Well, I wasn’t expecting that. I was fully prepared to be underwhelmed by West Ham’s eventual January window signings. But it never occurred to me that there would be no incomings at all. Why would a club with one of the thinnest squads in the Premier League – with a reasonable chance of Champions League qualification (on two fronts) and a shot at an FA Cup run – decide not to improve its playing strength?
Media reports have suggested that West Ham fans will be frustrated and scratching their heads at the lack of activity. I would say it is far worse than that given the potential implications. Most are furious that a glorious opportunity to push on from a position of strength has been negligently squandered. A statement of intent was what we wanted but once again it never came. So, who is to blame?
As I said in a previous article, my assumption is that the part played by David Moyes and Rob Newman in the recruitment process is to come up with a list of potential targets that would complement and improve the current squad. It would be based on their assessment of key priorities, the type of player required and (I would imagine) would some take account of affordability. Ideally, they would also be taking both a short and a medium-term view, but for the January window it would focus primarily on immediate needs. Players able to make a telling contribution during what is left of the season. If for some reason they weren’t unable to identify any targets, then they should be rightly criticised. But that seems to be a highly unlikely scenario.
Some supporters suggest Moyes is complicit in the club’s transfer shortcomings because he is too much of a ‘Yes’ man. That seems a rather unfair observation to me. His character is the type to want a good working relationship with the owners, rather than ranting and raving about them in public, but what else can he do? His only other option would be to resign. Would you do that?
I don’t know the precise responsibilities in Newman’s job description, but I am confident that it doesn’t involve negotiating transfer fees and contracts. None of us can know what input he had made or whether he has earned his salary until signings have been made. Negotiation of those deals are handled by the Board and through their representatives (agents). In West Ham’s case it is under the direct supervision of David Sullivan, facilitated by the various agents he works with.
In hindsight, a rat should have been smelled on what we were up to immediately the spurious, unrealistic bids for unavailable players started to hit the headlines. What club is going to sell their best players in the final days of the window when there is little or no chance of finding replacements anyway. It was a typical Sullivan tactic. The grand gesture designed to give the impression of ambition but, lacking any foundation or expectation of success. Does he think we are stupid and have forgotten all the previous distractions? Or does he simply hold supporters in contempt? Any softening of attitudes towards Gold and Sullivan that had taken place due to improvements on the pitch will have hardened back to rock solid animosity once again. I wonder what Kretinsky makes of it all, or what role he played in the process?
I was left wondering whether there was ever any intention of making new signings right from the start. What groundwork had been made during the first thirty days to get deals over the line. Which players did we actually miss out on? You don’t just pick players names out of a hat on the final day.
As I have also written before, deals are complex affairs and include agreements of transfer fees, payment terms, player’s contracts, image rights, agent fees and so on. It is the easiest thing in the world to engineer a snag or sticking point if you don’t want to make it happen. There must be 50 ways to leave a transfer – Just bid a low fee, Lee; Or ask for loan, Joan.
Sullivan’s fixation with loan to buy agreements will likely scupper many deals. It stems from previous signings who have failed to settle into English football at great cost to the club. A try before you buy might be attractive for the buyer but offers little value to the selling club. No wonder they are so frequently rejected. Continuing to insist on these deals in the future will only lead to further pain. Even if they did get their fingers burned by backing Pellegrini’s poor recruitment in the past, they shouldn’t be placing that mistrust onto the shoulders of Moyes and Newman in the future.
Several West Ham websites with close links to the owners had started dropping hints about Dithering Dave (Moyes) in the final few days of the window. A classic attempt to distract from the Board failings in my view. Did Moyes turn down suggestions for the odd Sullivan special picks that have featured prominently in past transfer windows? Should Moyes have lowered his standards for the purpose of expediency? Would an erratic backup striker (such as Origi or Benteke) have been better than no backup at all? It is all very unsatisfactory!
The transfer furore will slowly die down as the games start up again. The extent to which that is allowed to happen will depend on events on the pitch. The same key players will now be expected to see out the rest of the season with precious little chance of a rest. And that is without injuries and suspensions in a squad that is severely exposed at key positions including centre back, left back and striker. A squad where the game changing options from the bench are Yarmolenko and Masuaku. Where we could have been flying high, it now feels like a season of great promise that will simply fade and die.
The transfer window was an opportunity sadly and inexplicably lost. It sends out a terrible message to those players in the squad with ambition who might have believed something special could be built at West Ham. Finishing top four or winning the Europa League might have convinced those admired by the bigger clubs to stick around for a little bit longer. Such dreams have suddenly become far less attainable.