The January transfer window brought the worst out of Dimitri Payet at West Ham United and Leonardo Ulloa at Leicester City.
Both players went on strike and refused to play for their clubs – Payet in order to force a move back to Marseille because his family had not settled in London, Ulloa simply to get a move anywhere for game time.
Payet got his move but Ulloa didn’t and will have to stay at Leicester for the remainder of the season.
Of course they are players at the top of the game but in youth teams there are also the primadonna players who cause trouble. So how do you deal with them?
“I’m not having him, he’s trouble,” one of our coaches said to me last month. “He disrupts sessions and doesn’t turn up to matches.”
These are often the players who need to be dealt with differently from the others, ones who cause problems and take much more of your time. But it is very difficult for coaches who don’t have much experience to have this added to their workload.
The boy in question, let’s call him Charlie, is a good player, but is prone to shouting and crying if he gets substituted or if he feels hard done by. The other coaches refused to take him, so despite Charlie being more suited to the development level of the other teams, I said he could join my team as it’s a good chance to put my knowledge of dealing with disruptive kids into action.
After a couple of weeks Charlie’s mother told me one of my players was bullying him and he didn’t want to come to training, but she had pushed him into it. I spoke with the players about how feelings can be hurt and how each one of them was a big part of the team and that we should respect one another.
Since then it hasn’t happened again. The next problem came when Charlie told me he wanted to play as striker. I explained to him how players would be in different positions each week, so while he may be striker one week, he probably wouldn’t be the next.
Later his dad came over and spoke to me about the match that was coming up and how he knew his son wanted to play as striker. Again I explained the club policy and he was reassured that the boy would play striker in some games.
One of the reasons Charlie wasn’t wanted in some of the other teams was his problem of not getting to games. I spoke to Charlie and his dad and I was reassured he would be there on match day. He even turned up on time and played so well in a midfield role that the other players voted him Man Of The Match.
I think Charlie was surprised how he had been treated and over the last few weeks he has been a revelation to me and to himself. His dad told me that prior to joining my team, he was usually sitting out the second half of matches as a punishment for his behaviour.
Sometimes it takes a little extra effort and some rewards to deal with a disruptive child. This week, Charlie was first at training and the first to arrive on match day. I know the coaches that had turned him away are looking on now and wishing they had kept him.