ANT’S FREE PLAY IS SHREWD MOVE

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By John Lyons

AN­THONY GER­RARD isn’t your av­er­age foot­baller – so per­haps it shouldn’t be a sur­prise that he’d of­fer to play for free for Shrews­bury Town.

Af­ter be­ing re­leased by Hud­der­s­field Town in the sum­mer, the ex­pe­ri­enced cen­tre-back could have ex­pected at least a few of­fers to come his way.

But, aside from a short stint train­ing at Southend, his phone has been alarm­ingly quiet. It’s not as if he’s a vet­eran yet either – at 29, he should be at his peak. Per­haps, as Ger­rard be­lieves, it’s his nonon­sense at­ti­tude that may have rubbed peo­ple up the wrong way.

“I don’t suf­fer fools gladly,” ad­mit­ted the Merseysider. “In foot­ball, man­agers of­ten treat play­ers as if they are stupid. I don’t feel that’s right.You don’t have to like me, but re­spect me as a foot­baller and a per­son.

“Man­agers don’t like a player to ask ques­tions, but when I’m not play­ing I want to know what I need to do to get back in the team – and I go about it the right way. I don’t go in all guns blaz­ing, I don’t de­mand to play, but give me your rea­sons.

Sup­port

“Foot­ball is a fickle game and I gave up try­ing to make sense of it all a long time ago.”

So then Ger­rard de­cided to of­fer his ser­vices to Shrews­bury free of charge and take mat­ters into his own hands. It might seem like a des­per­ate gam­ble, but it could prove to be a win­ner for both par­ties.

The former Wal­sall and Cardiff de­fender can get min­utes un­der his belt – he came on as a sub­sti­tute for his de­but in the 2-0 win against Bury last week­end – while the Shrews get a Cham­pi­onship-qual­ity de­fender to help their adap­tion to League One.

“Peo­ple la­bel foot­ballers as mer­ce­nar­ies, but I’ve gone against the grain,” he said. “I can’t do much more than to of­fer to play for free in the Foot­ball League. Not many peo­ple would do that.

“I can’t play for free for­ever – I’ve got a fam­ily to sup­port – but I’m just look­ing to play foot­ball now and get some of the en­joy­ment back.

The lads, the man­ager (Micky Mel­lon) and the coach­ing staff have been fan­tas­tic with me. I’m look­ing for­ward to start­ing a match and get­ting my sea­son fully un­der­way.”

As for the long-term, the Scouser, the cousin of LA Gal­axy’s Steven, has learned not to look too far ahead – though he be­lieves he could still cut it in the sec­ond tier.

Plat­form

The ex-Wal­sall and Cardiff de­fender said: “I’m grate­ful to Shrews­bury for giv­ing me an op­por­tu­nity and I’m there un­til Jan­uary. How­ever, I want to get back to the level I came from.

“Shrews­bury have given me a plat­form and it would have been un­fair of me to take a wage for a short space of time. Let’s see what hap­pens. Who knows, they may of­fer me a con­tract in the fu­ture.

“De­fend­ers are in their prime be­tween 28 to 31, so I still think I’ve got a lot to of­fer.”

And if he does get back to the Cham­pi­onship, then Ger­rard will no doubt be keen to show Hud­der­s­field that they were wrong to let him go.

“When Chris Pow­ell (man­ager) came in, he said I would be a big player for him, but I never got the chance to show what I could do.

“I got strung along and I thought that I de­served bet­ter than that as an ex­pe­ri­enced player,” he added.

“Even­tu­ally I was told I could go out on loan (Ger­rard went on loan to Old­ham in March), but it would have been bet­ter if that had hap­pened ear­lier and I could have show­cased what I could do.

“If he didn’t want me, let’s shake hands and move on. It left a sour taste in the mouth.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

SPEAK­ING HIS MIND: An­thony Ger­rard is­sues in­struc­tions play­ing for former club Hud­der­s­field and, in­set, scor­ing for Cardiff against Black­burn in the League Cup in 2011

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