As he sat in his office this morning Daniel Levy must have reflected on what a crap month January has been for him. Unfortunately in the lives of Football Chairman a crap January can lead to a feeling foolish February, mad March, agonising April and a moody May as he sees the season disintegrate in front of his eyes with ever increasing frustration shown by the supporters.
But it is worse than that, for Daniel has a stadium crisis on his hands with his first choice trumpeted to worshipping fans becoming too expensive and a second option proving unpopular with most in authority. When people adopt the rattled Tony Blair manner and try to bludgeon their points across you can tell they are feeling the pressure and in my opinion DL is trying to remain calm but showing the strain.
Yesterday may therefore have been a day of realisation for to me it showed that Daniel is no longer the custodian of our future through the actions of others. Chelsea and Liverpool showed just how strong their desire is to qualify for the Champions League by blowing vast sums of money – one of them a massive gamble – in an attempt to win fourth place.
Our retort? A bid for Phil Neville – maybe for Champions League cover – and a last hour bid for Charlie Adam – a player who we may not need.
The day before we had been humbled by Fulham in a game that went entirely against our plan. Having searched all month for the striker we craved Daniel put in a number of bids for a variety of players which made it look like we were desperate (maybe we were that night) or that in making them he knew that wouldn’t come off.
So January ended without a late Spurs signing but Harry still managed calls with Jim White and the Talksport team. I could say it’s a failure but in truth its not. I would rather we picked up the players we need rather than another body we don’t really need in an effort to placate us fans. We are not stupid and we know when we are adding to an already large (and unfit) squad more players who might not improve us.
To do that Daniel will need to change his transfer strategy and what yesterday showed us is that you need really deep pockets to do so and only two ownerships have that; Chelsea and Manchester City, the remainder need it given to them by those owners.
To date all too often the strategy has been on adding men who might offer value later on. Kranjcar was signed for a song as his contract was running out. Having not played much and being mid term on a contract his value is much higher which would have meant a profit for the accounts. I saw a figure quoted of £11m on NewsNow during January but even half of that is a pretty good return.
To me Pienaar looks more of the same. Useful player decent purchase price who probably won’t play much. If he wants away next summer for a World Cup chance he represents a profit to us.
Unfortunately for Daniel, Harry secured us Champions League football a bit quick. Fantastic achievement but it put pressure onto him to keep building a bit more quickly. In August he pulled a supreme rabbit out of the hat with a last minute Van Der Vaart. It could never happen again, Europe is now wise to our tactics!
If we remember Leeds they kept pulling out player after player before the house fell down. Our sudden rise up the table puts us in a similar predicament; buy and borrow big. Fans demand it as the quest of regular Champions League football sets in and for the first half of the season we did extremely well.
Players rose to the challenge and big games came thick and fast. On top of that those around us were in poor form and not winning games we would have expected. As a result we were handily placed and ready to push on. But the team has momentarily run out of luck and hit a period of poor form just as our opponents picked up.
So we needed the boost of a signing but it was not to be. That honour went to Chelsea. Frustrating as we find that it shows one thing, Mr Abramovich is not, when it really matters, prepared to make his club pay for itself as he suggested. It also acknowledges that Chelsea is accepting that their youth policy has not worked as wanted and that big signings are what is needed to keep you in the top 4.
With our own youth policy not bearing much fruit we’ve always relied on making big signings but our wage policy is some way behind that of Chelsea and light years behind Manchester City. If we want to compete longterm in the big pond we need to address these issues and I cannot see Enic being the owners to do this.
I’m not trying to slate them for this but sometimes you have to face facts. Many people will say with the Olympic Stadium we can put this right but look at the balance sheets of clubs such as Liverpool and Newcastle who lived the dream with Champions League money for a number of years. They’ve not much apart from debts to show for it. A bigger capacity will help us on transfer budgets in future windows but it might not do much for the wage bill it produces.
I think it’s official, football has the madness of King George and the top of the Premier League is in ignorance about living within its means so owners need to be billionaires to survive. George got a bit better, as I remember, and so will the game but maybe not before a casualty. We don’t want to be that statistic and I don’t think Daniel will let us become it.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not calling for Levy to go. He’s been a good owner and taken the club forward a heck of a way. But in the way that he decided Martin Jol was not good enough to move us any further forward that realisation might be approaching for him when he looks in the mirror.
It may all hinge upon the Olympic Stadium decision, it may not, but if he wishes to continue he will need to rethink his strategy for the transfer window to identify only those that will definitely improve us and identify them earlier so that the deals can be put together. Forget a late run on the blind side for late night excitement – we’re past that now. Real value may be harder to achieve from here on in.
With an upturn in form anything is possible, without it there’s a long way to go till May. I fancy we’ll play better but hold onto fifth place. That’s about right with this squad if we improve upfront in the summer we can push on once more at realistic pace for our spending money.