These past few days I can’t help but sing that favourite summer classic of the Eighties to myself by the immortal Bananarama: “It’s a cruel, CRUEL, cruel summer, leaving me here on my own, now you’re gone, but you’re not the only one!” It is oh so fitting, not only because I’m baking in the sweltering heat in my flat as I’m typing this, just below a flat roof mimicking a George Foreman grill but it’s also very appropriate in terms of describing our transfer dealings so far plus the recent events of the nightmare week just gone.
Usually I am very much a glass half full kind of chap and when we approached this summer, having only just missed out on CL or Europa League football by way of some bad luck and incompetence on the pitch during our league run in last season, I was still hopelessly optimistic – what could go wrong?
We were still in with a chance for the Europa League if we got through the qualifiers (which we still can achieve of course).
We would target quality players instantly improving our squad, go after them hard, spending some serious money in the process while being aware that this would be one hell of a crazy transfer window as due to the new TV deal ALL Premier League clubs have money to spend now.
Somehow our transfer targets so far seem to be falling by the wayside one by one, the Batshuayis, Lacazettes, Janssens and Baccas of this world.
Bacca of course is still on and I can still see him signing for us as he never outright rejected us – and as he is seeing his prefered clubs falling by the wayside too, we may have a scenario where Bacca will be a West Ham player although it may well end up being a marriage of consent and practical sense rather than one of burning passion and undying love (Congrats again by the way to my fellow writer Dan Coker who signed a permanent deal with his wife over the weekend with no release or buy back clauses as far as I know…).
I have to confess, I am utterly confused by our transfer proceedings this summer so far. Don’t get me wrong, I like our shrewd signings we have secured up to now, Feghouli, Tore and Nordveit plus young Quina, Fletcher and Martinez – all coming in on the cheap or on loan. I’m convinced they will help us along the way once they have all bedded in, but considering we have already sold Tomkins for 10 million quid to be followed by the sales of Sakho and Valencia we appear to be net accumulating rather than net spending this summer – I know the transfer window is open for a few more weeks yet and I haven’t forgotten the transfer bonanza last summer with some signings arriving at our club on the final day before Sky Sports News took great pleasure in closing the window shut.
Perhaps I’m jumping the gun here, doubting our owners and their approach – maybe they are waiting for certain transfers to happen, making other targets available, thereby signing different targets for better prices. We all know how much the Davids love a shrewd deal and as a fan it’s also hugely rewarding to see a player arriving at our club and performing well above what could be expected just looking at the transfer fee.
However, transfer windows have irrevocably changed. With the new TV deal more clubs, including the so called lesser ones, have their pockets full of cash and can suddenly buy quality players who never even knew places like Stoke, Middlesbrough or Burnley existed. Also we seem to be aiming at top quality players, the kind of players that also are in the plans of top clubs like Barcerlona, Bayern or Juventus. It goes without saying that you cannot try to pull off a deal signing these players by using your tried and tested East End market stall negotiating tactics.
While you go in, trying to suggest loan deals with options to buy or dally about payment structures, clauses and bonuses another club will simply top your offer, speak with the player and his agent, pay the cash and do the deal. I’m not as naive though to believe that this is all our club’s fault, if you approach top quality players, but simply cannot offer Champions League football it’ll always be hard as the player in question is bound to have other clubs vying for him that are well ahead in the pecking order.
The feelgood factor was high after last season – Bilic giving us our club back, the final season at the Boleyn, the Payet masterclass and our upcoming move to the OS.
Just like after the Boys of ’86 the sense was there that NOW is the time to kick on and make the next step – spend some money, improve the squad, go for it!
Instead we seem to be happy with standing still, treading water and hoping for things to somehow fall into place in the end.
With every target falling by the wayside, new names are being mentioned, Mario Gomez apparently is quite keen to play in England and while he is not that young anymore he is still a natural finisher and a lot more affordable than other targets we have pursued in recent weeks. At some stage though we need to get deals over the line, even if that means biting the bullet by slightly overpaying on wages or giving more money upfront to the selling club.
We are not in a position to dictate terms, our international standing as a club is not up to that yet and the Olympic Stadium simply has not the pull for players as we may have imagined.
How could it ? Players will likely need a full season of West Ham playing there to take notice of both our club AND the new stadium. If the atmosphere is rocking there, if our football delivers results and if we manage to qualify for the Europa or even Champions League proper without the need for qualifiers, then we can expect things to get a bit easier for us when it comes to attracting new players.
We all need to try and stay patient and trust the owners to get it right in the end. How much they will ultimately spend in this transfer window in terms of net spend will go a long way in showing us how determined or committed they really are. Even if they were to sell the club in the near future surely they’d still need to spend to accumulate, to set the club up in a way that it’ll get them the best price for some American or Asian billionaire.
Selling a club in 5th or 4th place surely is a better foundation for sale talks than a 10th or 12th place finish.
Which brings me to our upcoming first ever game at the Olympic/London Stadium: Our return leg against Domzale in the Euro league qualifying round.
I’m sure we’ll see a totally different West Ham team then, both in terms of formation and attitude on the pitch.
I wish the Antonio project turning him into a top RB stops sooner rather than later, quite frankly we don’t have the time to afford Antonio training on the job while competitive games are being played, it’s too much of a risk and why spend one or two seasons to try and turn Antonio into a RB when you can just buy a RB (or play Byram) and use Antonio much more effectively on the wing or even upfront ? I’m sure Antonio would be much happier as well.
So far no TV company seems to have picked up our first game in the OS, but I can’t quite believe it’ll stay that way. So I’m hoping for an internet stream becoming available, for some new players finally arriving at our club and the feelgood factor returning to West Ham. COYI!
And now everybody: It’s a cruel, CRUEL, cruel summer – leaving me here on my own…