Somewhere on a Facebook status you might well read that there are only 73 sleeps to the start of the Premier League programme. With the dust barely settled on the domestic season all attention is now firmly focused on player transfers. TV revenue smoulders in the pockets of owners, club managers organise their recruitment wish lists and agents rub their hands in glee. Meanwhile supporters are assailed with a relentless stream of transfer speculation that stretches form the spectacular to the absurd.
In the space of just a few days, a pack of reliable journalists and unnamed sources have seen West Ham linked with a selection of talent that, if consummated, would leave little change out of a £100 million; a figure that while implausible pales into insignificance alongside the reported £300 million apiece sprees planned by each of the two Manchester clubs.
If past performance is repeated then the early days represent the phoney bidding war where we publicly announce unlikely bids for unrealistic targets; players who are already overwhelmed with alternative options from clubs who can offer European competition and are equipped with Five Star rather than B&B style training and recreation facilities.
One of the criticisms regularly thrown at the West Ham board is that they are closer to the ‘Two Bobs’ rather than the ‘Two (multi-millionaire) Daves’ who are only prpepared to invest the minimum for survival as the value of their investment escalates. Personally I feel this is a little unfair and an examination of net versus gross transfer spend is revealing. West Ham are close to the top of net spenders but become also-rans when gross spending is taken into account; a reflection that our squad is more Steptoe’s than Sotheby’s and has lacked, fro many years, any real saleable assets. No-one wants to be thought of as a selling-club but it is a sign of success when others covet your star players.
If I was the Chairman I would be taking time-out from the arduous task of putting together bids in order to issue Hands-Off Notices to potential predators that may have designs on the few players capable of operating at a higher level; the likes of Lanzini. Obiang, Reid and Antonio. There are others such as Cresswell and Ogbonna that I am in two minds about but listening to offers on anyone else would be quite acceptable and any joy in moving on Valencia, Ayew, Snodgrass and Feghouli could generate a little extra loose change for re-investment.
There has been limited speculation (as far as I have seen) regarding players leaving the London Stadium apart from a couple of clubs interested in the services of Fletcher (no surprise if he leaves) and a story that Brighton are preparing to test West Ham’s resolve (a phrase that is never heard outside football transfers) with an approach for Snodgrass. This would be one situation where my resolve would be about as strong as a butterfly with a broken heart.
The Buy Back Clause seems to have joined the Buy Out Clause as the must-have in modern day football contracts. It is allegedly a stumbling block in West Ham’s pursuit of Manchester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho. It has the whiff of something worse than Third Party Influence if you ask me but is deemed to be perfectly above board as far as the authorities are concerned. Now if we were able to include a Full Refund, Money Back Guarantee If Not Completely Satisfied Clause in our summer dealings then we might be getting somewhere.
Part of West Ham’s summer planning will allegedly include the recruitment of a new goalkeeper if reports are to be believed. Spending money on a keeper is always a tricky one. It is like having some extra cash to spend on your car and upgrading the safety equipment in preference to buying a sexy paint-job, monster sound system or alloy wheels. The last time we spent big money on a keeper, to sign Phil Parkes for a world record fee, it turned out to be something of a masterstroke that served the club magnificently for many years. It could be money well spent.
A welcome return to the top flight of English football to Huddersfield Town, after a break of 55 years or so, to take on the mantle of representing Yorkshire following Hull City’s departure. To have gained promotion with a negative goal difference is quite a feat and it will be fascinating to see how manager David Wagner’s organisation and tactics fare in the Premier League. They will almost certainly join Brighton as favourites for relegation.