In the past the hacks of fleet street have mocked and ridiculed our dealings in the market, to be fair most of this has been quite rightly deserved.
During the Hall/Shepherd regime big transfer fees were paid out over a number of years, huge long-term deals were given to unproven players and some of our best young talent was allowed to walk out the door to our rival’s youth teams.
Mike Ashley did not start much better either, we are just now seeing the back of Alan Smith, while Joey Barton was released on a free last summer and Xisco is still on our books for another year, unless anyone is as mad as we were to actually pay money for him.
It seems now though that Ashley and Co are learning. We have a great scouting network with a brilliant reputation across Europe, a manager who seems to be able to persuade these players to join us (how did he convince Cabaye to leave his boyhood team who had just won the league and would be playing in the Champions League, to join a team who had been promoted only the season before and were hotly tipped by the ‘experts’ to struggle to stay in the league) and a top training facility.
We are cutting out some of the silly mistakes made in the transfer market and seem to really do the leg work before committing to buy any player. For instance, with younger players we are bringing in, we offer deals of around 3 years. If it turns out the player will not make the grade, there is no great loss. But if we pay big money for someone, then a deal of at least 4 years is made, meaning that if, after two years he wants to leave, any team will have to pay a big fee to snatch them away from us.
Now I know that during the summer the lack of football means that speculation around players coming and going is all that a lot of journalists have to write about. However, in the last couple of days alone I have read stories claiming that no fewer than fourteen of our senior squad could be leaving, that is without the reserve and youth team players included.
I can imagine journalists sitting around with no clue what to write about during the summer, putting our players’ names on one set of balls and a list of clubs on another set and drawing them out randomly. Coloccini – Man City. Cisse – Man Utd.
For me the whole transfer window is boring already and it hasn’t even opened yet! I would love to see journalists, working for the big papers, to use this time to write about things that might actually matter in football; Fifa’s continual corruption, The FA’s fear to make any positive decision (referees / possibility of restructuring the cup competitions / racism / player behaviour), Euro 2012, the list goes on.