Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill has warned of the dangers of handing out lucrative contracts to young players because it can affect their hunger and desire for the game.
O’Neill is aware of the need to strike the right balance between offering a deal which rewards someone for their efforts yet also offers incentives to maintain that form in the future.
He has no fears that Gabriel Agbonlahor’s appetite will suffer now he has signed a new three-year deal at Villa, with Craig Gardner soon to follow suit. But in general O’Neill is aware of the need to make sure too much, too soon does not ruin a promising player.
He said: "I think one thing a lot of clubs and managers are worried about is at what sort of level do you pitch the contract for a young player?
"You are looking at someone who is a young player who has had an exceptionally good season.
"Most of us realise one good season does not make you a Premiership player so that is the concern when you offer a new contract but, like anything else, you also like to reward the player for doing well.
"I do see the problem you have with young players making an immediate impact. You want to reward them and secure their services for a number of seasons but then find the fight goes out of them very quickly.
"It is my view from a number of years in management."
O’Neill added: "Sometimes the rewards come rather easily and maybe it’s human nature to think ‘I’ve earned this, the rest should follow and I am now going to be a quality player for the rest of my time’.
"It doesn’t work like that, it never has done. It takes a bit of experience to find that out.
"When it is taken away from you, because you haven’t worked as hard as you had in previous years, that’s the time reality comes into play. That’s the time it might be too late for some players.
"It is about structuring a contract to reward people who are doing well so rewards come in terms of bonuses, appearing in the side, winning games."
O’Neill, whose side visit Manchester City on Saturday, added: I had no qualms about extending Gabby’s contract. Absolutely not. I believe he is one of those people who would want to learn, keep on learning.
"It is the same with Craig Gardner. I don’t think there is any chance of them resting on their laurels and I genuinely believe that.
"If those players don’t become exceptional Premiership players in the future it certainly won’t be through lack of graft or lack of determination.
"But in general terms I do see the problem when deciding on what sort of contracts a young player should get."
O’Neill is hoping striker John Carew will have recovered from a foot injury in time to face Stuart Pearce’s side as Villa look to extend their unbeaten run to six games.