Patience and Realistic Expectations Needed

Bedwetting. Not a pleasant theme for an opinion piece you might think but there’s an awful lot of it about. Also panic, impatience and general doom-mongering. The reason? On the face of it it’s because we haven’t signed Messi, Ronaldo and Harry Kane. Yet. Or even Ben Marshall.

Last season’s omnishambles continues to pop up and tweak us on the nose like a cheeky chimp with a nasal fixation. The squad regressed, no doubt about it, though at the end of the season with loans returning home and the impressive Kayal in situ the bottom of the curve should have been reached. The problem is twofold however. Firstly we have a real and urgent need to improve the squad. Secondly everyone can remember how badly we went about that task this time last year.

At this point a little perspective is needed. Firstly I believe it’s helpful to the sanity of any Brighton fan to have a good long think about where we really are in terms of this league, taking our own unrealistic ambitions and expectations on Tony’s wallet out of the picture. I would suggest that our budget is not going to be a top six budget, meaning we are going to have to pull well above our weight if we are to go up. That’s not impossible though as Burnley demonstrated a couple of seasons ago and Brentford so nearly did last season.

I would also suggest that we do not have a bottom three budget – or anywhere close to that in fact. That doesn’t make you safe of course as we very nearly proved last season.

The fact is that we are going to have to attempt to buy smart. Not only is Messi out of the budget but Marshall may be as well. We didn’t make a very good fist of that last summer but David Burke is now gone and the man ultimately calling the shots is a knowledgeable and intelligent manager with a lifetime of football experience behind him. I’ve had my moments with Paul Barber on these pages but when he says foreign players represent better value it’s not club spin. It’s like saying that grass is green. When Manchester City are prepared to waste £49 million on an English bench warmer you know it’s time to look overseas.

So why the outbreak of wet sheets across Sussex? Why are toys being hurled out of virtual prams across Twitter, Facebook and North Stand Chat?

On the face of it we’ve done good business so far this summer. The club have been open about the fact we need to cast the net far and wide to get players in and we have. The panic is therefore about who we HAVEN’T signed. Zamora, Marshall and Alirazor Whatisname. Yet the guys we have brought in have followed a pattern, and that is no one linked us with them ahead of their arrival. Hughton clearly plays his cards close to his chest which is a bit of a shame for the Soccer Sauce and ITK crowd.

Over the summer we’ve brought in six new faces already. Liam Rosenior comes with bags of experience and a great reputation. Then there are three full internationals and Harper, the ex Real Madrid starlet, who should be pushing to take Teixeira’s role despite being one for the future. The gamble as I see it is Hambo. He may be known as the Finnish Zlatan but he could just as easily end up as the next Roland Bergkamp. I don’t think anyone really knows. We haven’t paid a fortune for any of these players and, far from showing an unwillingness to compete, it shows exactly the dealings Paul Barber alluded to, deals that Brighton fans are going to have to get used to.

So what of the supposed known targets? All has gone quiet around Zamora with the tip off I got about his suspect fitness looking quite likely. The fact he has not signed for us, nor anyone else, speaks volumes right now. Marshall is definitely in play, the issue being that Blackburn risk leaking players like a badly fitted take away lid leaks chicken curry. As far as Jahanbakhsh goes we know that NEC accepted a bid of around £1.5 million and that the player has had talks and seen our facilities. Either he, or more likely his agent, are stalling on a deal and do not seem keen on either England or The Championship. If that is the case then not only have the club done everything right but we’ve also dodged a bullet.

I’m not saying the summer has been perfect. I’m not saying we have a world beating squad. There are obvious weaknesses particularly on the wings and at centre back. But for once – at the point of writing at least – there has been no attempt at spin beyond Hughton making all the right noises in interviews as you would expect. Not only do I expect us to plug those gaps but I expect that when we do the players’ names will not have been on any rumours site, rogue twitter account or NSC thread.

For now my sheets are dry.

Bong! Here is the news…………..

gbong

Another signing then.  A permanent starting left back, something we’ve not has in a while and very much needed. Another nationality to add to the Amex League of Nations. Welcome Gaetan Bong.

Here’s how much those transfer rumour sites know. One “new” one claiming to be a journalist called Peter Allen (@PeterAllen78) was actually set up in 2012 but did not tweet until a few days ago. “Peter” claimed to have excellent links to agents and to our club and tweeted that Zamora and Jonas Gutierrez were talking to us in those few days. Lots of tweets per day until someone did a Google image search and found that Peter’s profile pic was actually of a disgraced psychic from Wales who had once been in The Telegraph. When posted and challenged on North Stand Chat the account went amazingly quiet again. The one player that they had not mentioned in the tweet flurry was Gaetan Bong. Neither had anyone else.

I know very little about Bong, having not seen him play for Wigan or, as far as I know, anyone else. If I had he didn’t stick out. This contrasts with our first two signings. I’ve seen plenty of Rosenior over the years. I hadn’t seen Tomer Hemed live but the good thing about strikers is that they have highlight reels on Youtube where you can at least watch back what you think their finishing is like, so they are not a complete surprise. No one does highlight reels of left backs as far as I’m aware, but if they did they wouldn’t show the important stuff, covering, positioning, overlapping, blocking and closing down anyway. I’m just going to have to take the club’s word on this one. And do you know what? I think I will.

This summer’s recruitment feels different, like a continuation of January. Although the only addition of note was Kayal in that window he turned out to be head and shoulders above anything else we had in that team. Now we have added an ex Premier League defender and two internationals. Though we started big last summer with Stockdale, to say that player had a mixed season would be an understatement. It will certainly be interesting to see what sort of a season he has in front of a strengthened back four and with an initially impressed Ben Roberts coaching him. But then we moved on to Danny Holla, about who I knew even less than I do about Bong, before belatedly filling up with has-beens and loans.

Up to now we seem to be adding steadily, in areas of obvious weakness rather than necessarily replacing like for like, and with real thought. And we’re keeping it quiet rather than alerting the world and his wife to our targets (who DIDN’T know we were in for Ward and Clayton last season).

It’s very hard to justify a good feeling on recruitment when you admit that you are relying on Youtube highlights and past pedigree. I can only do so for the reasons above. But nevertheless I’m starting to hanker for the new season whereas, at the start of May, I’d have been happy to never see a ball kicked again.