A popular figure during his playing career, ex-Bury striker Gareth Seddon would later earn a reputation as a fearsome non-league frontman. He can rightly lay claim to having helped both Fleetwood Town and Salford City on their respective ascents up the divisions, and now the 38-year-old is hitting the mark in a different way, as he draws upon a football life that has encompassed determination, doubt, heartbreak and euphoria, guiding today’s (and tomorrow’s) prospects in the game. He spoke in depth to NonLeagueDaily editor Chris Brookes, as he outlined his new calling as an FA-registered intermediary, while also doing plenty of revisiting and reminiscing, in true Gaz Seddon style…
When did the idea of moving into this side of the game, as an intermediary, start to come into play for you? Is agent the wrong term to use?
I think the old persona of an agent, it’s changed quite a bit. I think it used to be, I wouldn’t say a bad word, but I don’t think people quite understood the job, and they only ever saw the guys at the very top end, where they were earning millions and millions from one deal. I can promise you – definitely not like that at my level!
I suppose it came about because I was coming to the end of my career and I always wanted to stay in football, just basically because I love the sport, I love the kind of industry with being involved with the lads in the dressing room, and a player’s career. I always had an agent, and I went through some really bad times in my career where I broke my sternum in a tackle, I tore my lung and I was out for quite a long time when I was younger, and then obviously I got the blood disease when I was 24 and had to retire for three years. I retired from the League and I could only ever play non-league after that, because I took my money for retirement. So that was quite serious and it wasn’t just my family who were there for me, but my agent at the time. He sorted everything out with Bury, and when I got sold to Rushden & Diamonds, with all the medical treatment that I got. So he was quite like a focal point in my life and he really helped me through my career, giving me advice off the pitch, making me feel better when I was really down when I was injured. When I could get playing again, he opened up a lot of doors in non-league to get me playing and it was something that really stuck in my mind.
I thought that with everything I’ve been through, not only as a professional but going through the illness, starting again at non-league and then ending up at Fleetwood with (Jamie) Vardy, and then Salford with (club co-owner) Gary Neville, I thought I’ve got all this kind of advice and good things to tell the young lads, maybe I should look at going into that kind of a role. I’ve done my coaching badges as well, I looked into coaching, and I was kind of approached by some of my old school friends who are solicitors; they own DRN Solicitors in Burnley. They approached me about setting up a sports agency and asked would I like to come on board? So that’s kind of where it all started about 18 months ago.
What’s the process of moving into this side – how long does it tend to take and what does it entail?
I think a few years ago you had to pay a substantial amount of money, like over £100,000 to become a registered agent, and then there was a new ruling that came in, maybe only about two years ago, that said basically anyone could apply to become an intermediary, whether it was a family member or someone who supported you, or just any walk of life. You have to take like a fair and proper persons test on The FA, and if you qualify for that then you can apply to be an agent, and you obviously pay the agency fee. So to actually qualify, you could get it done in like 48 hours, but I think it takes years to build up relationships with football clubs, build up the trust with the footballers, and to gain knowledge of the sport and what it actually takes to support a young person’s career. I think that’s why a lot of ex-footballers become agents, but you can go on LinkedIn, and every other person’s an agent now! It’s unbelievable. Some of the stuff they’re doing, I think ‘how can you look after a professional footballer’s career?’ It just astounds me; they’re just trying their luck. That’s why whenever we take on any players, we always go and meet them face to face, we sit down with their parents, we fetch the solicitors, we explain every page in the contract, and we say ‘go away for a week, two weeks, get as many people as you want to look through it, make sure you’re happy with everything.’ It’s not just negotiating deals or opening doors to new clubs if they’re not wanted at the club that they’re at, or if they’re doing well and the club says ‘we want x amount for them, can you help us do that?’ but it’s off the field as well. The money in football now is ridiculous, but you still hear of footballers retiring and they’re bankrupt. They’ve got no infrastructure behind them, so we’ve set up a wealth management company as well, so we sort out insurance, pensions for the footballers, mortgages, investment opportunities, how to put the money into the right bank to save on stuff. We kind of provide everything.
You were involved in (former Grantham Town striker) Lee Shaw moving to Chesterfield this summer. That felt like an especially positive story, with him getting to hand in his notice at the factory the next morning. Is that what it’s about for you, knowing you can help make that happen for someone?
Yeah, you’re exactly right. It’s difficult to stress enough that the money at this level, it’s just a normal working job. I’m not on any more than a factory worker, but at the minute, it’s all about trying to make people’s dreams come true, if you will. I’m very well in with non-league because of my history, I watch a lot of it, and I obviously came through with Vardy, and I’ve seen how it’s changed his life. So one of the main reasons why I came on board with the agency, I was thinking ‘I wanna find myself a Vardy.’ I wanna make some lad’s dreams, from working in a factory like Lee Shaw, to now where I ring him up, he’s training, he’s getting his lunch provided, he’s there with his family and he’s not having to work like 50/60 hours in a factory. He’s actually like a professional footballer, and he still can’t believe it now. He’s been doing it two months and he’s like ‘Gaz, I can’t believe that I’m a footballer.’ It’s that kind of excitement why I got into it. We’ve been quite lucky that the two years we’ve been going, we’ve put six lads from non-league into League One, League Two, and we put Lee Shaw into Chesterfield, which has always been a League club. We took Harrison Biggins from Stocksbridge to Fleetwood, and he’s now playing in Fleetwood’s first team with (manager, Joey) Barton and he’s loving it there. You have to do things like that for non-league lads to be recognised.
In your time at Salford City you of course were part of the documentary on the club, which initially aired on the BBC. In that, you touched upon some of the harder times during your career, so is that again something you want to use as a benefit, in terms of the guidance you can give to players? Is it about far more than just trying to find them a club etc.?
Yeah, of course. You’ve got to talk about your own experiences and I think if the lads who I represent, if they go through hard times – they’re gonna get injured, they’re gonna get dropped from the side, or if the manager doesn’t want them and they have to move club, family life – if I can go back to the experiences that I had, and give them advice and talk them through their career and what I can support them with, I think that’s a major factor in being an agent. There’s thousands of agents out there, but I don’t know if there’s any other agents who’ve had the same experiences I’ve had and got the contacts. I’ll definitely use everything I’ve been through and everything I’ve gained in football to guide the lads as best I can. Something like a blood disease where, I was playing in Division Two (now League One) and six months later I’m in hospital thinking I might die, it kind of puts things into perspective. I like to think I can keep them grounded as well; you see a lot of lads at 19/20 years old thinking they’ve made it, and they sit back on their laurels. They stop remembering why they wanted to be a footballer, and I’ve obviously got the story where ‘look, at any time in your career, it could end, and you’ve got to enjoy every single day.’
When did you last play, was it for Rammy (Ramsbottom United in 2016/17), or have you been kicking about at all since then?!
Well, I probably haven’t played for about five years if you ask the supporters of the clubs I played for in that time! But my last game was for Rammy. I’d just dropped down a little bit too far, I was always recovering from injury and I just wasn’t enjoying it. I called it a day, but since then it’s been really good. I’ve been asked to play in quite a lot of charity games, so it’s been brilliant and it’s kept me playing a little bit. I’m nowhere near how I used to be, though; you can tell, even after a year and a bit out. If you thought I was slow before, God you should see me now!
I spoke to (Altrincham’s ex-Salford striker) Jordan Hulme a few months ago and when the documentary came up he said he wasn’t gonna lie, he loved the attention he got from it! Was it a total positive for you and something you enjoyed, or any drawbacks at all? What are your thoughts on it?
I’m the same as Jordan, I loved it. I took everything in a good way, I thought it was really positive. I was basically just myself, I didn’t get too nervous. At the end of the day, I was 35/36, I was coming to the end of my career, and one of the main reasons why I joined Salford was I got the phone call off Gary (Neville) and he wanted to sign a striker who was going to score a lot of goals. For me to be able to do that at the end of my career, win trophies and be involved with them lads, and then end up on a BBC documentary, I’m rubbing shoulders in training with (fellow co-owners) Scholesy (Paul Scholes) and (Ryan) Giggs, I was like ‘wow.’ From finishing at Chester when I was in a relegation battle, to the year after, scoring 30 goals and my boss was Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and them lot, I loved it. I didn’t take anything too seriously, I didn’t feel any pressure from it, I loved it really. I’d still be doing it now if I could.
How have you found stepping away from playing? It’s obviously a serious wider issue, with so many struggling to make that transition, and more and more speaking up about it.
Yeah, I’ll be honest with you, towards the end of my career, I really struggled. I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do after football. I suppose I’m quite determined, so I did a sport science degree, I did my professional training, I did my coaching badges. I just wanted to get as many feathers in my cap as possible, so when I did come to the end of my career, I had a few choices. It was more that I’d have to stop being involved in the dressing room with the lads. I’d have to stop training with that aim of being involved on a Saturday. I thought to myself ‘God if I don’t have that, what am I gonna do? What’s my goal in life, really?’ I was thinking ‘whenever anyone sees me, all they talk about is football, the game I’ve just played, or the goal that I’ve just scored.’ I was thinking ‘once that’s gone, what are people gonna say to me? What am I gonna talk about?’ It was just finding that other purpose in life and what to do after football.
Like you said, there is a massive wider issue with depression, people gambling, alcoholism. You lose that thrill and you lose that excitement of playing in front of crowds, scoring a goal, and you lose that purpose. I can fully understand why people turn to it, because I know it might sound a bit big-headed, but you miss that adulation as well. People wanting to get your autograph, or ‘oh God, what a goal that was on Saturday!’ You go out and you celebrate a win with your teammates, and you just miss that. When you retire, you’ve got your weekends and your missus is going ‘right, come on, let’s go Debenhams, do some shopping,’ and you’re just like ‘what’s my life turned to?!’ So yeah, it was really hard, especially from probably about 34, knowing that in three or four years’ time I was gonna have to retire, and ‘what to do?’ It was really hard, but luckily I’ve obviously fell into this, and I’m still involved in football. That’s one of the things I want to pass on to the lads that I represent: just make the most of every day, because it’s the best life ever. Don’t take it for granted, don’t rest on your laurels, strive to be the best you can, because you’ll get to my age and you’ll think ‘shit, why didn’t I stay out half an hour after training? Why didn’t I eat the right foods? Why didn’t I stay in that weekend and treat my body the right way and push myself to be the best I can be?’ So that’s kind of where my focus is now, that’s what I want to get over to the lads, and you never know, we could be talking next year and I’ve found the next Vardy.
You made a cameo appearance on the most recent Salford City documentary series (Class of ’92: Full-Time, on Sky Sports), with (Salford defender) Steve Howson (now at Chester FC) dropping in to see you. Where was that? Was it a bar you’re involved with?
Yeah, we have the Mouse Trap in Ramsbottom; it’s a cocktail and wine bar, so we did a bit of filming in there. Stevie came over for a piece of cake! But again, he was in the situation of wanting to earn that professional contract in the game, he wondered if it was there on the table and it was just giving him some advice.
Steve Howson’s one of the ex-Salford lot who’ve joined up again with (former Salford managers) Jonno (Anthony Johnson) and Bernard (Morley) at Chester this season. You know the club, as a former player, it’s a difficult one at the moment with the stadium damage forcing postponements, and the 8-1 loss at Blyth Spartans the other week as a real shock to the system, but how do you think it will play out there? Is it a good fit for them and for the club?
It is, yeah. I got a phone call from Chester, the guys in charge, asking about Jonno and Bernard and what I thought of them and ‘would they be a good fit?’ I put their name forward, I was like ‘you’ve got a club that’s rock bottom at the minute, if you want them to exceed and go higher, then you can’t ask for two better guys in charge.’ They will not stand for any kind of crap, they’ll bring in the right lads, which they have done, they’ll bring in lads who’ll fight for the badge and want to win every game. I think it started off well but the Blyth result the other week was obviously a massive shock. That’ll never happen again. Jonno and Bernard will not let it happen, and I’m pretty sure that if you were in the dressing room after the game then heads would have been rolling. It wouldn’t surprise me if that’s where the damage of the stadium’s come from; Jonno and Bernard throwing a few lads around after that result! I think it’ll be a really good fit, though, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s promotion, or play-offs at least.
You played your part in helping Fleetwood into League Two and they weren’t all that far from the Championship two seasons ago. If/when Salford manage to get into the EFL, how will that feel, to know you were a part of setting them on their way?
I still work really closely with Andy Pilley, the chairman, and a lot of the guys at Fleetwood, and from when I joined in the Conference North, with (manager) Micky Mellon, to what it is now is unbelievable. The fans still remember me and Fleetwood do include me in the history of the club, so it’s fantastic for me. I believe that they will get to the Championship. I think Joey Barton, already he’s got everybody working the right way, working for each other. It wouldn’t surprise me if they do something. For Salford, it would be amazing. They’ve got a plan not just to get into the Football League but to get higher and higher. I was kind of there from the start; the first season after the Class of ’92 came in and we got two promotions in three years. For them to get into the League, it would be brilliant and a proud moment. As they progress over the next ten years, it would be awesome to see them in the Championship or the Premier League, and to obviously know that I was there from the beginning. Hopefully, I’ll still be involved; I’ve got four or five players playing for Salford now. If they can win promotion that’ll be massive for our agency as well, and obviously massive for Salford. I’ll be proud on both sides.
This is one of the questions for the managers’ feature on the site, but of the many I’m sure you could name, is there a player/coach/manager from your career you could pick out as one of the funniest?
For like mental moments, you’ve obviously got Jonno and Bernard, but they weren’t just shouting, they were brilliant coaches. What they know about non-league and the players, the attention to detail, was unreal. Probably one of the craziest, intense managers that I had was Micky Mellon. To this day I’d say he’s the best manager that I’ve had. When we were at Fleetwood, he would not let your standards drop for a second; in the running, in possession, in 5-a-side games. If you weren’t doing it 100 percent, you would get a rollocking; he’d send you inside, he’d send you home. I think that attitude every day was the reason why we ended up getting so many promotions with Fleetwood, and why we ran away with the league when Vardy joined us.
I remember once, we played away, we were 11 points clear, there was no way we were going to lose the league. We were winning 1-0 and we drew 1-1 with about ten minutes to go. We got on the bus on the way back, we had the music playing, playing cards, and Micky Mellon came to the back of the bus, Scottish accent: ‘do you think that’s fucking good enough?!’ He picked the stereo up, opened the window at the top of the bus, and just whizzed it out onto the motorway. He was like ‘don’t anybody fucking smile!’ That was the kind of standard that he had everybody to. As soon as we won the league, he was a different man: ‘now you can relax, now you can have a beer, now you can smile.’ At the time I was like, ‘Jesus Christ, this guy’s mental,’ but now I look back, I think ‘what a manager he was.’ He knew how to do both sides of it, because in the winter period, we had about three games called off and he took us up to Scotland. We played Dundee and a couple of others, he took us all paintballing, took us out for a meal, beers at night. He knew the discipline but he also rewarded you when it was time, so the lads were fully on board with him.
So just life in general away from football, how’s it all going? Is the modelling work still coming in?
Yeah, it is, bits and bats. It’s almost like my football career – I’m getting too old for that now as well! The wrinkles are coming and the work’s drying up. Ten years ago I was doing modelling shots with no top on and now I’m doing coffee adverts and stuff! But it’s still going good, and I’m loving working at the agency; to be involved in football, going watching games, talking to chairmen, negotiating deals, it’s brilliant. I think as long as you can be happy, in a job, they reckon you won’t ever work a day in your life, so that’s what I’m planning to do.
Finally, although different clubs you played for mean different things, was there a happiest spell of your career, where it just seemed to tick all the boxes?
I’ve probably had a couple really, for a couple of different reasons. Hyde was a brilliant time, because it was the first club I went to after I hadn’t played for three years. I wasn’t even sure if I’d ever be able to play football again, I was testing my body out, and I ended up scoring 47 goals, I ended up getting picked for the England (C) side (taking part in and scoring in the 2007 Four Nations Tournament), I then got sold to Kettering. I met one of my best mates there as well, a lad called Ste Pickford, at Hyde. I’m still friends with him now, I’m godfather to his children, I see him every week. So I think that was one of my happiest times.
Then obviously I can’t forget my time at Fleetwood. Getting two promotions and just to look back now and think I played up front with Vardy for 30/40 games and won the league, and where he’s got to now in his career. At the time I didn’t realise, but I look back at that with pride now as well.
Interview by @chris_brookes