Window of opportunity or pane in the ass? Part 2
We’ve covered the second tier’s January transfer window winners – now for the losers…
The Tricky Trees may be routinely sweeping aside the opposition with the sort of free-flowing football any neutral fan would be happy to pay good money to see (or at least they were until Saturday’s defeat by – of all teams – Derby), but there’s a potential fly in the ointment: the thinness of their squad, particularly by comparison with their main promotion rivals ourselves and West Brom. Should the second half of the season bring injuries and loss of form, as it surely must, they may find themselves having to stuff square (or inexperienced) pegs into round holes. The BBC’s Jonathan Stevenson, a Forest fan, spent the entirety of deadline day praying for his club to sign a left-back but it never happened, and so it must have been particularly galling to have to report that former England defender Nicky Shorey had been recalled from a spell at the City Ground by parent club Villa only to be shipped off to Fulham. Of course Billy Davies splashed the cash in the summer on the likes of Chris Gunter and Paul McKenna, but I can’t help thinking (and hoping, I admit) that their inactivity over the last month – whether the result of complacency or masking frantic but ultimately futile behind-the-scenes efforts – may come to haunt them.
The Bluebirds are in much the same position as Forest. The lack of outgoings may have come as something of a relief, as it did for near-neighbours Swansea – Adam Matthews has been attracting attention from the Premier League, and Peter Whittingham’s form might have aroused the interest of those in the lower reaches of the top flight. But the expectation was that Dave Jones would actively bolster the squad with revenue raised through season ticket sales which had been explicitly earmarked for just that purpose. Peter Ridsdale’s embarrassed admission that that cash would actually be directed towards servicing outstanding debts understandably riled the fans and left the club with a first XI which is undoubtedly very good indeed (when they’re in the mood – just ask Bristol City) but perilously susceptible to decimation by injury and suspension.
Sky Blues fans have got more reasons than most to be casting envious and spiteful glances in the direction of St James’ Park. Not only have we brought in Patrick van Aanholt to cover for Jose Enrique, Chelsea’s young Dutchman having enjoyed a successful loan spell at the Ricoh in the autumn, but we’ve also poached arguably their key man in Leon Best. With only Stockport midfielder Carl Baker on the new arrivals list, Chris Coleman will be hoping that those players he still has at his disposal are up to the task of keeping them in the Championship. Even if they don’t actually flirt with relegation, I’d expect them to be at least making eyes at it.
When Jose Fonte left Selhurst Park, dropping down a division to sign for Southampton and declaring “I want to play in the Premier League and I think I can do that quickest by moving here“, eyebrows were naturally raised. But when the announcement came that the Eagles had called in the administrators, Simon Jordan’s blushes spared only by that all-concealing luminous orange tan, it all made more sense. Perversely, though, it was tempting to group Palace among January’s winners – after all, despite their precarious financial position the only other departee of note was teenage forward Victor Moses, who, pursued by a clutch of suitors from the Championship and beyond, was always going to move on anyway while they managed to keep hold of Darren Ambrose, Neil Danns and Nathaniel Clyne. No headline-writer-pleasing “Moses leads exodus” stories, then. All the same, ten points worse off and shorn of their talisman is not how they would have hoped to have wound up when the transfer window closed.
Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Eleven points off safety and with their closest rivals having made useful additions – Reading reinforced their back line with Premier League loanees Andy Griffin and Zurab Khizanishvili while Plymouth signing Damien Johnson was Birmingham’s midfield lynchpin not so very long ago – Peterborough chose deadline day to part ways with manager Mark Cooper after less than three months and only 13 games in charge. Of the players drafted in in January, only Arsenal’s young full-back Kerrea Gilbert catches the eye (might the signing of Exodus Geohagan have been prompted by someone in the replica-shirt-lettering department bemoaning the loss of Toumani Diagouraga?). Cooper’s replacement at London Road has already been named as Jim Gannon, but he’ll be inheriting a squad hastily and haphazardly augmented by his predecessor and while chairman Darragh MacAnthony has belatedly accepted partial responsibility for the club’s plight, his petulant and ill-advisedly public tirade against pretty much everything won’t be easily forgotten, not least by the playing staff who came in for the brunt of the criticism. The future looks increasingly bleak for Posh.