It’s refreshing to hear Chris Coleman dismiss the loan bid for Didier Ndong out of hand, but I worry it’s going to take years to shed our reputation as a soft touch in the transfer market.
Coleman reckons Watford “must think we’ve fallen off the back of a lorry”. Unfortunately, he is spot on; they do, and why wouldn’t they?
We’ve bent over backwards for years paying over the odds for average players whilst accepting huge losses moving others on to balance the books. We’re stuck in a continuous loop of running down contracts to try and free up room on the wage bill, unable to bring in better players until we can find a buyer for our cast offs, only to recruit inferior replacements for bigger fees and higher wages when we do eventually get rid. During transfer and contract negotiations we go to the table with our cards wide open on the table and have our pants pulled down every time.
Martin Bain identified the problem very early on, but he has only added to it rather than address it. Of the 16 of players signed permanently since his arrival, 6 have already been sold, released or loaned out, 2 of which moved on at a loss and none for a profit. In September, Bain had the nerve to pat himself on the back for our summer transfer business, yet Grabban and Vaughan have already departed, Galloway looks set to join them and we’d barely recoup a penny on either goalkeeper. Considering how much he has banged the drum about value for money and resale value, we’re stuck again with another bunch of terrible players clogging up the wage bill who have only decreased in value.
It’s highly likely we’ll make another loss on Ndong, a player we broke our transfer record to sign 18 months ago under Bain’s watch. What made the signing of Ndong laughable at the time was the fact we paid almost double the quoted price of Yann M’Vila, chancing our arm that we could get by without him and bring him later for free.
Naturally, it spectacularly backfired. Fairly well-placed sources at the time reported that the reason we paid such a high price for Ndong was because Lorient were willing to accept payment over small but lengthy instalments, whereas Rubin Kazan demanded the entire £7m fee for M’Vila up front.
Now, payment in instalments is fairly commonplace in football, and I’m not criticising the club for structuring the payment in that way as such, but you wouldn't walk past a brand-spanking, shiny new 60 inch, ultra-HD smart TV on special offer and buy a bog-standard Freeview box instead at twice the price, just because it was available in Brighthouse on tick.
Assuming Ndong’s ban is upheld he will miss the rest of the month through suspension. I think we can all predict what will happen – Watford will ‘cool their interest’ in him after his head has already turned, only for the club to accept a derisory offer on deadline day when we’re backed into a corner. It’s so obvious but for some reason the club either can’t see it or don’t have the nous to prevent it. The only question now is whether Bain will try and take the credit for moving an unhappy high earner off the wage bill or spin it as another positive that it enables us to bring in Simon Church on a free.
Maybe it’s harsh to criticise the club based something that hasn’t happened yet, especially when the manager has been so defiant, but history tells us we’ll come out of this worse off. I still find it incredible that we barely managed to break even on Sessegnon, a highly talented, popular, explosive player signed relatively cheaply, who only enhanced his reputation here and won Player of the Year the previous summer before leaving; or Younes Kaboul, who had finally proved his fitness and form after barely playing in the previous three seasons at Spurs but finished the season here in outstanding form.
Time and time again we’re happy to practically give away our assets, unwanted or otherwise. It’s mind-boggling that we continue to loan out players who would genuinely improve the team. I’m not talking specifically about the loans with the alleged obligation to buy – although I would question who those deals actually benefit – but the likes of Khazri or Lens last season. Do the club not realise that the player’s value only decays as his contract runs down? Even with the Kone situation last season – the one and only act of leadership from Moyes – we rushed to reward him with a bumper new contract rather than wait to ensure his performances didn’t drop.
Credit to Coleman for taking a stand, but he’ll be hamstrung for years by the sheer stupidity of those before and above him. It’s not his fault, but he’ll realise soon enough if he hasn’t already just how hard a job he has on his hands.