Why We Spent Sensibly and the Squad is Stronger

So tweeted Andy Naylor last night, some considerable time before the transfer deadline closed. Our last day’s deals consisted of confirming Bridcutt to Sunderland and confirming David Rodriguez Sánchez, a striker, until the end of the season.

Bridcutt brought in between £2.75 and £3.5 million depending on who you believe. The day before we bought Dale Stephens from Charlton for a fee that is also undisclosed but rumoured to be under a million. In the rest of the window we also got fees of under a million for El-Abd and Barnes, shifted Maksimenko out on loan and lost Crofts for the season to injury. We have undoubtedly made a profit financially in the window but why didn’t we reinvest. And how does the squad compare in terms of ability?

To take the first question I would imagine there are a number of factors but the most important is not wanting to be ripped off. And let’s face it who wants to be ripped off? How good do you feel when you get that car home that looked fantastic on the garage forecourt to find out that the clutch is going, it makes hideous barfing noises when doing over 60mph and you can’t fit the toddler’s car seat in? Or a “Stephen Dobbie” purchase as I like to think of it.

Let’s face it we were in for plenty. Huddersfield got very annoyed indeed when we had a bid rejected for Adam Clayton, unleashing a flood of U2 puns on twitter. Lewis Grabban used us to negotiate a better contract with Bournemouth. Joe Mason suddenly became a two million pound footballer (I mean REALLY?).

Any one of these players represented the metaphorical lemon. We would have paid too much or signed an uncommitted player. Surely the club sticking to its guns is a good thing? The point, for me, is not that we should have splashed the Bridcutt cash on just anyone but that it HAS to be carefully invested. When someone gives me a large sum of cash (and generally this only happens when I buy a house and then I have to pay it back to them) I spend it very, very carefully. Why should our football club be any different?

But among the many moans I’ve read (and admittedly there’s more of them on North Stand Chat than twitter) the biggest is that we have a weaker squad and, therefore, no ambition. Such claims are the product of both short termism and short sightedness.

We DO have a weaker set of centre backs for El-Abd having left. But centre backs get injured far less than nippy wingers. Adam had barely played this season. The loan / free agent market is not closed and this is the most likely source of finding a player prepared to bench warm for most of the rest of the season. In the meantime we have Dunk. Ince started off as a centre back and Calde and Maksimenko can play there, the latter of whom can be recalled if needed.

The rest of the squad needs to be assessed not only in terms of who is available but (crucially for FFP and transfer fund availability) who we are paying. The long term injured are therefore going to get mentioned because, even if there is some sort of insurance covering their wages it won’t be covering all of them.

I am also taking the comparison from this time last year. In that time we have shorn ourselves of the terrible (and expensive) Ryan Harley, the unbothered, unplaying Vicente, the aforementioned lemon that was Dobbbie, the inconsistent Dean Hammond and the brilliant Wayne Bridge who has spent most of the season at Reading injured. Then there are those who left in this window. Of those who have just come in Stephens excites me and could well do the Crofts job (and let’s remind ourselves that this time last year, under Poyet, Crofts was barely playing). No one – and I mean no one – except David Burke and Oscar Garcia know how Rodriguez (or Spanish Rodney as I really hope he’ll be known) will fit in. Hands up if you’ve seen him play live? Thought not. With the exception of El-Abd though Burke has done exactly what he told Albion Roar he does – replace like for like.

Of the other recent additions Andrews is absolutely Hammond-esque in his inconsistency, Agustein is FAR better than Dicker and Chickson looks better, younger and quicker than Painter. Ward has been solid as.

With injuries (and I explained why I’m including them) our front five is Ulloa, Rodriguez, CMS, Hoskins and Obika. Attacking midfielders Buckley, Orlandi, Lua Lua, March and Spanish Dave. Central midfield Ince, JFC, Andrews, Crofts, Agustien, Stephens.

Now substitute in Dicker, Hammond, Dobbie, Harley and Painter. Still think we’re weaker? We’re not.

We have done sensible business at a time when sense is quite hard to find in football. Oscar is building style that is suited to a team rather than individual stars. In other news Frimpong has taken his rap records and Dench clothing to that hot bed of street culture Barnsley (oh how I laughed when people moaned he could have come here). In fact losing Liam and Palace getting Thomas Ince on loan are the only deals that have annoyed me.

FFP rules Mr Naylor? It IS the rules and we’ve done alright out of them. Sorry about your quiet evening.


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