The father of Fleetwood Town’s Barry Baggley shares his experience of being the parent of an aspiring footballer and how he has dealt with the challenges along the way.
At 17 years old Barry Baggley made his debut for Fleetwood Town in March, becoming the youngest player to appear for the first team.
Hailing from Northern Ireland, Baggley has spent time with Newhill and Glentoran, as well as representing numerous age group teams for the national side.
From an outside perspective, it would seem that Baggley has had a blessed pathway to League One.
His father Barry Baggley Senior spoke to Pitch Representation to give an accurate reflection of the Baggleys' journey to date, and advice he has for other parents of young footballers.
Q: Was it difficult to know how to provide the best opportunities for Barry in the early days?
Baggley Snr: I played a bit of football myself, so I knew the football circles in the north which helped. When he was at Newhill he was doing so well that I thought he needed to challenge himself, so when Glentoran showed interest, we knew that was the right decision. It was certainly a step up, but I could see that he became comfortable quite quickly and started to get noticed by other clubs.
Q: As someone who has a keen interest in football yourself, why did you think it was worth getting an agent involved?
Baggley Snr: Clubs like Liverpool, Everton, Stoke and Fulham started to make contact and at that point it became helpful to have someone who knew English football. It was important to know who were the clubs that would be the best fit for us and which ones to avoid. Pete (Peter McIntosh from Pitch Representation) was invaluable in steering us in the right direction.
Q: Do you think there is a stigma around football agents amongst parents?
Baggley Snr: Yes and no. What I mean by yes is that when your son is doing well you get bombarded. I had numerous phone-calls at the house, offers to go for coffee, offers to fly me to England to meet them. Around that time Barry had a set back and we found out he had Osgood-Schlatter in his knees. The phone calls started drying up very quickly and the interest from clubs and agents was gone. It was a setback which took Barry about five or six months to come back from, but Pete explained it happened to a lot of footballers and really helped us through that period.
Q: That uncertainty about the future at such a young age must have been testing?
Baggley Snr: People see all the good things. They see a contract at such a young age and the travel, but they don’t see the six-month period when he was struggling to get out of bed and couldn’t even run because his knees were so sore. When he came back from injury it was tough for me because I could hear other parents on the sideline saying he’s not the player he was before. It took him another three or four months before he got back to his usual level and clubs in England started taking notice again.
Q: How do you deal with these challenges?
Baggley Snr: It’s about having the right support network around you and staying positive. It was tough for Barry, going from heading to English clubs regularly for trials, to just staying at home and watching his peers progress. It was a learning experience, but he never lost belief in himself and faith that he’d come back and do well again.
Q: Advice for other parents?
Baggley Snr: Enjoy it. I used to complain as I was doing a lot of trips for games, practises, trials, and it would take up a lot of time. But I’d go back and do it all again in a heartbeat. He’s grown up and I don’t know what to do with myself anymore! At the time it might seem like a nuisance, but you’ll look back and cherish the journey.