So, the opening salvos have been fired in the battle for James Maddison’s signature. Fears that the club’s post-parachute financial plan would have to revert to plan B (if indeed there even was a B) appear unfounded as the great and the good of the English game jostle for position in the queue.
As things stand, and according to ‘Sky Sports understands…’, Everton lead the race to sign him with their new manager Marco Silva allegedly a known admirer. But who isn’t. Just 24 hours earlier it was Leicester City who were odds on to sign him, so don’t be surprised if tomorrow morning he’s a cert to go somewhere completely different.
In addition to leading with the Everton story, Sky are also reporting that ‘a host of top Premier League teams continue to monitor the England U21’s progress including Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City and Southampton.’ So, if you throw Leicester into that mix – Sky conveniently ignored them because they didn’t hear it first – then by my reckoning that’s 30 per cent of the Premier League who are bidding or monitoring (whatever that means).
So, whatever you do folks, don’t get MADDISON emblazoned on your new shirt. The vague notion that his knee injury may prolong his stay here until at least January now appears a non-starter, which for obvious reasons is both a good and a bad thing. That his social media profiles have now been changed to show him in his England rather than his City kit may just be a coincidence.
But, unlike some who have gone before, Master Maddison will leave on a happy note and with the very best wishes of all he’s touched in Norfolk and beyond. It may have only been one season in the first-team but in that season he excelled at every turn (and twist). The stats prove it…
Only players to have more than 100 key passes in Europe this season:
Hakim Ziyech (143)
Dimitri Payet (125)
James Maddison (124)
Zinedine Ferhat (120)
Luke Freeman (113)
Kevin De Bruyne (111)
Saul Berjon (107)
Lorenzo Insigne (103)
Sonny Kittel (103)
Ollie Watkins (100)
— ☔️ (@guba1a) May 23, 2018
Yet it was more than stats. In a team that was very much a work-in-progress and which stuttered more than it fired he was simply outstanding – a full street ahead of anything else we had to offer. Yet only when all of his good bits have been pulled together (and put to music) does it actually become clear quite how brilliant he was last season. If you haven’t seen it already, I’d recommend this.
The task that awaits Stuart Webber and Daniel Farke in attempting to plug that gap in the side’s creativity is an even bigger one than I’d originally envisaged, and I’m certainly thinking about revisiting my ‘we could be a better team without the reliance on Maddison’ theory. I fear that was plain nonsense.
Some will be quick to trot out ‘one door closes…’ and they’d be right, but that heaps a lot of pressure on others, not least one Kenney McLean. Part of me hopes he hasn’t watched said video.
What is good, of course, is that there are a few clubs interested – thereby strengthening the hand of Webber in negotiations – although the need for quick cash to fill the black hole, and arm the club with a few shillings to wheel and deal with, may yet prevail over the need to squeeze every last penny out of the deal.
It’s not a deal I expect to develop into a summer-long saga.
The news that Carlton Morris’ injury in the League One Play-Off final was a serious one was a bitter blow for the club but, more importantly, for the lad himself.
Having had the season of his life at Shrewsbury and having taken them, alongside Ben Godfrey, to within a whisker of the Championship, Morris had given himself the perfect platform to force himself to the forefront of Farke’s thoughts.
Whether he would have been given a shot none of us know, but with a good pre-season under his belt it would have been hard for Team Farke to ignore him.
Unfortunately, his close-season will be spent under the knife and pre-season will be the early stages of a long, arduous rehabilitation. It’s a tough one for all concerned.
Finally, talking England briefly, Raheem Sterling has made front and back page headlines for the last week – for all the wrong reasons. Firstly, for revealing a tattoo of a gun on his leg, secondly for turning up late for England’s World Cup training camp and latterly for diving while playing for England last night.
The diving I didn’t love (who does) but he’s far from alone as will be revealed in the coming six weeks. If an England player making the most of the merest bit of contact meant winning a pen in the last minute to sneak a win over Germany, would we complain? Do other countries baulk at their own when it occurs? It’s part of the game – love it or hate it.
Turning up late for England duty, whatever the mitigation, is unforgivable but as Gareth Southgate calmly explained, Sterling was reminded in no uncertain terms of his responsibilities, and he chose to apologise to the group as a whole. But for other events, he would have missed yesterday’s game and would have accepted the punishment. That should have been the end of it.
Yet the outcry in certain quarters over the tattoo – a certain daily tabloid in particular – meant Southgate wisely chose an arm around the shoulder rather than a stick to deal with the situation. That Sterling has been hounded and picked upon by the tabloids for being too flashy, for being too frugal, for partying while being ‘tired’, for being too greedy and for being ‘obscene’ tends to add up to something of a campaign.
For the tattoo scandal to arise in the weeks leading up to a World Cup tournament was pure gold for them – manna from heaven. Of course, even a modicum of research would have revealed the story behind it – a symbol of the fact he had vowed never to use a gun in memory of his late father who was shot dead in Jamaica when he was just two-years-old.
But who’s interested in facts when there’s an agenda to follow?
There’s lots of stuff at play here, and I don’t like any of it. That Sterling and Southgate are emerging as the good guys says it all.