The day that we feared, but which in our heart of hearts we knew was unavoidable, has indeed arrived. Tonight there’s no football on the box. Not a single bloody game. Get me hooked on three games a night, then confuse me a little with four games but only two capable of being watched live, then suddenly cold turkey. Rest day? Who organises these things? I don’t need a rest day, especially as it’s supposed to chuck down later on so chilling out on the heath with a bottle of red isn’t on the agenda. Whole bloody day to wait before normal service resumes; and one day it will all be over.
On other matters, I suspect I’m not the only one who had a double-take when seeing the reports that we’d splashed out EUR3m on Vetokele (assuming them to be true of course). Not on the grounds that we might have overpaid (I have no idea how good the guy is, hopefully he will prove the bargain of the season) but rather that one minute we’re failing to land a Barnsley striker apparently because of a failure to agree personal terms and watching Hamer and Dervite move on to take up better offers, all in line with the stated desire of getting the club to breakeven (or towards that goal) asap, the next we’re shelling out a sizeable sum. No contradiction of course – and hopefully the Trust and others will add questions about players contracts (ie the extent to which they may be required to move around the consortium) as and when the promised meetings actually take place – but strange nonetheless.
At this stage there’s no good reason not to take the signing, along with Duchatelet’s recent comments about building a team to compete in the Championship, at face value. I just hope that he and his people don’t get too formulaic when it comes to putting together a team. From things said/written plus the landing of Vetokele and the failure to sign O’Grady it’s tempting to believe that Duchatelet and his team of stats gnomes calculate what in their world a player should be worth (fees and wages) and, if the calculations say act, offer that – and walk away if those terms are not acceptable.
As a general principle that’s not necessarily wrong, but sometimes you need to pay more than the calculations suggest if that player is a missing part. In other words the player’s value to us might be greater than to others and greater than any stale calculation might produce. If you’ve just shelled out a relatively large sum on a forward and are looking for another you are presumably interested in someone that will help bring out the best in the first. If that means going a little further than you want to in order to land that player, it’s good sense to do so. Nothing has intrinsic value. I did once interview Jack Charlton who said he asked Sir Alf Ramsey why he picked him for England as he (Charlton) thought there were better centre-halves available. Seems Ramsey told him that he had the best defender in the world in Bobby Moore and needed a type of player alongside him and that Charlton was the best available of that type. That’s always been a lesson for me in how you build a team (I promise, no more old fogey anecdotes, at least not for now).
And I’m delighted that Morrison has decided to stay with us. He’s had my vote for player of the season for the past two campaigns (which is no slight on the actual recipients). Him staying will only strengthen us, without him we would have needed another leader for the defence. Wood’s decision to leave for Rotherham, following Dervite and Cort, obviously leaves us very thin in central defence, but nothing more on that front can be said until we see the cut of who comes in to replace them.
Confirmation of Poyet’s departure was of course the bad news of the week. Barring some unlikely statement from him to the contrary even I wouldn’t blame Duchatelet for that. This was a case of the legacy of the previous owners coming home to roost. Whether more could have been done earlier to tie him down is a moot point, but there’s no evidence to support any such thoughts. I suspect most of us thought from the moment that Buyens got on the eurostar that the club knew he was off, given the descriptions of the player coming in. Am curious though where this leaves Cousins. Some have criticised Sir Chris for not bringing Poyet in sooner, but I doubt that they were there on the training ground to make any such assessment. Powell gave him his debut and a chance when he felt Poyet was ready. To say he grabbed it with assurance is something of an understatement. But it wasn’t much before then that Cousins was getting the rave reviews as a defensive central midfielder. It’s not his fault that subsequently being played wide(ish) right left him peripheral. With Buyens coming in will Cousins be able to get back into the role that he was performing so well?
I even don’t mind acknowledging that Peeters came across well in his press interview. He seemed intelligent, sensible, grounded, and ambitious, actually answered questions rather than giving predictable, bland replies. At least he knows the score when it comes to what’s expected of him and how things will operate with the owner. A pleasing first impression.
Does this all sound that I’m going soft re Duchatelet, even perhaps warming to the ‘vision’? Not a bit of it. One of the problems of history is that for every true visionary (ie those that really thought out of the box and changed the world – and are remembered and revered for it) there are a million who believed themselves to be of the same ilk. Nobody remembers them. One of the problems of being opposed to our owner’s ‘vision’ for the club is that you lay yourself open to the charge of being resistant to change, stuck in your ways, refusing to embrace ‘new concepts’. I don’t believe that’s true, at least not in this case. The vision, as I understand it, simply has no appeal and involves too great a compromise of the club – and this coming from an open European federalist (with certain conditions). Rightly or wrongly I regard our club as degraded by being part of a consortium, the ultimate goal for which remains entirely open to speculation. It’s not (for me) the role that a football club serves. I have absolutely nothing against Ghoochannejhad; equally I am absolutely indifferent to the fact that he has played and scored in a World Cup. He is a loan player passing through.
So all good things comes to an end and one day the World Cup will be over (for the record I’m rooting for Colombia or Costa Rica but publicly am duty-bound to back France; I know which side my bread’s buttered). So eventually do bad things. One day Duchatelet will no longer own our club. Unless by then I’m kicking up daisies I’ll still be around, whatever state/division we are in.