July 2016, Newcastle buying yet another summer signing, recruiting Grant Hanley.
However, was there a major cock-up in this instance?
Only a month later another Blackburn centre-back, Shane Duffy, was also sold – for around £1m less than the £5m, Newcastle shelled out for Hanley.
Blackburn’s financial predicament forced the sale of both players, needing to bring in the £9m to balance the books, with no cash available for replacements and having to rely on loans and free transfers.
I remember at the time of Grant Hanley’s signing, that Blackburn fans were claiming Shane Duffy was the better player anyway – at the time I just put it down as sour grapes.
I’m not doubting Rafa Benitez of course but something does appear to have gone wrong with this particular transfer decision.
In the process of wholesale signings in the summer, a sizeable part of the decision making will be made relying on the work and judgement of staff – Rafa can’t do it all/be everywhere etc. Whether it is Graham Carr or whoever, bringing in the summer signings, especially those from the Championship, will have been a team effort with input from others.
Fair to say Grant Hanley has been one of the more disappointing signings, looking really poor in his only Championship start for Newcastle at Fulham, then in a handful of substitute appearances has tended to not look anywhere near the level of Clark, Lascelles and Mbemba.
The three League Cup matches against weak opposition haven’t really told us much and of course Hanley has been panned by a lot of people north of the border for his Scotland performances.
Shane Duffy is also an international (Republic of Ireland) and was the same age (24) as Hanley when Newcastle came calling.
He actually made his Brighton debut against Newcastle but hasn’t looked back since that defeat.
This season Brighton had by far the best defence in the Championship, conceding only 11 goals, five less than next best Newcastle.
An incredible 13 clean sheets and Shane Duffy has formed an excellent partnership with Lewis Dunk, who Newcastle tried to buy in the summer.
Looking at the season ratings for the Brighton squad, these are the WhoScored top four rated players over the 20 Championship matches:
7.75 Niki Maenpaa
7.68 Anthony Knockaert
7.68 Lewis Dunk
7.50 Shane Duffy
Interesting to see the two players, Dunk and Knockaert, feature so highly who Rafa tried to buy – though maybe Shane Duffy is one who got away?