Thursday 26 April 2018

'The next Jamie Vardy' not hard to find

Burnley's Andre Gray is currently top scorer in the Championship Photo: Richard Sellers/PA Wire
Burnley's Andre Gray is currently top scorer in the Championship Photo: Richard Sellers/PA Wire
Aidan O'Hara

Aidan O'Hara

For many teams who are likely to spend the season battling against relegation from the Premier League, their transfer policy brings to mind Billy Connolly's joke about the elderly man chatting to his wife about everything they had been through over the years.

The abridged version goes that the husband reminisces about how the wife stuck by him through the stock market crash of the late 1920s, through the hardship of the following decade, through the war of the 1940s and when he got sick in the 1950s.

"And there you were by my side the whole time," he continues. "Do you know what? I think you're a f****** jinx."

For years in the Premier League, teams would buy players of supposedly proven quality, without thinking that maybe, just maybe, they might be a bit of a jinx.

Hermann Hreidarsson was relegated five times from the Premier League, a record he shares with Nathan Blake, although in Hreidarsson's case he achieved the feat with five different clubs. In the 1990s, Ashley Ward and Neil Redfearn always seemed like a good fit to teams who wanted top-flight players at a reasonable price although it's a mystery how their ability to find a new ship just as their current one sunk wasn't held against them.

A couple of seasons ago, Queens Park Rangers attempted to go to a higher calibre of "proven" Premier League performer when they signed the likes of Jose Bosingwa from Chelsea and Park Ji-Sung from Manchester United. The problem was that, as good players in good teams, they were able to contribute to winning Premier League titles or Champions Leagues. In times of a relegation crisis, however, they proved as useful as the captain of the Concordia.

In contrast, Swansea City arrived into the Premier League five years ago, kept the core of players which had got them there and reaped the rewards. It seems unlikely that Joe Allen, Nathan Dyer or Angel Rangel would have been snapped up by Premier League teams, yet they were capable of making the leap from the Championship to playing 30 Premier League games and helping their team finish 11th.


Southampton did much the same thing and while it doesn't always work out, as was the case with Burnley last season, at least then a club hasn't nearly bankrupted itself in trying to stay afloat.

This season should be a watershed for clubs looking to sign players with something to prove rather than ones that are allegedly proven.

The three promoted clubs have all stuck largely to their squads from last season and, in terms of straight-forward, hard-running footballers with great attitudes, they are putting several established Premier League names to shame.

At Watford, the wrecking ball that is six foot, 14-stone Troy Deeney has wreaked havoc among defenders, many of whom seem to have grown up being able to bring the ball out of defence under very little pressure and attempting to put the shackles on players with elite technique.

When they meet a player like Deeney, however, they don't seem to be able to handle somebody who will run at them and into them for 90 minutes, and not give them a moment's peace. When Manchester City spend £42m on Eliaquim Mangala, for example, it wasn't the likes of Deeney that they had in mind as players who would give him sleepless nights.

Like Watford and Deeney, Leicester City and Jamie Vardy in particular will, perhaps, send clubs scouring the lower leagues in search of a bargain.

That's why it remains something of a mystery that, a few days into the January transfer window, clubs in the Championship aren't having their door beaten down by clubs in the lower end of the Premier League.

Aston Villa, for example, have "proven" Premier League players in Gabriel Agbonlahor, Joleon Lescott, Alan Hutton and Micah Richards among several others yet, virtually every week, they look like players making the mistakes of minnows in an FA Cup tie.

Villa are almost certain to be relegated but would have nothing to lose in spending £40million on three or four of the Championship's top performers and give themselves five months to prove themselves in the Premier League.

Andre Gray, for example, is top scorer in the Championship with 15 goals and was playing with Hinckley United four years ago. A £30,000 move to Luton Town gave him a chance in the Conference where he scored 30 goals before making the switch to Brentford in the Championship. From there, Burnley paid £9m for his services and goals.


Gray isn't going to threaten the Ballon d'Or any time soon but his combination of pace and eye for goal at the age of 24 is exactly the sort of thing that teams who are fearful of being relegated should be looking at in the transfer window. The same is true for Ross McCormack or Jordan Rhodes.

In the best-case scenario, they would score the goals that keeps the team in the Premier League going into next season in which the team that finishes bottom will receive £10m more in television revenue than Bayern Munich do in the Bundesliga.

The middle scenario is that the player will score goals but the team will get relegated and, perhaps, another team will come in and the club will recoup their transfer fee.

Worst-case scenario is the player can't hack it in the Premier League and the club are relegated but, even in that case, the club still end up with a player who has already shown they can score goals in the Championship.

Perhaps there is a player in another European league who's good enough to score goals in the Premier League for one of the relegation battlers, but the problem is that he's probably already on the radar of one of the better teams.

It might be easier, however, to put "something to prove" rather than "proven" as the cornerstone of any future transfer policy.

Tweets of the week


Peter Crouch (@petercrouch)

Incredible performance boys ! No wonder I can't get a run out #STKEVE

The Stoke man enjoying watching his team, if not playing for them, after their 4-3 win.


Stephen Harper @steveharper37)

A truly beautiful soul has left this world far too early!! Thank you so much for everything you did for me Pav

A poignant tweet from his former team-mate summing up the mood after the death of the former Newcastle goalkeeper.


Basti Schweinsteiger (@BSchweinsteiger)

A very exciting year: German Championship title with @FCBayern and fulfilling my wish to go abroad with @ManUtd.

Interesting to see whether the German midfielder is in similarly good form this time next year.


Cillian Sheridan (@CillianSheridan)

Watching Sky News covering the fire in Dubai, and can't help but feel like they're waiting/hoping for bad news regarding injuries and damage

The striker doesn't miss much. Fortunately, for most, nobody was seriously injured.


Jonathan Walters (@jonwalters19)

Bring on 2016 and hopefully a few more nights like this!

Ireland's superman posts a dressing room picture from after the Bosnia game.


Everton (@Everton)

Best day out with the best sis in the world

Let he who has never made a mistake with the wrong Twitter account cast the first stone. The message was swiftly deleted.


Stephen Hunt (@StephenHunt1010)

All these people pretending to know about UFC do me a favour!@TheNotoriousMMA only knows how good he is the rest chill out and learn first

While watching UFC in the early hours of Sunday morning, the former Irish international hands out some advice.

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