of centre-forwards, and an agent contacted me with his name, an agent that we do some business with.
“He said ‘would you be interested in Jake Hyde?’
“100 per cent I’d be interested in Jake Hyde.
“So what I start to do then is watch him in-depth, I come up with his strengths, his areas to develop.
“On our scouting platform you can just watch clips of him within games and it’s all cut down for you, so I’d watch probably 10 or 11 of his games and his goals, everything he brings to the table.
“Then I start to put together some notes on him, which I sent to our analysis lads, who put clips together for me of him, so when I’m selling it to the chairman of who I want, the chairman can see the clips of him and we can get the chairman on board about his strengths and his areas to develop.
“Then as we get out of lockdown and the season finishes, Jake’s contract is up with Woking, and we can start to talk to him.
“After his contract was up and we came back for the play-offs, I gave Jake a ring and we had a really good chat over the phone.
“I said ‘when we get to the other side of the play-offs, I’ll come and meet you’.
“One thing I’m always confident of with me and Chris (Millington) is when we get in-front of somebody, we generally have a chance because me and him like to talk.
“We identified Jake as one of our top targets, identified the sort of price range of what Jake wanted. I knew he’d spoken to at least three League Two clubs and at least three National League clubs, who were all offering more than me.
“We were the lowest offer on the table, but I knew Jake was an intelligent lad, I knew he was looking for the right move that would further his career with a team that had ambition. “I knew what the buttons were to press with Jake and, luckily for me, they were the buttons I wanted.
“Me and Jake had a real shared common goal, so when we decided we’d meet him, we went on the train to London and spoke to him, as well as some other players while we were down there.
“What a lot of managers will do is show a centre-forward his goals and go ‘that’s why I want you, because you score goals like this’.
“Well that doesn’t tell a centre-forward what he doesn’t already know. Every centre-forward knows every goal they’ve scored.
“What any player wants to know is how their all-round game is going to get better, how you think he’s going to fit into the team.
“I told Jake exactly how we saw him fitting into our team, where he would play his strengths, why his strengths were good for the team that we were creating, and we told him where we thought we could make him better.
“He liked that because we’d taken the time and effort to understand how we could make him better, even as a 30-year-old striker.
“We discussed that, we discussed our vision for next season and beyond for the football club, our vision to take us from the plucky little underdogs to the serious contenders, and what it’d take to do that, what sort of characters we want.
“We go through the whole realm of things, and what we’re trying to do in that conversation is work out can I work with him. He’s trying to work out can he work with me, do we trust each other, have we got a shared understanding, all that’s going off while you’re sat there talking to them.
“He leaves the hotel, we’re on the train back up to Manchester on that Monday evening and there’s a deal to be done. He’s gone away excited at what he’s seen.
“Then it’s down to money, bouncing to and fro with the agent and the chairman to make sure the deal’s right for everybody.
“Seven days later, after all that to-ing and fro-ing, we have a deal.
“That bit, when the player’s agreed and you’re to-ing and fro-ing for money is absolutely the most stressful part for me, because in some respects, I’ve done my job, I’ve sold the club to him, and now it’s all about the finances and can we make the finances work for him, especially with him having to move up here and leave his family.
“That’s the most stressful bit, when the football side’s sold to them, and then you start talking money. That’s when the awkwardness starts.
“But the chairman deserves a lot of credit for that deal, because he’s gone to town in backing me on that.”
Wild says every possible transfer target is analysed and scrutinised in detail.
“We’re quite lucky with the platform we use, because you can go on and get an automatic report of Jake, and it’s clipped down to every piece he’s involved in, and every game he’s involved in,” Wild says.
“So I can sit there and watch 10, 11 games of him, watch his goals, his assists, his defensive ability, his aerial ability.
“It allows me to do that broken down into smaller detail, and gives me a rounded view.
“But I do that with every player, and Chris does the same.
“I’ll ring Chris and go ‘right, I’ve seen this, what have you seen?’ and then we come up with a template that gets sent to the analysis boys for them to clip down into what we call his ‘strengths and areas to develop’.
“That takes time, but one thing lockdown allowed us was a load of time.
“We have a spreadsheet across the season of players who play well against us, when we go to games of players who do well.
“This summer, for the people we thought we could target, there’s 150 names on that.
“We scaled that down to about 30 lads who we’ve sat in-front of and met, and then that’s scaled down again to our targets in terms of top targets, second targets etc.”
Once a player is met face-to-face, Wild and Millington really get to work.
“We try and share it because while one of us is talking, the other one’s weighing them up, watching the body language, are they switching on, do they understand what we’re saying to them, what sort of responses are they giving?” says Wild.
“The other one’s interrogating them in the personality stakes.
“I wouldn’t like to be interviewed by us two, you’d have to be sharp with the answers.
“But it’s a two way process. I’m then keen for them to interrogate us, why this club’s right for them and what strengths can we offer them, what can we deliver.
“Our sell has got to be good. You’ve got to be walking out of there thinking ‘bloody hell, they know what they’re doing, they’ve got a plan, they understand what their recruitment is, I understand where I fit in that recruitment and I understand what that means for me moving forward’.
“All those questions should be going off in the player’s and our heads as we walk out of the door.”
In the case of Hyde’s transfer, the face-to-face meeting consisted of an in-depth discussion about what the player could offer Town, and what Town could offer the player.
“We discussed his clips and why we felt he’d suit us,” Wild says.
“Then we showed him our performance plan, how we’re going to play, to show him that we’ve got a plan, and that when we go out on the training pitch every morning, we understand what we’re doing.
“And we spoke about what we learned last year and what didn’t go our way, why we’ve changed it because of what we learned.
“All I want the player to go away thinking is ‘they’ve got a clear recruitment strategy, they’ve got a clear understanding of how they want to play and recruit to play that way, and they’ve got a clear plan on the pitch every morning of how they’re going to go about it’.”
Wild says the longer a meeting is with a potential signing, the likelier it is a deal will be struck.
“If there’s a distinct lack of interest from both parties, it’ll last about 10 minutes.
“But we’ve been sat with players for an hour-and-a-half, two hours. It just depends where it takes us and how long conversation goes on.
“There’s not really a format. We try to give ourselves about an hour-and-a-half before the next meeting, but we’re happy to sit and talk as long as they are.
“The longer you’re there, generally the better the interest from both parties.
“Sometimes it’s the player on their own, it depends what situation in life they’re in.
“It’s a mixture, some of the young lads bring their dads or their mums, sometimes we have a full family get-together.”
Once Wild’s role is over, it’s a nervous wait for the Town boss before the deal is rubber-stamped.
“I’m like the bloke on the phone in the stock market who’s going ‘buy, buy, buy, sell, sell, sell’,” he says.
“The chairman’s got to be fully happy with the deal, and so has the player.
“I know in and around what the deal should look like, so I’ll work the deal into a situation where I feel me, the player and the agent are happy.
“Every player knows, it’s subject to the chairman’s approval. He may or may not go ‘can we have a look at this area, I’m not happy with this’ and then we go back and find a happy medium.
“It can bounce to and fro from time to time, but that’s down to my inter-personal skills to make sure that I sell it right to the chairman, and the player and the agent.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m left to strike most of the deal around basic wage and everything that goes with it, that’s left to me.
“But rightly so, because it’s his money and he’s a very astute businessman, he wants his input, so we have to to and fro, but one thing I have found over the last 12 months is what he’s willing to go with and what he’s not willing to go with.
“I understand that before I start opening negotiations.
“There’s been players that have been way out of our price range and we probably could have thrown all our money at them, but then the rest of the squad would’ve been Johnny Average, so we’ve got to understand what our limits are, and I firmly understand that, and I want to try and get the best value for money for the club and make sure we get the best players.
“The budget is what it is and it’s important I get the right player for the right price. “I can deal in different currencies by selling the football side and the experience the player will get, but sometimes what I can’t back it up with is the salary they’re after.”
Wild is under no illusions how important it is he gets his recruitment absolutely right.
“This is the biggest summer of my career because for the first time ever, recruitment’s on my head,” he says.
“So I’ve got to get it right. I’m happy with that, I understand that.
“That’s why I go into so much depth, that’s why I go and meet them, that’s why I go and sit in-front of them.
“Are they people I can trust, can I work with them? All that stuff’s going through my head to make sure I get it right.
“I’ll ring other managers - what was he like for you, is he a good lad?
“I’ll ring people he played with - was he a good lad in the dressing room?
“I’ll go through all that to get to where I want to be, and I’ve done that with every player that’s coming in this summer.
“And the players we’re retaining, I’ve sat in-front of them and said ‘right, things will be different from last year, are you in, are you fully in, is this for you?’
“I want to see the reactions they all give me, and I can only do that if I sit in-front of them.
“It’s been a thorough process, but it has to be because I’ve got to get it right. I understand the consequences or getting it right and not getting it right.
“Because we had so much clarity and I was able to meet the chairman, we sat there and went through all my targets, why I want them, what they would bring.
“So instead of me going to the chairman saying ‘right, I’ll do this deal and this deal’ the charman’s had a full profile of who I want and a full budget profile of what it would cost.
“I’ve been very organised. I know the fans have been a bit frustrated around the lack of activity, but because we were so clinical on who we wanted, it’s allowed us some real structure to the budget now and some levels of players within the building.
“It’s exciting times, for the players coming into what I believe is an unbelievable project going on, and it’s exciting times for the football club because we have a real opportunity now to continue this journey and take another step towards where the football club wants to be.”
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