Leeds, Ipswich and Crystal Palace meet their Deadlines
Radio Five Live’s evening long special on transfer deadline day saw presenter Mark Chapman ask whether this bi-annual occasion is beginning to resemble the NFL draft in its endorsement of razzmatazz.
Certainly, it’s a more involved affair than it used to be and we’ve come a long way from the brisk late March afternoon of yore – a low key set of transactions that overwhelmingly featured lower league clubs.
Indeed. the station was perhaps self-consciously lampooning the whole affair with an American voiceover and snippets from DJ Shadow’s undeniably classic Endtroducing album while Robbie Savage spewed out opinions and Owen Coyle claimed he had tried to sign Wilfried Zaha for Bolton. Only a typically insightful lament from Philippe Auclair on the desertion of a generation of French talent provided relief.
Deals in the Football League were always going to be overshadowed when the likes of Becks and Mario are on the move but three clubs in particular have been notable for their activity this January.
The Tractor Boys have stabilized after the frankly disastrous days of Paul Jewell – chronicled for us by Gavin Barber in the autumn, but they are far from out of the forest. An excellent point at Cardiff was followed by just a single from two six pointers against rivals Bristol City and Barnsley and the situation Mick McCarthy’s team find themselves in is still precarious.
The signing of Anthony Wordsworth from Colchester may have the nature of a prelude in comparison to the Suffolk club’s other acquisitions, but he was something of a mainstay in Essex and the nearness of the commute and the cheapness of the deal at £100,000 marks it out as a potentially shrewd piece of business; while elsewhere, the problem position of goalkeeper has been addressed with Stephen Henderson coming in. One begins to glimpse method in Mick McCarthy’s bargaining.
That said, the arrival of ex-Leicester centre backs Richard Stearman and Patrick Kisnorbo, reunited after a few years apart, smacks of an old pro policy while Aaron McLean will be looking for a successful return to East Anglia following a disappointing stint at Hull.
Frank Nouble is one of those eternal loanees who one can expect to be scoring a shock non-league winner in an FA Cup tie in 2015 while David McGoldrick is perhaps the most intriguing of Ipswich’s new gets – he excelled for Coventry in a temporary spell before Christmas and has done well at Championship level before – primarily in the red and white stripes of Southampton (younger readers may remember the Hampshire club once sported such a kit).
Already with a four point cushion, this blend of incomers will hit the wage bill a little for a while but it’s hard to see the team sliding into League One now.
Leeds have witnessed the departure of their talisman and highest paid player Luciano Becchio to Norwich along with the aforementioned Kisnorbo and others but have been swift to bring in replacements.
Michael Tonge was already at the club on loan and this diffident talent that once promised so much – the ex-Blade could have been a new Michael Carrick – has too often seen games pass him by.
However, with former midfield partner Michael Brown reinstalled alongside him, Neil Warnock has seen enough to keep the Sheffield United reunion going – Tonge joining for an undisclosed fee from Stoke City.
Ross Barkley from Everton looks a smart piece of hiring though and if the boss’s namesake Stephen Warnock does struggle for pace, it’s a little surprising that he’s being offloaded by Aston Villa given the Birmingham side’s current travails at full back.
Finally, Mouhamadou Habib Habibou hails from the little known Central African Republic and is almost certainly the first man from that landlocked nation more famous for the excesses of Emperor Jean Bedel Bokassa to ply his trade in English football. Fellow national team members play for teams in Singapore, Kazakhstan, Tanzania, Israel and Romania while twenty goals in fifty three for the Belgians of Zulte Waregem constitutes a decent strike rate and Habib Habibou has previously enjoyed loan spells at West Ham and QPR.
2012-13’s surprise package have dipped in form of late and their January incomings indicate a wish to get back on track.
That’s a dangerous method of course – what made Palace’s displays this season so refreshing was the home grown base on which they were built. Ian Holloway isn’t one for patience though and he’s really gone to town this time.
Kevin Phillips and Stephen Dobbie, both of whom Holloway worked with at Blackpool, are both proven – the former to a ridiculous degree of course – but how long can he really keep on going?
I’m certainly not going to write him off and it seems likely that Phillips will continue to perform the devastating supersub cameos that have been his wont for half a decade or so now – the kind of role that Adam Le Fondre is now mimicking in the Premier League with Reading.
That Dobbie, outstanding in the 2011 play-off final, has also been brought in indicates that Holloway wants to cover all the attacking bases while Alex Nimely, occasionally impressive in previous temporary spells at Coventry and Middlesbrough, adds further fuel to a forward line already bolstered by the retaining of Zaha.
None of this will do anything to hamper Holloway’s reputation as a gung-ho manager and nor will the hiring of attacking midfielder Jacob Butterfield from Norwich – the much touted midfielder failed to make an appearance for the Canaries and needs to recapture the form he showed at Barnsley in 2011-12.