Keith Gillespie

UTD Podcast: When Sir Alex acted as my agent

Sunday 05 July 2020 22:30

Sir Alex Ferguson is synonymous with footballing success, but the boss’s triumphs are usually associated with the dugout and training ground.

However, as Keith Gillespie can attest to, our legendary manager could also have forged quite the career as a football agent.

As Gillespie reflected during his appearance on UTD Podcast, which is available to listen to from Monday, Sir Alex once stepped in to act as the Northern Irishman’s agent when he moved from Manchester United to Newcastle United in 1995.
Watch Keith's tale about his move to the North-East in 1995.
“We got to the hotel [in Sheffield], got on the hotel phone and rang home,” Keith told presenters Helen Evans, Sam Homewood and David May. 

“My mum answered and I explained the situation and the manager comes on and said: ‘Look, is it okay if I do the deal and act as his agent?’ She said she was happy enough with that. I remember the manager said to me: ‘When we go in here, don’t say a word’.

“We were on £230 a week and the contract was going up to £250 a week the next year, but I remember sitting at a big round table with Sir Alex, [Kevin] Keegan, Freddy Shepherd, the [Newcastle] chairman, Freddy Fletcher, the [Newcastle] chief executive, and myself, and I was sat with my head down.

“I remember Sir Alex going: ‘Well, Keith’s on £600 a week at the minute and we want you to double it to £1,200’. I sort of looked up and he said ‘£600’ and gave me this look as if to say: ‘don’t say a word here’. And Newcastle agreed to it right away.”
That type of salary seems a million miles away from Keith’s wages when he was coming through the United Academy, as part of the fabled ‘Class of ’92’.

“We got £46.75 [a week] as a first-year apprentice,” he reminisced. “We used to think it was great when you got a win bonus for the A team because you got £4 for a win or £2 for a draw.
“With Sir Alex, even when we signed professional contracts – [David] Beckham, [Paul] Scholes, Nicky Butt, Gary Neville – our first-year contract was £230 a week.

“We had all made first-team debuts and were in and around the first team, but he was a great believer that you had to go to that next level before you started earning the big money. It did keep you grounded.”
“It is crazy money that players earn,” he added on the salaries of today’s footballers. “But, in the same way, good luck to them. It’s not the players’ fault. There is a serious amount of money in the game and it is a short career. Your career can be over just like that if you get an injury.” 

Keith’s experiences as a player - and from seeing Sir Alex’s impressive negotiation skills - meant he decided to turn his hand to being a football agent.

“Because you’ve played the game you know what a player expects from an agent,” he said. “I only had two agents in my career. The first one I had at Newcastle tried to rip me off when I moved to Blackburn, so I changed agent and had the same one for the rest of my career and he became like a friend.

“I think it’s important to have a relationship with the player. You get these agents who don’t speak to the player for six months and then a new contract comes up or they’re moving and they want to be on the phone to them, whereas you want to build that relationship of trust.”
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