Nahki Wells – prized asset of the Bradford City strike force – is the subject of much rumour and attention as the January 2014 transfer window opens but in these days before the start of business I’m given to ponder forthcoming events and the wisdom around them.
First on Wells, while he is a lively player capable – when confident – of scoring plentiful and exciting goals I would not suggest he was the club’s best striker. James Hanson is a more useful player to the team and if I were to lose one and not the other it would be Wells.
But Wells is the wanted man. He fits the profile of the exciting signing. He is a fast centre forward not from these isles and, looking through the YouTube of his goals, scorer of numerous spectacular strikes. Who would not want that from a signing in the transfer window?
Well, Premier League clubs it seems. The uniting factor of the teams linked to Wells is that they are all in the Championship. Last season’s League Cup final against Swansea City in which Wells and most of his team mates were as much spectators as the travelling Bantams support has perhaps has put off the top flight suitors who can afford to pay the type of money which took Dwight Gayle to Crystal Palace.
That Bradford City are traditionally very poor at getting good value for their players has prompted many in the club’s wider community to demand that Wells be kept in the absence of the kind of “silly money bid” which applied to Gayle’s move to Croydon.
However, setting that in a wider context, a figure of £3m-£4m should be incredibly attractive to a club which – for around £750,000 a year – is renting the ground it has played in for 110 years (having sold it for £2.5m) and who got to Wembley with a team costing £7,500. But few City fans are excited by the prospect of Wells leaving.
Consider that for a moment. The balance between the amount to be raised from selling Wells is disproportionately high considering the costs involved in creating the team he is a part of. Lest we forget that the entire recruitment and development system (including the first team squad) which produced Wells costs less to fund for an entire year than would be raised in selling him.
The logical extension of that thought process is that if a team can produce a player worth millions then reinvesting that money in addition to what has already been spent successfully would produce more success. That taking £3m for Nahki Wells and putting it back into the system would produce more Nahki Wellses.
But who believes that?
And this question is not about Bradford City. It goes from Ryan Gauld at Dundee United to Fleetwood Town’s Antoni Sarcevic to Jed Wallace at Portsmouth. When money comes into our clubs do we think that it will be used to recreate the success that has generated it effectively? If we did then why would supporters even think that “Ryan/Antoni/Jed/ Nahki must stay?”
We do not believe, as fans, that when our club sells a player it will start a chain of events where we will end up with two or three equally good replacements in the first team. We do not think that a transfer fee will do that or we would be welcoming them.
And let me draw a distinction here between the idea that money from transfer fees would be slipped into boardroom pockets or otherwise taken away from the football side of a football club. It strikes me that football fans generally believe that when the club sells a player the money will just – well – go.
Go as in be fritter away. Be spent. Be wasted.
That a club will use the money to fund a series of bad decisions. Signing poor players, sacking managers and paying them off, and then replacing the teams they had built. We’ve seen it all through our supporting lives. In 1988-89 Stuart McCall and John Hendrie left a City team which were on the edge of being promoted to the top flight for over a million pounds – then a football fortune – but the money just slid away and was spent on nothing players and sacking managers.
To be honest, one struggles to recall any incidents in football where the bounty received by a club although Peterborough United seem to be trying hard to do the right thing with the money raised for Gayle, and Seth Johnson’s exit from Crewe built a stand. But sometimes we need to do better than looking at Crewe as the example of a well run club.
The result of a club selling a player is – for supporters – that you simply do not see the player anymore and while I’ve always got no end of criticism for the people who run Bradford City I doubt that they want that situation either. The alternative – doggedly attempting to keep players – would after all probably result in a sulking player.
Which is what makes one pause for thought before the transfer window opens. Transfer fees are as ingrained in football as just about anything but do they best serve the selling teams in the situation such as that in which Bradford City find themselves in now? And do clubs who look to maximise their players’ values really have an idea of how to spend the money received to get anything like value?
Perhaps, in short, for months all we have heard at Bradford City are discussions about how much Wells will be sold for when he is sold. It would be nice to believe that the club had a plan for what to do with it that this possesses the potential of reproducing our recent success.