Graham Cummins: League of Ireland players should be wary of trials in England

"As a trialist; you would be lucky if players at the club spoke more than two sentences to you."
Graham Cummins: League of Ireland players should be wary of trials in England

Graham Cummins of St Johnstone celebrates after scoring against Hearts at Tynecastle in 2015. Picture: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

WITH the League of Ireland campaign over, the off-season can be an exciting time for players who have ambitions of progressing their careers.

Some players in the league will have legitimate hopes of thinking that now is their time to make a move to the UK. However, clubs cross-channel are going to be reluctant to pay a fee or just offer a player a contract. They are more likely to propose that the player spends a few days on trial with the club and going on trial can be one of the worst experiences as a footballer and it can be difficult to earn a place this way.

I’ve been on trial with numerous UK clubs and they’re uncomfortable. From the moment you step off the plane; you are dependent on someone, and can do little for yourself.

You have to wait for someone from the club that you are on trial with to collect you from the airport. Sometimes they can forget about you because trialists aren’t exactly a high priority.

When you get into the club, you don’t know where to go or who to talk to. Going into the dressing room is daunting because the other players half glance at you, and you immediately get the feeling that they are asking one another ‘who is that’?

An issue develops then about where you are going to sit. The last thing you want as a player on trial is to sit in someone’s place and for that person to take offence to it.

Players are very protective over their spot in the dressing room and do get extremely irritated when they find someone occupying it.

If you haven’t been presented with a training kit; you’re hoping that one player at the club might be polite enough to come to your aid and help you get some. Otherwise, you end up aimlessly wandering the training ground searching for the kit man.

As a trialist; you would be lucky if players at the club spoke more than two sentences to you. Usually, some of them might approach you, shake your hand, tell you their name and go back to their own business. Some might investigate to find out information about whether you are a threat to their position at the club.

I never blamed the players at the club for their lack of interaction because they would have seen hundreds of trialists at the club throughout their time there, with little of them ever getting a contract.

For the trialist; those few days in training or playing a friendly means everything but for those contracted to the club; it’s just another week at the club.

That first training session; a trialist has to impress because that’s when he will be judged by the rest of the players at the club. I’ve been at clubs where trialists come in and even though it might be the first day or first training ground drill he does, if he doesn’t impress, the conversation between the established crew will be ‘how bad is that trialist!’

As a trialist; you pick up on that atmosphere and it’s difficult to recover from a slow start.

Managers will call the more senior players in the team into the office and ask for their opinion. That’s not just based on your performance in training but also what you were like in the dressing room, so it is important that trialists try to mix with the group without acting as if they had played many games for the club.

 Former Cork City striker Graham Cummins in action at Turner's Cross. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Former Cork City striker Graham Cummins in action at Turner's Cross. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Managers sometimes offer a player a trial for the wrong reasons. They might not offer a player a trial based on the fact they have seen them play numerous times in the past and are still unsure whether to offer him a contract or not.

They might have offered the trial based on doing an agent a favour who has helped that manager in the past, and the agent is asking the manager to do him a favour in return just so it looks like to the player that his agent is still working hard for a move and justifies the player still paying him.


League of Ireland players need to be wary when accepting a trial. Even if they do have a successful one; more than likely they will not be offered a lucrative contract because of how they auditioned.

Teams across the water aren’t going to spend the majority of their budget on a trialist. They will do their research and find out what kind of money the player was earning while playing in Ireland.

They will probably offer the player the same wage because their selling point will be that if the player does well playing in the UK, there is a greater chance of him earning a better contract or moving to a big club.

The reason why League of Ireland players are so attractive to clubs in the UK is that they earn a lower wage. Trialists aren’t going to be joining a club in the UK for life-changing money and have to go and prove themselves all over again before they can think about the game improving their lives.

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