Free Agent - Michael Duberry
The next free agent to fall under our microscope is former Chelsea, Leeds, Stoke and Oxford defender Michael Duberry. Over the next month or so we'll be speaking to a host of footballers at a crossroads in their careers as they look to get hooked up for next season.
By Chris Burton
Last Updated: 02/07/13 9:26am
Michael Duberry is a centre-half who has graced the very top of the game - the UEFA Champions League, the Premier League and cup finals at home and abroad.
He is now 37 years of age, but the desire to compete and be successful burns as bright as ever.
A man who boasts the likes of Chelsea, Leeds and Stoke on an enviable CV was released by Oxford at the end of the 2012/13 campaign, but he is fully fit and confident he can compete on a Football League stage for a few years yet.
What's your situation at the moment and the mind set you are taking into the summer?
I've got no club. I'm looking to keep myself fit until something comes about - if something comes about.
This is only the second time in your career that you've been a free agent, that's some achievement isn't it at 37?
I tell myself that now, it's not bad. It's the first time for the first day of pre-season that I've not been at a club. I have been a free agent, when I left Wycombe I was without a club, but apart from that I have always had a club. It's the first time for the first day of pre-season that I've been without a club, which isn't bad considering that there are maybe one or two years left in me.
Do you have to accept in modern football, with short contracts and tight budgets, that you might find yourself without a club at some stage?
You accept that there are more and more free agents, I think that's the reason why I am sat on the sofa now - there are other elements, age and that. I think the further down the leagues you go, there are going to be one year, two years max. If you get a two-year contract you've done well, it's normally only one year and then you review things because clubs want to look at their budgets and haven't got that much money to spend. You kind of accept that. But I've been fortunate enough that I've sampled the other end of things and the security, but being a young footballer now it would be very tough to go into every summer being out of contract.
You had the neck injury last season, but you look after yourself don't you and I take it you feel you still have plenty more to give?
I feel fit and well. I look after myself. I'll be working through the summer. I feel good, I feel fit and healthy and I'm raring to go. That's what is keeping me going. I've got back from the injury and finished the season fit. The games then run out and I find myself here, itching to be involved and play some football. I feel fit and well.
Do you enjoy your football more the longer your career goes on, you appreciate that it isn't going to last forever?
Yeah, I have always said that. I have sampled some great things at the beginning of my career and you think it's going to be like this every year - cup finals, playing with this player, that player. You don't appreciate it and it isn't until you get older, it could be your last chance of a cup run, and you appreciate every game. As you get older you appreciate it because it is fewer and far between. At the start you don't appreciate how hard it is to win stuff. I love my football, every game and every Saturday you appreciate even more.
With managers having so many options to consider, do you expect clubs to leave decisions on new recruits until later in the summer?
I think, especially in the lower leagues, the clubs are getting a bit of the power back for themselves and they can dictate a bit more. Managers have options in all positions and then maybe, when the time gets nearer, it will be a massive scramble to get people in and fit the jigsaw together. I'm hoping there is somebody out there who wants me in their changing room. I think I've got a lot to offer, but we'll wait and see what happens. I'll keep myself fit but I'm restricting myself to locations for family reasons, which does cut off a fair bit. When you restrict yourself to a radius, you do limit yourself in options. But that's family, I'm older now and I don't want to be doing the travelling with the kids at school and all that stuff. We'll wait and see. I'm quietly confident. All I can do is be ready.
While you don't want to move too far, you have a good base where you are don't you? There are a few clubs around aren't there?
There is. There are clubs around. I'm realistic in the fact that where I am based, Hertfordshire, there are clubs around in the distance that I want to travel, but at the level I can compete at...We can all play that one-off game at a higher level, but consistently and put your body through that sort of training? It would be a high demand for my body. I have to be realistic with the level that I could do. I don't want to go into a club and be injured in the treatment room because I'm no good to anyone there and it does become an age thing. I want to be on the training field every day, competing every Saturday and Tuesday. That level I can do at League Two. If League One came in I think I can do it, but it would be a big demand for my body at my age. In this day in age with the influx of top international players in the Premier League, it pushes quality players down the leagues. League One is full of quality players, fit players, young players and hungry players. To put my body through that, would I get a season out of that? It would be a big ask for myself at going on 38. I'm realistic about the task ahead.
Do you feel that League Two is a level you can handle comfortably?
At League Two, my body can handle that. The only reason I was injured was through a freak injury that came on not on the football field. It was just years of wear and tear and heading too many Nike balls and Mitre balls. That just came on. I then got myself fit and played. I have made some good appearances for my age. When I was at St Johnstone, again there I was very rarely injured. I'm fit and healthy and know I can do it. At the kind of level I'm looking at, getting older, I need to be realistic at giving myself a full season.
Is your experience your trump card? Managers in the Football League need players who have been there and done it don't they?
I feel that I offer being a voice on the pitch. Sometimes as a manager you can't always get what you want on the pitch. I feel that I can offer that, being that voice on the pitch and relaying the stuff that the manager wants - experience, a cool head, a calm head at times and someone that the youngsters can look to. I think I offer that. I can compete with anyone. I'm not an old man, I've been athletic from a young age and I've kept that. I'm not saying that I'm as fast as I used to be, but I can run and get about and I'm still fast. I'm athletic and experienced, I read the game quite well and I've got a lot to offer. That's why I remain quietly confident.
Is coaching something that would appeal to you, if the offer was there to combine it with playing?
If I was at a club and they wanted me to help out, yeah. But as far as post-career coaching, I'm not too sure. I'm looking more at the media side of it, journalism and then maybe into TV. That again is maybe because of the family situation. To go and put another 10 years into a career which might be away from the family, I don't know if I could do that right now. You never say never and if I go into a club now and they ask me to help with the coaching and that bug gets me, that's how some people start. It's not something I'm saying no, no, no to, I will do my badges so I've got them but the media aspect is the route I might go into post-football.
For now though is it just about keeping yourself busy, keeping yourself fit and seeing what happens?
I'm in the gym most days. I am boxing to keep myself fit, as it's intense, and a bit of weights. I'm ready. Obviously pre-season isn't nice and those long runs are never nice - I won't be as quick as I was when I was 21 at my fittest - but I can run and keep myself healthy. I know it's all geared towards the first game of the season and I know how to prepare myself for that first game. It's a slow build-up and that's what I'm preparing for.
We would like to hear your thoughts on the best free transfers out there. Who should we be talking to? Who are this summer's bargains? Who should your club be targeting?
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