I started off with this daft idea of writing a piece without using the W word but with the best will in the world there is no way the Wes saga can be ignored.
The opening shots have been fired and it is one that will likely run and run until deadline day; Sky Sports News’ Jim White no doubt salivating at the prospect of getting his tongue round “Hoolahan… Paul Faulkner… Bodymoor Heath…”
The rights and wrongs have been dissected a thousand times already – and we’re only eight days in to the ‘window’ – but yesterday’s missive from David McNally made the situation pretty clear. To paraphrase the chief executive’s 58 word statement: ‘Nothing doing. We’re looking to bring players in and if any leave it will be on our terms’.
So there you have it. Seems fairly clear to be. The boss has spoken and who are we to question it.
In terms of players coming in, the tabloids have been surprisingly devoid of City gossip, although one who has been mentioned in dispatches – also known as the Daily Mail – is Everton’s John Heitinga.
With the Toffees up next for City, a glimpse on Saturday of the 31-year-old Dutch international’s defensive qualities wouldn’t have gone amiss, but look fairly remote given he has only appeared three times this season. In the absence of his first choice centre-backs, Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin, Everton manager Roberto Martinez has recently opted for the pairing of Antolin Alcaraz and John Stones.
Despite this, Heitinga is in no hurry to depart Goodison and only last week turned down a move to West Ham.
His reason for declining the overtures of Gold, Sullivan and Brady? Something to do with ‘the feeling he got’.
Perhaps he’s a decent judge after all.
Whether City have sufficient allure to afford him a rather better feeling remains to be seen but – as I’ve said numerous times before – if anyone can cajole him McNally can. If City get to speak to the player and he does what’s now to be known as a ‘Toivonen’ then it was simply never to be.
But there are plenty of hurdles to overcome if this one is to become a ‘Sky Sports understands…’ moment, not least the small matter of Roma and Fulham.
Another who prompted a mention in the Daily Mirror (yes, them again) is Newcastle’s Jonas Gutierrez. The Argentinian, who from memory (and YouTube) is the epitome of a swashbuckling left-winger, fits the Hughton bill nicely; the City boss spoke a few weeks back of his desire to strengthen his options ‘in the wide areas’.
With Elliott Bennett unlikely to feature too much between now and the end of the season, and Anthony Pilkington still to return from his hamstring injury, the game time afforded to youngsters Nathan Redmond and Josh Murphy is clearly more than Hughton perceives as ideal.
But, before anyone goes out and gets ‘Gutierrez’ printed on their City shirt, it’s worth noting the Argentinian still fancies his chances of making it to Brazil 2014. I’m not convinced a Premier League relegation scrap is quite the shop window he is looking for.
On the face of it this one looks a little unlikely, but stranger things…
The only other whisper – one that was mooted by Jim and his mates – was of Manchester United’s Wilfried Zaha potentially being offered ‘a room at Dunston Hall’ for the rest of the season. On the basis that Crystal Palace – his former club – have already been knocked back with regard to a short-term loan, those who are sceptical have good reason.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s trip to Goodison Park, despite Heitinga’s likely absence, City will find themselves confronted by an Everton side oozing in confidence and nestled comfortably in the top five.
Martinez has clearly been able to successfully convey his renowned passing game on to his new charges. With respect to Wigan, the Spaniard now has better players at his disposal and has transformed Everton’s previous workmanlike, organised and solid persona into one that expresses at one end of the pitch and is frugal at the other.
The Toffees have only conceded 19 goals – less than a goal a game – and have the second best defensive record in the Premier League, so there is no disguising the task facing Hughton’s men.
City are going to be up against it from the word go and, in reality, only a Stoke or West Brom-type away day will suffice. Arguably, even a Palace or Sunderland version will not be good enough to prise a point away from Mersyside, with the task in hand little looking every bit as tricky as the one faced at the other end of Stanley Park in early December.
And we all know how that one ended up.
What’s needed – and is very easy to say from the comfort of a swivel chair – is a performance akin to the one that deservedly earned a point in November 2012; Sebastien Bassong’s 90th minute header earning City a hard-fought draw in the midst of last winter’s unbeaten run.
Anything less, and Twitter and the message boards will again be ‘no go’ areas from 5pm on Saturday for anyone resistant to managerial change, while the ‘outers’ fill their boots.
Let’s hope – for once – they’re not provided with ammunition, and we can all look forward to watching the whole of Match of the Day.
On the Ball City…