West Ham Transfer Roundup: The Window To Watch

With little action to report we dwell on the gossip, rumour, blather and insinuation of the transfer window.

With less than seven weeks to go before the season opener, and with the imminent start of pre-season training, my confidence for the new campaign has descended to lower basement level along with the old paint pots, spare lawn mower parts and unopened gym equipment.  Any hopeful notions that West Ham would pull off a succession of inspired signings and get them on board for a full pre-season have rapidly evaporated.  Had the requirement been for cosmetic changes to a mostly functioning squad rather than a much needed overhaul of playing staff then the lack of early activity might not be so worrisome.  No news, in this case, is certainly not good news.

Mostly probably the scarcity of news is making me paranoid as, to date, the transfer window has been dominated by big talk of huge transfers rather than actual deals being struck.  Moreover, if some of the numbers being quoted are to be believed then you won’t be getting much for less than £20 million this year as the full effect of the new TV deal kicks in with a vengeance.  The most significant news of the past week has been the appointment of Mauricio Pellegrino at Southampton and the impending appointment of Frank de Boer at Crystal Palace.  Both are ambitious moves and throw in big spending Everton, a determined Leicester and newly promoted Newcastle and my sense is that, unless something unexpected happens, any thoughts of a top half finish next season are little more than a daydream.

So who are the rumoured signings that can return my glass to its half-full status?

The issue around buyback clauses continues to complicate any deal for in demand striker Kelechi Iheanacho from Manchester City.  A number of clubs are said to be interested including West Ham, Leicester and Palace.  Iheanacho has an impressive scoring record for City coming on as a substitute and tucking away chances created by de Bruyne and Silva against shell-shocked opponents.  Whether he would be as prolific left up front on his own at the London Stadium remains to be seen; but it seems fairly certain that he will end up with whichever Premier League club is willing to accept City’s terms.

It has been reported that Henry Onyekuru is now in possession of a shiny new UK work permit and is weighing up the various options presented to him by Arsenal, West Ham and Birmingham.  I always understood that work permit application came after a job offer but maybe footballers now have different rules.  Unless Onyekuru is prioritising the opportunity of regular starts over all else then he is most probably Emirates bound.

It is said the Gunners are also keen to bring in Alexandre Lacazette, and that such a move that will prompt the departure of Oliver Giroud with West Ham an oft mentioned potential destination, although Lyon are also rumoured to be showing an interest.  Giroud is a player with a proven Premier League goal-scoring record but, for me, I can’t get past the fact that he will be thirty –one years old at the end of September.  With an already ageing squad and an apparent reluctance to blood youngsters elsewhere in the side this is not a forward looking strategy.

It seems that Arsenal cast-offs are all the rage at the moment and expect to hear about the return of Carl Jenkinson anytime soon.  Until that happens we will have to make do with speculation about battling it out with Huddersfield for Jack Wilshere and a bold swoop for wayward wallflower Theo Walcott.  I have, in the past, been an admirer of the Hammers-supporting Wilshere but don’t believe that yet another injury prone midfielder is exactly what is needed right now, unless the club needs to fulfil an obscure diversity target as part of the London Stadium deal.  Winger-cum-striker Walcott is something of a luxury lightweight, the type of player who regularly does well playing against West Ham rather than for them.  In any case his reported salary is likely well out of our league without causing massive disruption to existing wage structures.  It is wages, more than transfer fees, that sets the big boys apart from the pack and is the very reason why Tottenham will eventually struggle to hold on to their most prized assets.

The Daniel Sturrdige rumours blow hot and cold which is highly appropriately for the player himself.  Lots of talent but hampered by a sulky attitude.  Not ideal when what is required is a team prepared to work their socks off for each other.

Another name to hit the West Ham transfer headlines this week is Yann Karamoh, a teenage striker currently strutting his stuff with Ligue 1 side Caen.  On the face of it, given the current regime’s nervousness with young players, this seems an improbable signing unless seen solely as ‘one for the future’.    With cash rich Champion’s League qualifiers RB Leipzig also said to be in the hunt any interest may be largely academic anyway.

One very creative report I read claimed that West Ham had missed out on a player who, from what I could make out, we were never interested in.  This was former Arsenal defender Johan Djourou who has just moved from Hamburg to Montpelier.  I am not sure whether we are in the market for new defenders (apart from Carl Jenkinson – you heard it here first!) although there have also been mutterings about Nathan Ake from Chelsea.  Ake has had impressive loan spells with both Watford and Bournemouth and now looks set to be yet another profitable sale from the Stamford Bridge trading academy.  If we are actually in the market for a versatile defender then Ake would be a great option.

I have still yet to understand how Reece Oxford is good enough to play for a mid-table Bundesliga side but not a mid-table Premier League side with an ageing back-line.  Add to this the further speculation that Reece Burke will now be sent out on loan for the third season running and the club’s commitment to young players is concerning.   I would much rather see the better academy players developed by gradual introduction into our own first team.  Anyone who thinks that the departure of Havard Nordtveit will open the door for Josh Cullen next season has a very trusting and optimistic nature.

It looks like we will say farewell to Enner Valencia very soon.  I had high hopes for him on his arrival after the 2014 World Cup but he wasn’t really cut out for the demands of English football.  Despite that he would have been far more value at West Ham during last season than the hapless Jonathan Calleri.

Who Will Strike When The Irons Are Hot?

The search for the elusive West Ham striker seems stuck in a Groundhog Day!

Every football club is consistently on the look-out for a top striker.  This is the second successive summer where the pursuit of a regular goal-scorer has been the transfer priority for West Ham.  A hat-full of names have come and gone from the radar without success.  The failure of last year’s recruitment is now history while this time around the same names have been bandied around for several weeks but with no tangible progress and few clues coming from the club.  It is early in the window but we seem to be stuck in a stale striker loop of Batshuayi, Iheanacho, Onyekuru, Giroud and (occasionally) Sturridge.  Now that  Wenger has carved “Arsene ❤ Oliver” on the Emirate’s dressing room door that list may now have become shorter still.  I cannot be alone in wanting to hear news of more enterprising links or, better still, of completed transfer swoops.  Yet even the normally resourceful  ‘In-The-Knows’ have become increasingly desperate in their struggle to bring crumbs of  transfer comfort to the anxious ears of troubled supporters.

There are two main possible scenarios as I see it:

The club have a clear idea of their preferred transfer targets and are working diligently and discreetly behind the scenes to put together the proverbial deals that will turn those targets into signed-up West Ham players.  Such deals may or may not be contingent on the domino effect of other transfers being finalised;

The club are adopting the more commonplace and indiscriminate scatter-gun approach in their search for anyone who might, or has in the past, scored a few goals.  Such targets are weighing up the potential wages, attraction of playing in London against any other better offers that could come their way.

Whichever of these two scenarios (or somewhere between the two) is closer to the truth, the twenty goals per season striker looks just as elusive as ever.  Of course, this is a feat not yet achieved by a West Ham player in a Premier League season where Paolo Di Canio’s sixteen in the 1999/2000 season remains the record to beat.  You have to go back over ten years to find a season where a Hammer scored more than ten league goals in a Premier League season; and back to 1986/87 for the last time a West Ham player scored twenty top flight league goals (Tony Cottee, 22).

It is true that goals are not as easy to come by as they once were, and there are now not as many games in which to score them, but despite this, the twenty goal barrier has been breached seventy times in Premier League history.  Admittedly the top six clubs feature most frequently in the hit list but there are also entrants from the likes of Newcastle, QPR, Sunderland, Blackburn, Norwich, Southampton and Nottingham Forest.

The absence of a top notch striker may not necessarily be such an issue where goals are freely distributed around the team.  Last season, for instance, West Ham netted a creditable sixty-five times in the league (equal fourth highest overall) without any individual hitting double figures.  However, almost all successful teams have at least one prolific goal-scorer.  Then there are forwards who have other attributes in their game and are adept at creating chances for others; players, such as Sanchez at Arsenal, and I’m sure if assists were counted back in 1999/2000 then Paolo would have had earned a fair few to sit alongside his already impressive goal tally.

The undoubted advantage of the clinical striker is evident in those circumstances where chances are few and far between; you will find them converting that breakaway to snatch victory in tight away matches or snaffling the half chance at home against unambitious bus-parking opposition.  Of course, it’s great and makes more headlines for a player to nab a hat-trick in a 5-0 romp but the true value of the best strikers is in nicking points from positions where they looked unlikely.  I have always thought this was where Frank McAvennie just edged out Tony Cottee during the famous ’86 season.  How we would dream to have such a thrilling partnership again nowadays but I guess one striker is a big enough ask and two is just being greedy.

One Man, One Goal, One Transfer Vision?

As the rumours continue to fly in from every direction what is the summer transfer strategy at West Ham?

Ten days into the transfer window and fifty four days to the big kick-off and it’s ‘quiet, too quiet, out there‘. Well, it’s not really so quiet if you continue to follow the hundreds of rumours circulating on the internet but it is in terms of actual done deals. According to the Premier League website only seventeen deals have been completed so far this window with Brighton leading the charge with three in-comings followed by Everton, Leicester and Manchester City with two each. West Ham are one of eight clubs to boast a single new recruit to date.  We are all expecting more activity but other than knowing that new players are needed, particularly in the striker department, is there a coherent plan being out together at the London Stadium?

The early business conducted by Everton and Leicester is interesting given that these are two clubs who, along with the Hammers, will have their sights set on leading the mid-table mini-league that exists below the top six. Both clubs will potentially have high profile departures (Lukaku, Barkley, Mahrez) during the summer and appear to be targeting younger, lesser-known talent as replacements and to bolster their squads. Everton, who have the added distraction of a Europa League campaign (provided they are not outwitted by eastern European opposition in the third qualifying round) have already invested heavily and can thank a ‘buy low sell high‘ transfer policy in the past which has seen big money roll in when selling players such as Fellaini and Stones, in addition to this year’s probable transfers-out income. Over the last five years the gross transfer spending of both Everton and Southampton has outstripped the Hammers significantly and yet West Ham’s net spending is greater than those two clubs combined. It is a real concern that history will once again repeat itself with the club treading water in survival mode through a safety first approach of ageing players of proven Premier League ability.

Nobody likes to think of their team as a selling club but the reality of modern football is that if you have an outstanding talent, either one brought through an academy system or picked up from a lower league, then they are unlikely to hang around for long once the top clubs come calling. Good seasons for Manuel Lanzini or Pedro Obiang next term could well turn out to be their last at West Ham. It is an unfortunate fact of footballing life but one that can be turned into a positive through an effective scouting setup that reinvests the proceeds wisely.

Naturally there is no guarantee that buying young players will result in saleable assets but, as the saying goes, you have to speculate to accumulate. Only time will tell whether Leicester’s purchases of Harry Maguire from Hull and Sam Hughes from Chester turn out to be as inspired as the signing of Vardy.   My assumption is that West Ham do have a scouting network which monitors players in the lower leagues despite the limited success over the years.  My sense is that where any risks are taken it is on young overseas players introduced by agents rather than as a result of those unearthed by our own scouting.  West Ham have had some recent success with the capture of Antonio and Cresswell from the Championship after they had become established players but I can’t believe there are not more gems to be found for those looking hard enough.

The same names remain in the frame as far as the desperate striker search and most don’t come across as particularly promising. Michy Batshuayi doesn’t sound too keen to end his exile on the Chelsea bench by moving across London, the buy-back fee suggested by Manchester City in the Kelechi Iheanacho transfer hasn’t been well received in east London and Henry Onyekuru may struggle to get past immigration. The default option could, therefore, end up as Oliver Giroud and although he is undoubtedly better than what we have now, is he exactly what we need?  I see Giroud as a short term fix to a long term problem, at best, with no sell on value.

Possibly Bilic does have his own vision, reminiscent of the Croatia national team style, where Giroud is nodding and stroking home the numerous chances served up by a speedy wing merchant such as Adama Traore. While Traore clearly showed tremendous energy and potential against an obliging West Ham defence very little finally resulted from it.  His contributions at Middlesbrough and Aston Villa were a largely disappointing and sporadic style over substance. His signing would be a major gamble and there have to be questions as whether West Ham have the patience and wherewithal to develop such a player in a scenario where we have been reluctant to provide opportunities to our own academy players.

cone
Lamine Kone

In what I can only assume are mischievous fabrications we have also be linked with a number of central defenders, most notably Chris Smalling and Lamine Kone. Last I heard West Ham were planning to send exciting young defenders out on baffling season long loans to Germany for the very reason that we are already well stocked with experienced centre-backs.  Some reports claim that the Hammers are in pole position to sign the Sunderland defender but the only Kone I would want to see at Rush Green is the one that players dribble around in training.

As well as no significant change to playing personnel it also remains as you were elsewhere in the club hierarchy. David Sullivan continues in his role as self-styled Director of Football while Slaven Bilic is still at the helm of team affairs, along with the same coaching staff who struggled to deploy a fit, disciplined and organised outfit for the majority of last season. What was it that Einstein is supposed to have said about doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? The one change that I am aware of is Gary Lewin replacing Stijn Vandenbroucke as Head of Medical Services; good luck with that very demanding role, Gary!

Interestingly, a very different approach to pre-season has been announced with the focus on training camps rather than a magical mystery tour of exhibition games; apart, that is, from a proposed morale sapping drubbing by Manchester City in Iceland the week before the season opens. As the rationale for the training camps is to provide team bonding then it would be highly preferable to get any new signings on board in advance. You are only as good as your last training camp and memories are still fresh with the Dubai jolly last February which preceded a five game losing streak. With a clutch of players recovering from injury it is not difficult to imagine a slow start to the 2017/18 season.

Let’s hope that there is a plan out there somewhere and that we will end up delighted with both West Ham’s transfer business and a storming start to the season.

 

You’re Just A Fit Andy Carroll

As the list of West Ham transfer targets continues to grow, Everton show the way with two shrewd young signings.

Imagine a typical man and woman going out shopping for a pair of shoes.  The man will try two or three shops at the most, find something that is good enough or better than what he already had, before spending the rest of the afternoon in the pub.  The woman on the other hand would try every possible outlet, including those that she knows will be too expensive, with a belief that the next place might just have something better.  Eventually she ends up buying something she saw earlier in a panic because she had ran out of time.  Both of these behaviours can be observed clearly during a West Ham transfer window.

Players that are surplus to requirements at top six clubs would suit the man down to the ground .  They have a proven ability (even if no longer good enough for the high rollers), require little effort to find (in fact they may even come looking for you) and are unquestionably an upgrade on the status quo, although with a few notable exceptions that bar isn’t set particularly high.  Players such as Smalling, Giroud, Zabaletta, Bony and Hart would make the perfect man purchases.  Our woman meanwhile is dreaming of designer labels such as Bacca, Lacazette or Batshuayi no matter how unfeasible those purchases might be – who knows, maybe she can borrow one from a rich friend.

Somewhere between the extravagant dream and the merely adequate is the sweet spot of transfer activity that Everton are exploiting with the recent signings of Jordan Pickford and Davy Klaassen; moves that reinforces a squad already comprising several other exciting young talents.  Their own challenge will be the futures of Lukaku and Barkley and how they respond to their eventual departures , developments that will certainly leave them with a healthy pile of cash to invest on further signings.  With a much more progressive outlook, Everton are showing West Ham a very clean pair of heels in the race for seventh biggest club status.

Of all the players so far linked with a move to West Ham during the current window the potential signings of Henry Onyekuru and Kelechi Iheanacho are the most enticing for me; although I have a feeling that they would be far too adventurous for the current board-manager regime and that both will end up elsewhere.  Of course, they could well end up being massive gambles as both are still very young and ‘Youtube’ compendiums can be very misleading.  A few years back I was very excited about being linked with Greek striker Konstantinos Mitroglou based on his ‘Youtube’ prowess and then disappointed when he ultimately signed for Fulham.  Yet his time at Craven Cottage was a huge disappointment even though he has since been banging them in freely for Benfica.

My personal challenge with a team featuring both Onyekuru and Iheanacho would be in remembering, writing and pronouncing their names, something that was far easier for the average Anglo-Saxon when surnames were mostly single syllable.   Old Roy of the Rovers comics would often incorporate a speech bubble device where a supporter at the back of the crowd handily summarised the action for the lazy artist up against a submission deadline.  This was difficult enough to believe, without time standing still, when the players involved were Blackie Gray and Roy Race but now it would necessarily cause a rift in the space-time continuum.

The other striking name being bandied about regularly in the media is Oliver Giroud of Arsenal.  He certainly passes the better than what we’ve got test but I’m not convinced that he is exactly what is needed.  A fitter version of Andy Carroll who has a reasonable scoring record at Arsenal but then again has Ozil, Sanchez and Oxlade-Chamberlain setting up chances for him.  In our setup he could well turn out to be John Radford Mk 2 and I would much prefer the club to be on the lookout for a pacier, more mobile front-man.


The sacking by Southampton of Claude Puel shows what a lucky boy Slaven Bilic has been to keep his job.  Most likely, Slav had accumulated sufficient brownie points from the 2015/16 season that our conservative board were swayed to give him stay of execution for the time being.  I was more interested in reading the various online comments regarding Puel’s sacking which were polarised between Saint’s supporters, bemoaning the style of football/ lack of entertainment served up under his stewardship and, what I took be mostly patronising comments from neutrals (i.e. armchair supporters of big clubs), who suggested that Southampton should simply be thankful for an eighth place finish and were mad to sack him.  Sometimes you have to wonder to what degree entertainment is meant to feature for the majority of clubs in the modern game, their part is to make up the numbers and hope for survival if you listened to many in the media.

The West Ham “You’ve Been Done” Deals

Past transfer performance is not an indicator of future cock-ups!

There is a general consensus that the two transfer windows last season constituted largely abysmal business by the club.   It is hard to disagree with that assessment where the shortcomings were amplified by what was viewed as a relatively successful recruitment campaign during the summer of 2015.

If you were to peer further back through the rear-view window, however, it would not be difficult to conclude that, as unquestionably bad as last season’s incomings were, they were fairly typical of West Ham’s transfer dealings over the years, and that rather it was 2015 that was the exception to the rule of unspectacular recruitment.

According to the information available on the Soccerbase website West Ham have signed a grand total of 224 players (excluding loans) in the years since their first promotion to the Premier League .  An assumption as to what makes a good signing might be where the player has gone on to provide dedicated and commendable service to the club or else has been subsequently sold at a generous profit following a period of development at West Ham.

Of the 224 signings, over half (114) went on to make less than twenty starts for the club and although some may have been considered a gamble for the future this appears to be a damning level of success; recognising that a handful are still on the books and may yet establish solid careers in the claret and blue.  A further forty three players made less than fifty starts while just twenty six reached the milestone of a hundred starts or more.  Three transfer signings stuck around to earn the long service award of 200 starts (Green, Lomas and Sinclair) while the rest of the top ten is made up of the mixed bag that is Reid, Repka, Mullins, Carlton Cole, Etherington, Dailly and Moncur.  James Collins, one of seven players regarded as so good we signed them twice (Bowyer, Hutchison, McCartney, Hislop, Sealey and Feuer) would have made the top ten but his two stints at the club have been treated as separate careers.

Unsurprisingly, West Ham’s biggest money signings have been in the more recent years as transfer fees increased alongside TV and other revenues.  The club’s thirty most expensive signings (again according to the Soccerbase stats) have cost a combined total of £220 million and averaged just over 50 starts each.  Among this select group, five managed to make over one hundred starts (Repka, Upson, Parker, Kouyate and Faubert) while only two of this top thirty (Payet and Bellamy) were sold on for any meaningful profit.

The conclusion that I am left with is one of an underwhelming history of transfer business by the club and one which requires a huge improvement if it is live up to the billing of either the fifteenth or eighteenth biggest club in world football (depending on whether you believe Forbes or Deloitte).  So far our transfer powder has been kept mainly dry this summer as we anxiously news of those done deals.  As eternally optimistic supporters we all hope to dream regardless of the contrary evidence that history has generally delivered nightmares.


A body that calls itself the CIES Football Observatory (part of the International Centre for Sports Studies ) have come up with what they say is a science based algorithm (!) to estimate the transfer value of the top 110 players in Europe’s top leagues, each with a value of at least €40 million.  Their computations take account of factors such as performance, age and length of contract and lead to the conclusion that Neymar (at €210 m) is the current top transfer banana, followed by Alli (€155 m) and Kane (€153 m).  Even more comical entries in the list include Raheem Sterling (€98 m), Eric Dier (€85 m), John Stones (€71 m) and Nathan Redmond (€60 m).  Needless to say, no Hammers appear in the list and there is not even a place among the also-rans for a certain Mr Payet.

West Ham Transfer Sensation

Club remained tight-lipped on impending summer transfer revelation.

At the beginning of this month I wrote about the transfer speculation in various media outlets regarding potential West Ham signings in the summer transfer window which officially opened this week. Unlike last year when there were bullish reports coming out of the club in respect of marquee signings, breaking transfer records to land players, especially a top striker, the sensational news is that this year we appear to have learned our lesson, and are keeping quiet about our potential targets! This would seem to go completely against what has happened in the past, perhaps because the season ticket sales went better than many dared to hope, and we should comfortably sell out the 52,000 seats available.

The players that we were being linked with via the media at the end of May were the following names, and some of these have continued to appear during the past few days, especially Joe Hart, the current England keeper, who let in two free kicks from outside the box against Scotland at the weekend, which won’t have increased his value in the market:

Goalkeepers: Hart, Pickford, Ruddy, Szczesny, Krul.

Defenders: Clichy, Semedo, Gibson, Maguire, Keane, Raggett.

Midfielders: Asamoah, Tadic, Barkley, Wilshere, Sigurdsson, Mertens.

Strikers: Batshuayi, Gray, Iheanacho, Braithwaite, Long, Sturridge, Mitrovic, Mboula, Selke, Ibrahimovic, Bacca, Slimani, Perez.

In the last couple of days some new names have emerged which we can add to the list of supposed targets, although pleasingly West Ham appear to be remaining coy about all speculation, and are refusing to confirm any of them. That is good news!

The strongest rumour appears to be a 19 year old Nigerian, Onyekuru, who was joint top scorer in the Belgian League last season with 24 goals. More than one report (although it is impossible to say if it was just one report copied by many others) suggests that he is due to have a medical with us on Tuesday.

Other reports suggest we are interested in Kruse of Werder Bremen, a 14 cap German international, who scored 15 goals in just 23 games in the Bundesliga last season, and has a supposed £10.4m release clause.

Apparently, Giroud of Arsenal also interests us, and would be available for £20 million. He is allegedly unhappy about his lack of game time with the Gunners, with Arsenal seemingly preferring pace up front, something I would like to see in any strikers that we buy, too.

Another German on the radar is Modeste of Cologne who bagged 25 goals in the Bundesliga last season which helped them to qualify for the Europa League. The suggested fee would be around 30 million euros, although quite why he would want a switch to the London Stadium is unclear to me.

Two other attacking players are quoted by some media outlets as being of interest to us, firstly Traore of Chelsea, who has been on loan at Ajax, and secondly Munir of Barcelona who spent the season on loan at Valencia.

And finally there are two England internationals that we would want to bring to West Ham according to some reports; Delph of Manchester City, who is unlikely to get too many opportunities of playing in the first team at his current club, and the best one of all, Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain, who some outlets claim would be available for £17 million. I don’t believe any of the rumours that I’ve mentioned above, but this one at the price is the most ridiculous of them all, and would be a fantastic buy for us. Sadly, I think that this rumour is way off the mark.

So there you have it. Another eight names to add to the 30 quoted a week ago, making 38 potential signings. The rumour industry is in full swing, but I am pleased to report that the club seem to be keeping very quiet this time around. That is how it should be. Let us hope they keep it that way and then surprise us by announcing that one or two top players that would improve the team significantly have signed for us. I won’t hold my breath.

Cut Out and Keep Hammer’s Transfer Speculation Filter

How to separate the wheat from the chaff in the transfer rumour mill? What makes a realistic West Ham signing?

After weeks of fake news, squabbling, outright lies and intense speculation the big day is finally upon us – yes, the summer transfer window opens tomorrow!

As usual, miles of column inches and news feeds have been stuffed full of transfer gossip from the moment the last ball of the Premier League season was kicked just eighteen days ago.  Even though we know that the vast majority of transfer stories never materialise we are powerless to prevent ourselves from excitedly clicking that seductive link “goal scoring sensation close to penning Hammer’s deal” only to discover the story concerns an academy player and a one year contract extension.  The teasing, yet ambiguous, football transfer headline has to be one of the most creative of modern day art-forms.

I have to admit that I have no idea at all about the abilities or otherwise of most of the players linked with a move to West Ham, unless they are already performing in the Premier League.  However, I have developed a filter (or maybe I should call it an algorithm to make it sound more scientific) for the rumours that I want to believe and those that I don’t.

The number one issue for me is who is a realistic target?  I doubt that all players have the same motivation and while wages have got to be right up there much is also made of the appeal of European competition.  My guess, however, is that £50,000 per week in London with no European games would easily trump £40,000 per week in Glasgow notwithstanding the appealing opportunity of being eliminated in the Champion’s League qualifying round.  On the other hand a tug-of-war for a player’s signature where West Ham and Chelsea are both offering an equivalent wedge is only ever likely to end with a decision to go west.

Where a side does not have the lure of European competition to attract top and established talent an effective scouting operation has to be the priority.  Many observers were predicting a great future for Moussa Dembélé during his time across the capital at Fulham and now, after just one year at Celtic, he is being touted as a £30 million target of several major Champion’s League clubs.  That is the type of deal, for a developing player, that a good scouting system should have been all over; not waiting until someone has made a name for themselves and then pretending to be interested by throwing a token bid into the ring via Twitter.

Whenever a potential transfer is mentioned you will also be told which other clubs are circling the same target.  If these include the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Roma or Dortmund then we might as well forget about it.  At the other end of the spectrum, if the competition is Watford, Brighton or Stoke then it is a sign that we are aiming too low.  At least that is what my filter tells me.  Acceptable clubs to be battling it out with are Everton, Newcastle and, maybe, Southampton.  Why is it we can never pick up players like Virgil Van Dijk even though his dad, Dick, was an honorary cockney (chim chim cheroo!)

Then we come to those transfer keywords that set my personal alarm bells ringing:

winger: there is a huge difference to me between a wide midfield player and a winger.  Alan Devonshire was, and Michail Antonio is, a wide midfielder while players like Aaron Lennon and Andros Townsend are wingers.  A winger is characterised by a player whose only real attribute is being able to run fast, and is usually spotted haring along the touchline before putting the ball in the crowd.  Paradoxically, wingers will occasionally put in an unplayable match winning performance and this is most usually against West Ham;

free agent:  usually denotes a player that is not wanted by any other club or has become too old to be offered the length of contract that he is looking for.  It might have been expected that there would be more free agents in the post Bosman world but the reality is that the length of a player’s contract is largely meaningless once he wants to force a move.  There are occasional but very isolated exceptions to the free agent rule and can be acceptable in an emergency ;

6 feet 4 striker:  there is a Pavlovian response that whenever a very tall striker could be coming on the market he is linked with West Ham.  The theory being that if only we had a fit Andy Carroll doppelganger then everything in the London Stadium garden would be rosy.  What is most definitely not required by a progressive football team is a lanky, immobile target man whose very presence dictates the tactics of the team;

versatile:  as a point of disambiguation being an excellent holding midfielder who can seamlessly drop into a back three would be a good thing, whereas a player whose major claim to fame is being versatile is to be avoided.  For the latter it is code for not really being good enough in any position.  I would go as far as saying that the modern game is becoming more specialised and that useful versatility is largely limited to subtle variations in deployment rather playing in totally different positions.  Myself and Slaven Bilic may have divergent opinions on this point;

30 year-old:  you may not win anything with kids but you certainly don’t either with a dad’s army.  A little bit of experience doesn’t go amiss but in the frenetic environment of the Premier League it is pace, energy and stamina that are becoming essentials.  Giving three or four year contracts to 30 year old plus players in the autumn (or winter) of their careers is a short term survival strategy only, not a taking-us-to-the next-level one.

Turkish League:  ours is not the only manager who appears to have a fixation with players that he has previously worked with.  In general this is a bad idea and more so when the league in question is, well, in a different league.   In fact, this criteria stretches a little wider and would encompass other minor competitions such as the Mexican or Uruguayan Leagues (so Mexican winger Jurgen Damm would fail on two counts).  As a point of clarification it would be acceptable to consider recruiting an exciting future prospect from outside the major leagues but not an established player expected to step straight into the first team.  After all Manuel Lanzini was plucked out of the UAE Arabian Gulf League.


Finally, a word about the reported season long loan of Reece Oxford to Borussia Mönchengladbach.  This seems to be one of the most ludicrous ideas I have ever heard coming out of West Ham, and it has a lot of competition for that sobriquet.  How is it that a player is not yet ready to play for a middle ranking Premier League team is quite acceptable for a middle ranking Bundesliga club?  It defies any logic.  I have seen reports of a David Gold tweet where he has stated we already have four experienced centre backs at the club, but that includes two lumbering thirty-three year olds.  Now is the perfect time for prospects such as Oxford, Burke and Rice to be given the opportunity to stake their claim.  Or perhaps we do not have either the capacity or the imagination to properly develop our own academy players.

Sadly, nothing over the past few weeks has suggested that we have learned any lessons from the debacle of last season’s transfer dealings.  I am open to persuasion and willing to be wowed when the window slides open!