BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Scott Barron was forced to hang up his boots at the age of just 27 – but admits his current job still gives him the football fix he needs.
The former Millwall full-back had a long-standing hip problem which forced him into premature retirement in August 2014.
Barron set up Refuel Performance Management along with former Watford goalkeeper Richard Lee.
They work with footballers across a whole range of areas – from performance coaching and day-to-day player liaison to off-field business advice and media relations.
Barron said: “I did the injury very early on at Brentford, I tried many times to come back but it just never happened.
“I actually retired 12 or 18 months after I had the injury, which sort of helps. It wasn’t all of a sudden.
“I knew in the last five or six months what was coming. It was still hard, you’re missing out on something you have always done. It was a bit scary, what you are going into.
“But over a period of time I had come to terms with it. I had an idea what I was going to do, which is always helpful. It was quite exciting at the same time.
“I just thought the sports management world was interesting and a way to stay involved in football.
“A lot automatically go down the coaching route but that didn’t really sit right with me, because I wanted to stay living where I lived, which is near the Bromley area, and I didn’t want to be moving every two years – like I was as a player – and be at the mercy of a club or another manager if they did not do too well.
“I wanted to work with players and felt that there were certain areas where I could give players the benefit of my experience and help develop them as individuals and improve their performance on the pitch.
“I really enjoyed the coaching but if you are the under-18 manager then a new set-up can come in and you might not be for them. You always have people above you.
“Myself and Richard are 50-50 partners and we can work as hard as we like and live how we want, that really appeals to me.
“Being an ex-player means I can do the mentoring side. There are a lot of players who have agents that haven’t played the game and give advice based solely on financial gain.
“My advice is based on my experiences. On a football level I can relate to them – when to knock on a manager’s door and when not to. How to react when you are not playing.
“It is also about aspects which are not money-related. I’m big on the media. Players deserve a lot of exposure if they are man of the match for four or five games in a row.
“If we move a lad to League One there should be stories created around that, so we employ a publicist to highlight the success of our players. The names you hear frequently in football are the ones you remember a lot of the time.
“It is building a profile up of a player, building them up as a brand. Players are a brand as well.
“I concentrate on getting them praise when they are due it. We highlight success, we don’t create stories.
“The more people who are aware of a name and their success – especially with social media – it can only be beneficial. A lot of players are private but we have a tool now to highlight successes and your personality as well.
“I think it gets overlooked. When managers have players at their club they think it is all just about football ability but there is in-depth scrutiny – your character and personality – which is getting bigger and bigger.
“With higher-profile players we try to source sponsorship and endorsement deals, to maximise their financial gains off the football pitch because it is a short career.”
Barron has worked with a number of South London players – Jake Forster-Caskey and Billy Clarke at Charlton, Tom Elliott moved from AFC Wimbledon to Millwall last summer while Liam Trotter is on AFC Wimbledon’s books.
“We don’t deal with players’ contracts, it’s not part of our business or within the remit from our clients. Most players will have agents and we leave that side of it to them and focus on what we do best, advice on performance, off-field business interests and PR and media.
“My loyalty now lies with the players. I get asked about my relationship with clubs but the priority is the players – whether that is Charlton or Millwall there is no difference in my head.
“Your responsibility is to the player.
“As a player, you think the club has got your back. That is the case some of the time but also some of the time that is not true. It quickly changes, whereas having a good sports management team around you means they are invested in you as an individual.”
Barron finished his career with 174 appearances and three goals.
“You’ll never replace that buzz of a Saturday – winning a game and three points.
“But it’s pretty close. You become attached to you players and invested in them. You feel their negative moments and their positive moments. If I go to the game and they score or keep a clean sheet then that gives you joy.
“The contrast to that is you do feel the negatives as well. You get more phone calls on a Monday if a player has had a bad game. That’s the mentoring side, talking them through it.
“There are a lot more highs and a lot more lows but neither are as high or low as when you are playing.
“I was signed [by Ipswich] at the age of 12. I’m not afraid of things outside football. With this company it has opened my eyes to business.
“I’m not afraid to go in different directions if it doesn’t work out. I’ve always felt I would miss football if I totally walked away from it.
“I’m really interested in the recruitment side at the moment. Some rely heavily on stats and there are some who are old-fashioned and use the naked eye to judge talent.
“I feel there has to be a mixture of the two. I look at the job Alex Aldridge has done. He heads up a recruitment team [at Millwall[ who are doing a fantastic job on a small budget.
“They get a lot of statistical information but also use the naked eye, they’ve got very good scouts who give opinions on what they see as well.”
Barron had five years at Millwall. He followed Willie Donachie to The Den when the Scot was appointed boss in 2007.
“I came down on a free transfer from Ipswich and he was sacked after about eight games and Kenny Jackett came in.
“He wanted to get rid of me straight away. There was quite a bit of turmoil initially when I moved to Millwall for the first six months to a year.
“It was down to perseverance. I had a couple of options to leave Millwall in the summer after my first year and Kenny wouldn’t have stood in my way.
“But I was at a really good club and one playing below itself, and I’d have had to go down a level.
“I looked at the squad and what Kenny wanted from his full-backs and I felt at 21 I could turn it around.
“I stuck it out and gradually did that. I had my most successful spell where I played 50 or 60 games in a row for Kenny, in various positions.
“Then like most players at every club, you need a change.
“Kenny and myself both sat down and decided it was time to move on, with no hard feelings. I wasn’t going to be a guaranteed starter and I felt at that stage of my career I needed to be that.
“Players do need to move on from clubs at some times. You hear the same voice and it can get stale.”
Barron won his only promotion with the Lions – the League One play-off final in 2010.
“The following season we ended up finishing ninth [in the Championship]. There are a lot of similarities between Millwall last season and that period. There was a winning momentum with us, a good set of lads and great determination – the club was in a good place. It was a good successful period for the area.”
Jackett – who brought plenty of success to the Lions during his reign – was a closed book to journalists.
“I still don’t think he let his barriers down,” said Barron. “He is quite a private man.
“He never got too close to his players as well. He knew he’d have to drop you at one time and he’d have to congratulate you another – he was aware that things can change very quickly in football. If you do get too close it can become hard.
“I always got on really well with him but it wasn’t until I left that I released we probably got on better – we never fell out.
“When people talk about man-management they think about being good friends with the players, having a laugh and a joke. But that isn’t always the case.
“Being a good manager is handling all different egos and characters – treating them all the same but giving them what each one requires.
“Kenny could play the same people quite regularly but he never had favourites – he never created animosity in the changing room.
“My best period of my career was under him. He knew how to win games of football. He got the best out of me for a period of time, and others as well.
“There were times when he dropped me on a Monday I wanted to bang his door down and have a row with him. You could really, but he always had an answer for everything if I’m honest.”
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