RIGHT now at this stage of the season we can all see the different battles going on in football.

The fights for titles, promotions and relegation battles are all on show for us to see.

But there are also battles you don’t see – players fighting for their futures at their football clubs.

Especially in the lower divisions of the Football League, where a one or twoyear contract is the normal length, this can be a regular thing for a player.

It doesn’t make the process any easier, in fact knowing what is to come can make it worse.

If you are out of contract at the end of the season it helps your case if you have been playing well in a winning team over the season.

The club often won’t wait until the back end of the season to offer you a deal, as they won’t want anyone to snap you up.

But if you are playing inconsistently in a struggling team all season then the club will most probably wait until the last possible minute to make a decision.

They will feel your form isn’t hot enough to get attention and are in no danger of losing you if they decide to keep you.

I had to wait 17 years as a professional and until I was 34 before I experienced my contract running out and waiting for a decision on renewal.

At Reading we just missed out on the Championship play-off final, losing to Burnley in the semi-final.

I thought I had played well that season, but it didn’t matter the moment we didn’t get back in the Premier League.

In a meeting that lasted about 15 minutes, I was told the club were going a different direction and were not renewing my contract.

I wasn’t angry, I understood, but admittedly my personal and professional pride were hurting as nobody likes rejection.

The next time something like this was to happen was two years later, at Oxford United.

After a great first season with the U’s, my second year was halted by neck surgery.

The surgeon and medical staff assured me I would be back before the end of the season, which gave me a small window of opportunity prove myself.

I wanted another year, so I could end my career at the Kassam Stadium playing for Oxford United.

Unfortunately, the elements were against me.

I was 37, just back from a career-threatening neck injury and nowhere near match sharpness.

When I came back in December the other players were at peak fitness, while my body was still in pre-season.

The hardest thing for a player is to prove he is worthy of a contract without getting a chance to play and prove it.

A few cameo appearances without being match fit didn’t help me or my fight for a new contract.

I had to wait until the last four games of season to get a run in the side – not the best chance to put forward my case, but it was my only one.

A run of three wins from four, with three clean sheets, I think showed what I had to offer.

There were many players in the same situation as me and we were all given a time on the same day to come and see the manager at the end of the season.

We were all given five-minute appointments to speak to the manager (Chris Wilder) – I would have had longer time if I was speed dating.

I was told there was no offer of a contract extension and that was it, my Oxford career over just like that.

Again my personal and professional pride suffered a blow. Nobody likes rejection.

I was 37 and at the end of my career, but if it happens to you at 20 or 27 then it’s harder to take.

You have the ‘what next?’ question ringing around in your head and being asked by everyone.

The uncertainty of your future over the summer is a horrible feeling and the people closest to you suffer most.

In the end, an out of contract player can only hope his best form was enough to warrant another deal from the club, or gain the attention of others.

I felt the meeting could have been less rushed and a little more personal, but that’s football, I suppose.