COLUMN: German wasn’t born when Evatt signed first pro deal and he can learn from veteran

Ricardo German signs his first pro contract at Chesterfied FC with manager Danny Wilson
Ricardo German signs his first pro contract at Chesterfied FC with manager Danny Wilson

Ricky German wasn’t even born when Ian Evatt signed his first professional contract at Derby.

At just 17 years of age, Ricardo German has just become the latest professional at the Proact, and earlier this week was snapped posing with his new contract with manager Danny Wilson.

Chesterfield vs Bradford - Ian Evatt heads towards goal - Pic By James Williamson

Chesterfield vs Bradford - Ian Evatt heads towards goal - Pic By James Williamson

As one professional career starts in earnest, another is – with the greatest of respect – on the home straight.

Evatt is approaching his 35th birthday and playing in his 17th Football League season.

This week he told me how hard he’s found it to accept the fact that he can no longer play every game, that his body simply can’t cope with the strain of 40-plus fixtures.

There’s a stark contrast between the excitement German will be feeling, starting out on a path that many of us would call ‘living the dream,’ and how Evatt must feel.

For those of us in our 30s, it seems like just five minutes since we were teenagers, wondering how life would pan out, what our goals were and how on earth we would achieve them.

There’s a fair chance Evatt can remember signing his first professional deal with the Rams on his 17th birthday, like it was yesterday.

German will probably never forget the events of Monday, sitting at the manager’s desk and signing his name on the dotted line.

Hopefully the young striker is full of self belief and lofty ambitions.

But if you offered him 42 games in the Premier League, more than 200 in the Championship and 200 more in League One, he might just settle for that.

Add a League Two title and Championship and League One play-off medals and I suggest he’d snap your hand off.

This isn’t an obituary for Evatt’s career, it isn’t over yet, but if it ended tomorrow he could rightly say he’d been there and done that as a professional footballer, achieving things that most do not.

It’s that experience, the knowledge of how to win things and what it’s like to play at the top level of English football, that youngsters like German should be desperate to gleam from Evatt.

Along with Ritchie Humphreys and Ched Evans, the centre-half is one of only three Spireites with double figure Premier League appearances.

German and the 10 first team players who were toddlers when Evatt became a Derby professional should hang on his every word.

And fortunately Evatt makes all the right sounds when it comes to his willingness to pass on what he knows.

Even if there was a hint of the grumpy old pro in Evatt’s indisputable words about how it’s not like it was in his day, he says he’s ‘there to help’ the many young professionals in the Chesterfield dressing room.

It’s vital for the Spireites that he does and says everything he can to make those around him better, and it’s important for Evatt himself – the better his team-mates are, the better his final seasons at the Proact will be.

It is also refreshing to read his admission that he’s not invincible, his body is slowing down.

In one of his several autobiographies, George Best wrote of veterans approaching the end of their careers, players who would try and con the boss into believing they still had the pace, the athletic ability – going to ground early, appealing for fouls when losing a foot race, blaming the pass when they couldn’t get to it.

You can understand why, in the macho world of football,a player wouldn’t want to acknowledge any kind of weakness.

One Chesterfield fan on social media has urged Evatt to ‘go out on his shield’ and if the stalwart gives the best possible account of himself within the context of his physical ability, he’ll do just that.

It’s the honourable way to end a career.

And in that case, Town supporters should show him the utmost respect, both at games and in front of their computers, for his service to their club.

It’s disappointing to see the opposite happening with Wayne Rooney and England, many supporters choosing to denigrate instead of celebrate one of the nation’s greats.

Criticism is part and parcel of football, but it’s a sad fact of this sport that a growing number of fans treat players as ‘disposable.’

It might be a results business in which you’re ‘only as good as your last game’ but past achievements should not be forgotten and scorn should not be poured on a player who’s not what he was in his 20s.

It smacks of ‘what have you done for me today?’

You shudder to think what it might be like by the time Ricky German’s career is in its twilight years.