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Football news: Brian Deane has seen it all... and he doesn't like the look of the modern game 

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'They might have a car worth £100,000 but players are being exploited': From Bramall Lane to Kosovo via Perth, Brian Deane has seen it all... and he doesn't like the look of the modern gameEx-Sheffield United striker Brian Deane fears for the state of modern footballDeane believes players don't have tools to look after themselves in retirementThe 51-year-old is currently rallying against agents and clubs that exploit playersHe thinks footballers 'don't say anything because they don't want to feel stupid'

The man who launched a global phenomenon with a close-range header fears it has gone too far. Too much money, attracting the wrong people, exploiting footballers and ruining the competition.

Brian Deane scored the first goal of the Premier League era, for Sheffield United against Manchester United — five minutes into the game on August 15, 1992 — and his beloved Blades are back in the top flight led by Chris Wilder, one of his former team-mates.

He adores the club where he signed three times as a player. He considers it home and roams the place like the legend he is. He is backing Wilder to keep them up against the odds and wishing them well but fears for football's future.

Former striker Brian Deane believes that agents and clubs exploit players in modern football

'The sorts of figures players are going for today turns me off,' says Deane. 'The basic practices I grew up with no longer apply and we're reaching a point where the David and Goliath situation is almost impossible.

'Look at the FA Cup final. People were thinking how great it would be to see Watford win, when in truth they didn't have a chance. Manchester City have such a methodical approach and a budget to get the best of the best, all the risk is being taken out.

'I remember first seeing Javier Mascherano at centre back for Barcelona and thinking you couldn't do that here. They were so well protected by the dominance of possession you could have played his grandmother there. Now, here we are, at a different level.'

Deane is recently back from Kosovo, where he part-owns a top tier club called Ferizaj, and where the sport could not be further from the glitz and glamour of the Premier League.

Football became an emblem of resistance for Kosovans during their fight for independence, with games sometimes played in secret on remote fields to avoid the Serbian state forces who were out to crush anything resembling local culture.

Since then it has risen and is building its own infrastructure, as England will discover when they visit the capital Pristina for a Euro 2020 qualifier in November.

Deane scored the first goal of the Premier League era for Sheffield United against Man United

'Each time I go I understand a bit more about the country and its history,' said Deane. 'It's very different to how most perceive it; to how I perceived it. It's a southern European country with a young population and a cafe culture. You can get a beautiful fillet steak for around a tenner, amazing value for money.

'When I started going out there, about three years ago, you'd drive from Pristina to Ferizaj and see very little, maybe the odd business producing marble, and now the space is filling up and you'll see KFC and Burger King.

'They are very pro-British and pro-American. In their view we saved them with the NATO campaign. That's why you'll find kids named after Tony Blair. They love English culture and they look up to us. They respect me as an Englishman.'

Deane did not venture into Kosovo for the football but it worked out that way, and he reconnected with the game at a level where the very best players take home the sort of salaries you might find in League Two and get their buzz from earning a living by kicking a ball.

'At 51, I've reached a point in my life where I know the difference between having money and being happy,' he says.

'I was happy when I was coming down to Bramall Lane and scoring goals. I didn't have a lot of money but I didn't really care. I had a car. I'd drive home and get on my computer and have a bit of fun with my brother.

'I was 20 years old when I first joined and I remember meeting Cliff Powell and finding out we had the same musical interests, meeting Tony Agana and Chris Wilder; everybody playing together as a team, training together, drinking together. We had a great team. When I came back, there was a tear in my eye because I was so happy.

He has reconnected with the game at a level where the best players earn a League Two wage

The 51-year-old is adamant that 'everybody gets what they want apart from the player'

'I was going around listening to Ultra Nate's Free on my Walkman. I was dropping out of the Premier League to come back. I had an offer from Feyenoord but I really wanted to come (back) here. There were times when I was on a lot more money and I wasn't necessarily happy at all. When I'd be going to training with a knot in my stomach, hating it. That's the difference, and understanding that is important.'

Deane continues: 'My real passion with football now is about the welfare of players. Players don't realise it but they are exploited, packaged up for other people's benefit. It niggles me because everybody gets what they want apart from the player.

'Yes, you can turn around and say they're well paid. We can walk outside and see cars in the car park worth £100,000 but are the players who own them financially literate? Do they have the tools to look after themselves when they finish playing? If there's an issue footballers tend to clam up, they don't say anything because they don't want to feel stupid.

'I thought it would never happen to me because I had people around me who really cared. But we all make mistakes.'

When Deane rails against exploitation he has agents in his sights, but not only agents. Also clubs who let players down, recalling a time he played for six weeks with undiagnosed glandular fever and his manager thought his poor form was because he had been tapped up and fancied a move to Crystal Palace.

Also managers who treat players without care, the boards pushing for transfers, and football's authorities refusing to establish a proper support network for former players because individuals in high office fear their careers might be tarnished by the fall-out from tackling awkward problems.

'I'm not one guy with a placard,' says Deane. 'I know people with similar mindsets. It was refreshing to see Ben Purkiss challenge the structure of the PFA. That's right, we need openness and transparency. We're not living in the Dark Ages.

'I'm not one guy with a placard,' says Deane. 'I know people with similar mindsets.'

Deane represented multiple clubs in England during his 21-year career playing as a striker

'We're seeing players with mental health issues and we want to make sure the same issues don't hit the next generation. There are two things: one, your career is over, what are you going to do next? Two, the financial impact when you realise people haven't done what they said they were going to do.

'I'm not bitter and twisted about not being involved. I couldn't give a damn, but people should be accountable.

'I've sat in every chair in football and I know what I'm talking about. You see the tip of the iceberg, but there's so much more going on under the surface. If anyone wants to challenge me, come on, let's see what you've got.'

These thoughts crystallised in Deane's mind when he retired from playing in 2006. He worked as a consultant for an agent, coached at Leeds University and was manager of Sarpsborg in Norway's top flight for two years from 2012.

'I'd prepared a speech for my first chat with the lads at Sarpsborg,' he recalls. 'I remembered seeing George Graham do it at Leeds. About 10 minutes before the meeting I went into the toilet to check my notes. I looked down at my sheet of paper and I just couldn't see anything.

'I was thinking 'oh no, what do I say'. At the same time something grabbed me, and it said: 'Come on, you've played for Dave Bassett, Howard Wilkinson, George Graham, Graeme Souness, lots of good managers, you've got 21 years' experience and you know what a dressing room needs from its manager'.

'I managed to remember one or two things and I linked them up and it flowed and the nerves went, but it made me think how you put these people on pedestals. They're just normal people. They must all be nervous when they meet new players.

After an illustrious playing career, Deane now advocates to improve mental health in football

'It can be lonely as a manager. You can't be everyone's friend but if you drop somebody you've got to give them the reason. If you tell them, they'll grow from that and respect you but if you walk past them without saying anything, they'll lose respect and when you're down they'll kick you and you'll deserve it.'

Deane recalls the heartbreak of being dropped from the Leeds team for the 1996 League Cup final against Aston Villa, a week after scoring twice in a 2-2 draw at Everton.

'It wasn't that there was no explanation,' he says. 'More that it was unexplainable. I just couldn't believe it. Villa players told me they were pleased I wasn't playing.

'That's a regret, part of my history, but I used it to become stronger. I got angry. I might not have been the greatest player, but I know I was a good player.'

Deane won three England caps and, when the time came to end his first spell at Bramall Lane in 1993, Trevor Francis tried to lure him across the city to Sheffield Wednesday who were offering more than the £2.9million fee agreed with Leeds.

'I had a meeting with the chief executive but I thought it was some kind of wind up,' he says. 'I thought 'you can't be serious. How can I come and play for Sheffield Wednesday?' They were offering more money but I'd have lost the respect of everyone at Sheffield United. How could I win? I couldn't and that's the point. Those things are important.'

Deane's final appearance was as a sub at home against Palace, with his mother in the crowd

His third and final spell at Bramall Lane amounted to 15 minutes of action as they won promotion to the Premier League under Neil Warnock in 2006.

'I'd been in Australia and that was an absolute disaster,' says Deane of his time with Perth Glory. 'I wore sunglasses for the press conference to say I was leaving — I didn't want anyone to see the relief in my eyes.'

When he and his old strike-partner Agana appeared on the pitch at Bramall Lane during half-time in a Sheffield derby, an idea was hatched by chairman Kevin McCabe and promotions manager Mick Rooker.

'They said I couldn't let my career fizzle out in Australia. So I had a chat with Neil Warnock, which was strange because a couple of seasons earlier Neil had been ringing me at West Ham, saying he wanted to sign me. I told him I'd love to but at the end of the season.'

When that season ended Warnock signed Barry Hayles instead. So Deane returned to Leeds, moved on to Sunderland then Down Under, but all roads seem to lead him to Bramall Lane.

'I got here eventually,' he says. 'Neil needed experience, someone like a mentor, and that was fine with me. I wasn't going to play every week.'

Deane's final appearance was as a sub at home against Palace. It was the final game of the season on April 30, 2006. The last game of his career. His mother was in the crowd and the Blades were going up, again.

Back to the Premier League. A perfect ending.

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