Inside the Box with Alan Bennett - What does it feel like to be released?

Pain of release: After helping Wycombe Wanderers to promotion, I was told where to go

Pain of release: After helping Wycombe Wanderers to promotion, I was told where to go

First published in Sport Surrey Comet: Photograph of the Author by

Some tough decisions will be made up and down the country in football clubs this week.

It’s a stressful time for both players and staff alike and it’s a weird sensation to be part of a group that is then taken apart.

These players are my friends, they’re people I’ve got to know throughout the year.

I’ve got to know their families, been part of some personal joys as well as sorrows with them.

I’ve pretty much lived, eaten, worked, travelled and slept beside some of these lads all year.

For the ones that have been released - I’ve been in that position before. Last time was the 2010/2011 season and this is how it went for me.

"It’s done, isn’t it?" The gaffer looks to his right down along the bench, and we all nod in agreement and smile, like we always do.

"It’s done gaff, congrats," I say.

We’re 3-1 up on the final day of the season and about to secure the final automatic promotion spot.

It’s May - the sun is shining, and it's promotion party time. I’m sitting next to the gaffer on the bench but slowly I’m squeezed down the bench by players and staff who want to be there first to congratulate him at final whistle in front of the cameras.

The final whistle will always blow and when it does I stroll onto the pitch – the other subs race on. It’s a moment of celebration. Fans pour on to the pitch to celebrate with players, ducking, weaving and dodging stewards.

Inside, I’m not celebrating. Inside, there is not much joy. I join the intertwined herd of fans and players and jump around singing and shouting. I’m happy for the lads but envious of the satisfaction they must be feeling.

I’m angry at the manager, at myself, at the untimely injuries I got and most of all at the uncertain position I now find myself in. It's season 2010/11 in the football league. An injury has forced me to play just 22 games for Wycombe Wanderers in a season where Wycombe won promotion into League One.

The fans sing, the owner is chuffed, the manager is delighted.

My contract is up and I’m screwed.

That Saturday night’s celebrations carry on and I know it’ll be the last time this bunch of lads will be together because we'll have meetings with the gaffer to discuss our futures very soon.

You read about people getting laid off and watch on the news how disgusted they are to be treated so badly and how angry they are at the company for treating them this way after years of loyal service.

Is it harder the longer you serve or the amount of times it happens to you? Either way, same conclusion – you’re out of work.

This is my third time in four years being told I have no future at a workplace. This is the reality of basement football in England.

I step into the manager’s office and he tells me how hard it is on him, how stressful this day is for everyone and how much of a good professional I am. It’s for my benefit because I need to be playing regularly.

If you want to benefit me don’t cut off my sole income!

This time it’s all done in a matter of minutes and I’m out the door, head spinning and into the next office where the secretary meets me.

He gives me the necessary paperwork saying: "You’re experienced, you’ve been down this road before, sign here and here".

Screw you, you’ve got stability, and you know what will come in and go out of your bank account for the next few years. I wish I had that certainty.

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My anger towards them is misguided. I just want to get my black plastic bag full of my kit and get out of the training ground.

Even though I knew the signs weren’t that good in terms of getting a new offer of a contract, I still held out a faint hope.

The lads are all hanging around the place. Some know their futures are secure and are planning a trip to celebrate the promotion.

I tell them to give me a shout when they know the details but I know I won’t be going.

I say goodbye to a few staff I meet as I’m heading towards my car, avoiding their stares of pity.

Outside in the car park I suddenly feel all alone, angry and bitter. I get into the car and start to drive home.

I need petrol. I drive out of my way to go to a cheaper station (using more petrol). It’s incredible how quickly your mind-set changes when you know you’re in financial uncertainty.

The previous summer I discovered Australia and then incredible Thailand. This summer we’ll have to wait and see.

This will be the summer of staring at my phone, waiting for a call.

This was my summer a few seasons ago and it will be the summer for some players this year.

My advice is that I didn’t take the rejection as a definitive"no" to the hopes, aims and goals I had in mind to achieve in football. I just took it as a "no" I won’t be achieving it with you.

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