Richard Garlick interview: A look back on eight years of dealing with the Wild West for West Brom
At the end of next month, Richard Garlick will bring an end to his eight-year stint on the Baggies board before taking up a new role with the Premier League.
The former lawyer joined the club in the summer of 2010 as a legal director, before spending a season as technical director in 2013.
He was then given the wide-ranging title of Director of Football Administration in 2014, a post he has occupied ever since.
“I’ve read people saying ‘I don’t really know what he does’ and that’s good in a way,” said Garlick yesterday, as he reflected on his time at the club.
“I’m not quite sure you could say any job spec exists, it’s just grown organically as we’ve gone along.”
Whether it’s dealing with the police who are demanding a player pays a parking fine, a horse that is running loose at the training ground, providing a sounding board for players, or forcing an important transfer through, Garlick is one of the men who has made Albion tick during the best part of a decade.
And even though his time at The Hawthorns has ended on the sad note of relegation, he’s proud of the club’s eight-year stay in the top tier.
“When I look back from when I first joined the club, it was all about survival in the Premier League,” he said.
“I remember that transfer window was a real eye-opener, having come out of private practice at a stable law firm into this Wild West. Nothing prepares you for it.
“We played Chelsea away first game and we lost 6-0 and I thought to myself, what have I done, there’s no way we’re going to survive.
“But look what happened over the next eight seasons. I know this season has been very difficult – but if I look over it as a whole, it’s fantastic that a club of this size has not just maintained itself in the Premier League but been very competitive.
"Even in this final season when we’ve had our problems, the way we finished with that team you could see it was a competitive team, it just wasn’t calibrated in the right way.”
Garlick’s remit has been a varied one during his time at the club but one of his main roles has been negotiating contracts with players and their agents. And there have been some strange requests down the years.
“I’ve got two,” he smiles. “During negotiations for the first one the agent suggested his mum needed some new gates for her house and the club should pay for them.
“To which my response was, given how much we’re paying him a week do you not think the son can afford to pay?
“The second one, myself and (former technical director) Dan (Ashworth) were in the room with the player and I don’t think he had an agent at the time.
“The requests that he made were astounding in terms of wages and signing on fees.
“But the best thing is that he asked for was a buy-out clause if we got relegated where he could leave for free, but only to five named clubs - Manchester United, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Hamburg.
“I was trying not to laugh! I was thinking it would be West Ham, Everton, Southampton, not any of the top six.
“When he said Bayern Munich I’m looking at Dan going ‘is he taking the piss?’
“It was in his contract, we agreed to it! But only because we knew we were agreeing to something that was never going to happen.
“That was one of the few quirky ones we did because we got a reputation for being a club that didn’t do sweeteners.”
Peter Odemwingie's agents
One of the deals Garlick is most proud of is one of the earliest ones he worked on, and arguably one of Albion’s best signings of the Premier League era.
Not only does it shed a little bit of light on the flurry of activity that goes on behind the scenes in the ‘Wild West’ of the transfer market, but it sheds light on Garlick’s valuable people skills under pressure.
“I’m not going to take the credit for discovering Peter Odemwingie, that was Dan and the recruitment department and the scouts,” said Garlick.
“We’d just lost 6-0 against Chelsea and Peter had come in but his deal had got delayed because he turned up with one agent and when we put the paperwork through the FA said he’s got a different agent representing him.
“Fortunately we knew the agent we’d signed his paperwork with so we called him up and brokered a deal but it took a couple of days.
“The problem with Peter was that he gave mandates out like confetti. There were two agents we were dealing with and we ended up in a dispute with another one who claimed he represented him.
“This all came off the back of South Africa World Cup, apparently it was agent central down there.
“Then he needed a work permit as well. Obviously Robbie (Di Matteo) was jumping up and down, Peter was training here but nothing had gone through.
“We needed international clearance by 12pm on Saturday but by this point the Russian Federation just weren’t bothered.
“It was like ‘it’s past 5 o’clock, it’s Friday, it’s a national holiday, we’re all going home.’
“We were desperately scrambling around to get a contact, I got hold of this lady called Lina.
“It was about 11pm, I was the only one left. She was in a cafe in Russia but she had her laptop.
“It was a bank holiday, I remember she phoned me saying we haven’t got any wifi in the cafe, I’m not going to be able to do it. I pleaded with her, told her we’ve got a game tomorrow.
“I remember it got to 11.30pm and I thought it’s not going to happen, I drove halfway up the road, and I got a message saying it had gone through so I turned the car back around, put it on the system it all cleared through.
“I sent it through to the FA, that night I got confirmation from FA and Premier League he was clear to play.
“They were banking on him starting against Sunderland, he started and scored the winning goal. Afterwards Robbie gave me a big kiss and a big hug. I was proud to get that done.
“Sometimes in this role you feel you can’t affect things on the pitch, whereas at that time I could see that had a real direct effect.”
Just as important as some of the deals that are completed, are those deals that are pulled out of.
In 2015, Albion pulled the plug on a £5m deal for Tottenham defender Fazio and a year later they backed out of a £16m deal for West Ham striker Diafra Sakho after he failed a medical.
“We had Fazio here for three days,” said Garlick. “But there were contractual issues he wouldn’t budge on.
“Diafra Sakho too. He was another one that took a lot to sort out, it was very difficult with agents. You’ve seen the circus that surrounds him.
“As a club, I don’t particularly ever want to say a player has failed a medical, because it’s not good for that player’s career or that club.
“You wouldn’t like it if one of your players went over and they say he’s crocked. It’s a bit of an unwritten rule that would never blame it on a medical.
“It’s very rare you find a perfect scan. You could always fail a player on a medical if you wanted to.”
But the transfer window is only open for around a quarter of the year, and Garlick’s role was far more wide-reaching than that.
“People fly through the doors saying, ‘the police have just arrived in the car park, a player hasn’t paid a parking ticket’. And I have to deal with that. Why? You’re a lawyer.
“Players tend to feel that parking restrictions don’t apply to them all the time – that’s the same at every club.
“Or there’s a horse loose on the back field, the chairman wants you to make sure it’s gone by the end of the day. How am I going to get rid of a horse?
“Because you’re the only lawyer in the building people come to you with whatever problem they’ve got, whether it’s personal – I’ve got this dispute with the plumber – through to international transfers, work permits, and shirt sponsorship deals.
“I remember when HomeServe put that ‘fantastic’ red house on the front of our shirt.
“I had a screaming match with Jonas Olsson once because he’d been fined for dissent bizarrely, and he was not having it.
“He just kept going off on one, and then he would calm down before getting himself worked up again.”
The future is bright
Although there may be onlookers who never grasped what Garlick did at the Albion, he is well respected in the game and has been head-hunted by the Premier League to be their first ever Director of Football, a newly-formed administrative role which will oversee youth development, coaching and education.
But he will still be back at The Hawthorns next season, because he’s just bought five season tickets for his wife and children. And despite the relegation, he’s excited to see what takes place.
“My eldest son is 12 now and since he was four all he’s known is West Brom,” said Garlick. “For the first time last year he was saying to me ‘I’m not bothered about going today because I think we’ll probably lose, I’m not enjoying it as much as before’.
“That’s the problem in the Premier League, you’re playing 38 games and if you win ten or 12 you’ve had a good season. That means you won’t win 26 games.
“Whereas in the Championship, we’re a decent-sized fish in a big pond and hopefully in a situation where the pressure is more on winning rather than not losing.
“It’s not the Premier League, but actually there’s some really good clubs in there, quite a few local derbies and it’s going to be a different feel.
"I see it as an opportunity to re-invigorate the club.”