Depending on the textbook, there are four or five stages in the typical human response to change: shock, denial, anger, acceptance and commitment.
Reflecting on the events of transfer deadline day and even allowing for the passage of time, it’s fair to say that I’m less than halfway through that particular emotional journey.
Following the shock of seeing Bradley Johnson in a Derby ‘City’ shirt, I slipped effortlessly into the denial phase. So what if the window had closed? There’s no way we’ve finished adding to the squad. David and Alex are going to make it right. Right?
I waited some more.
When it became apparent that instead of Dwight Gayle and a strapping 6’ 5” centre-back we’d picked up the loan signing of Matt Jarvis, I threw a hissy-fit that Lewis Grabban would be proud of.
Now I don’t know how you feel about City’s transfer dealings this window. If you’re a regular contributor to Canary Call there’s a chance you’re ‘absolu’elie fuumin’. Or if you’re a more reasoned and balanced individual – a columnist on MyFootballWriter for example – there’s a chance you’re pleasantly optimistic.
Either way, there’s nothing worse than someone telling you how you should be feeling, particularly when that person is no more qualified to comment than yourself (as I discovered when Mrs C told me to cheer up and not to take it all so seriously).
So the purpose of this piece is not to try and convince you that we’re doomed or indeed that all’s rosy. It’s a cathartic exercise aimed at helping me overcome a personal lingering sense of frustration and annoyance.
Or to put it another way, it’s an old fashioned moan.
Now whatever your standpoint, most fans will acknowledge that our dealings this transfer window were ‘less than ideal’. As fans, we have no way of knowing exactly what transpired over the summer and how close we came to additional signings but the fact remains that we are a tear of a Bassong hamstring away from a defensive nightmare.
It’s a thoroughly uncomfortable position and to my mind raises serious questions over the capability of Lee Darnbrough, who on the 7th July was confirmed as our Head of Scouting.
Darnbrough joined the ‘executive football board’ alongside McNally, Alex Neil and Ricky Martin, the Technical Director. I’m sure that all four of them would take collective responsibility for the incomings and outgoings. However it’s the remits they have within that board which I suggest point towards failings on Darnbrough’s part.
Let’s assume that Ricky Martin’s role is to inform the discussions with detailed analysis. His team will provide the data which highlights particular strengths and weaknesses in our play; the manner in which we concede goals for example.
Alex Neil uses that to consider the options within the squad, potential tweaks to formations or different combinations of players. He will identify the areas or positions that need strengthening and the attributes that he wants to add to the squad.
David McNally will set the financial framework such as the amount available for transfers, agents’ fees and the wage structure set against the overall budgetary constraints.
Then it’s over to the Head of Scouting to find our man.
As we saw over the summer, anyone with a copy of Football Manager and a Twitter account can propose a potential transfer target. It is perhaps the crudest form of scouting there is. Search for a centre-back with good pace and a salary of under £30K a week and ‘bingo’, there’s your shopping list.
What you need is a sense of how realistic those targets are. Will the club listen to offers? Is the player open to a move? If so, is he prepared to push through the move at the other end? Fail to understand all that and you run the risk of bidding for players who you have little or no chance of signing. Several times over in the case of Benik Afobe.
I have no doubt that the majority of rumours and transfer links were completely unfounded but the fact remains we didn’t strengthen defensively when it’s clearly an area in which we’re lacking. Is that bad luck or bad planning?
Gary’s recent piece questioned the appeal of our club to a certain calibre of player. I’d agree that some players wouldn’t be prepared to wear the yellow and green but our scouting network should be filtering those out as non-starters. Otherwise David McNally could find himself on a flight to Italy (for example) for discussions with a player who simply isn’t going to sign.
Similarly you need to understand the wider market and the knock-on effects of various transfers on your chosen targets. The little nuances such as the impacts of Glenn Murray’s move to Bournemouth on the chances of bringing in Dwight Gayle. Either act before Bournemouth make their much rumoured move or look elsewhere; don’t wait until the last few hours when it all comes across as slightly desperate.
Yes it’s complicated but that’s what separates the people who play Football Manager from those whose job title is the Head of Scouting at a Premier League club.
Darnbrough was previously at Burnley where he made headlines due to the email he sent round to various agents asking if they had any players. I guess it could be argued that it’s a logical thing to do. It could also be interpreted as a desperate measure from someone struggling to identify targets through the usual means. Either way Burnley’s lack of transfer activity was widely questioned during their solitary season in the premier league which ended in relegation.
Let’s just hope we don’t share the same fate.
Okay, rant over.
What’s done is done and Alex knows the players he has at his disposal. To be fair to those players, with the exception of Southampton, they have shown that they are more than capable of competing in the top flight.
And there are more reasons to remain hopeful, not least of all, our Congolese contingent. If Mbokani can do what neither Grabban nor Jerome managed to and find the back of a gaping River End net then that’s another big plus. Mulumbu (courtesy of Lee Darnbrough it should be noted) will be a very welcome addition and shield the back-four.
Much as I grew to love Bradley Johnson, I suggested in my last piece that I couldn’t see him repeating his goal scoring antics and that Olsson and Brady down the left has a better feel about it. If Jarvis can discover the form that turned him into a £11million pound player, he will be another useful option down the flank that ‘Bradderz’ made his own last year. The reaction to his signing (me included) was surely a reflection of the disappointment of losing our player of the season in much the same way that we initially turned on Wes when he replaced Huckerby.
You can’t beat a good old-fashioned moan to help get things out of your system. By the time Bournemouth come to town on Saturday, a combination of the international break and my pre-match beers will have made the disappointment of deadline day a distant and possibly fuzzy memory.
Like the rest of the Yellow Army, I will be fully committed to the cause.
See you there!