Often Partisan

A Long January

I’m not a fan of the transfer window. It’s a time of frenetic activity on the part of broadcasters like Sky Sports News, and a time of panic and worry on the part of Birmingham City fans. You know what it’s like; announcements in the news we’re in for X for £Ymillion, and then for whatever reason the signing breaks down and we end up signing our eighth choice target Z instead. Or so it seems.

When the ownership of the club changed, I hoped that things would change for the better. No more spin about “ten million pound players” , no more bids for players that would obviously fail, no more protracted transfer sagas that would end in tragedy. Alas, it would seem the more things change, the more they stay the same. Despite having new owners from a completely different background, we still struggle to sign our first choice targets, for whatever reason. It makes for a frustrating month, and one that I can honestly admit I don’t look forwards to.

So where does it all go wrong? Why do we take two weeks to fail to sign Robbie Keane, when our hated neighbours wrap up Darren Bent, smashing their transfer record, in 48 hours? I don’t believe the answers are as simple as people make out, as I intend to show. I’m lucky in that I have a bit of an insight into the way things work, and I hate to say it’s not like Football Manager.

First of all, you have to ask why some transfers are covered so heavily in the news. If a deal is leaked into the news, it’s because someone wants to force the issue. It could be the agent trying to drum up some interest for his client, to get a better deal wages-wise; it could be the buying club trying to unsettle a player so that the selling club will settle for a cheaper deal; it could be the selling club trying to get a better price for their player. Whichever it is, there is undoubtedly a monetary reason behind it.

I won’t pass comment on the Darren Bent deal, libel laws being what they are. All I would say is to draw attention to Sunderland making mention of Bent being off-form and out of sorts for a while, as if his mind was somewhere else. In the Robbie Keane case though, even ‘Arry Redknapp (a manager I loathe for more reasons I won’t go into) had something to say about it. It struck me that Keane was never going to join us from the outset of the fee being agreed on Sky Sports News. It had been so off/on for the week beforehand, I would have thought that if Keane had have wanted to come it would have come out that he did. It didn’t, however, and I suspect that if he does move on it will be to a London club.

With the advent of football management games (and I’ll admit, I’m a Football Manager fiend), it’s easy to think transfer fees are easy to agree. Some people seem to labour under the misapprehension that if a fee is agreed, then the buying club pays that money down – this is often not so. Even without add-ons agreed as part of the fee, often a transfer fee is paid in installments – I’ve heard of fees being paid over four years. Thus sometimes it’s not just the price itself, but the time period it is going to be paid over.

Wages aren’t as simple as saying “we’ll pay you £xthousand per week, over a two year contract”. Length of contract, win bonuses, appearance bonuses, other bonuses, relegation clauses etc all complicate a deal thoroughly. For example, if we were to offer Robbie Keane £60,000 per week basic wage for two and a half years, that would cost Birmingham City FC £7.8million, without taking into account any bonuses, tax or NI. Bearing in mind that the club currently takes less than that sum in in matchday income over an entire year, it makes sense for the club to be prudent. Should we (God forbid) go down in May, then having players on that sort of wage is a recipe for administration.

All that being said though, the word I am hearing on the grapevine is that things haven’t changed all that much. The problem that the Chinese have is that football isn’t like any other business; it’s incredibly risky. Football requires millions of pounds investment every year just for the team to survive in the Premiership; to progress to “the next level” requires a massive sum of money, and there is no guarantee of it succeeding. It’s all well and good being long term planners, but the short term has to be looked after as well, and I don’t think that the board quite understand yet that may require large amounts of money.

Not only that, but I don’t believe that the board understand that whilst they spent a fair chunk of money in the last window, people quickly forget that when the team is faced with a relegation scrap. Football is a tough industry, and if you’re not ready to take it on by the horns, it will chew you up and spit you out. Whilst it might be financially prudent in the long term to say no to Robbie Keane because the ROI may not be good enough and his resale value may be negligible, if it’s his goals that have kept us up in essence it’s worth thirty million quid plus to us. There are now ten days left in the window, and it’s a bit like ten to two in a nightclub. You failed miserably with the stunner, and you don’t want to go home alone, so you have to make do with the average bird that will probably go back with you. It’s either that, or wait until the lights flash on and you’re left facing the dregs everyone left behind or a lonely cab ride home and another night of failure – neither of which appeals.

If I could get a message across to the board and the manager, it would be simple. If we can’t afford “established” talent, the fans will forgive you signing young and upcoming players from the lower reaches that have potential. They’ll get behind players that they think are going to give their all for their shot at the big time. If the big time charlies don’t want to come to little ol’ Brum, then let’s go for the next generation. If you can’t afford anyone at all, then don’t give us false hope – just be up front and honest. Yes, some fans might be fickle enough to demand a change in ownership, but most will accept that and move on.

Ten more days of this. I’m not sure I can take any more of it. As Green Day might sing, wake me up when January ends.

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One Response to “A Long January”

  • Kevin says:

    What you say makes sense however because of the mix of Sport and Finance its not ok to hold back on essential signings unless the Board are content in the possibility that the Club could be relegated. The worrying aspect of this season is that currently any 3 teams from 12 could be relegated, no one team has been cast adrift as in past seasons and the last time the Blues went down they really did not deserve too as there were far worse sides around them that managed to survive one more season. You are correct in the previous article that its not just a goal scorer thats required but the defence needs to be strengthened, its almost impossible in this transfer window to buy a proven goal scorer due to clubs not wanting to sell, defenders however are easier to find. Its up to the board to start believing that this club is a Premier Club not Championship and allowing the manager ample funds to keep them there. Maybe it is the Chinese mentality of underpaying their workers who knows but the promised funds just have not materialized. As for Players wags well all clubs face that hurdle and if the Blues don’t want to be part of that game well so be it but please do not complain about not being able to attract good players when they can get more at another club. The heart of the Blues is their fantastic loyal supporters. I grew up in Small Heath in the 1950’s and up to now the fans have been through many ups and downs but always they have Kept Right on to the End of the Road and will keep on doing so well after we are all long gone. I want the Bord to stop all this Loan stuff, it costs the Club no matter what in wages but at the end of the Loan they have no asset to sell. Time for Mr Yeung to dip into his extensive savings and get some experienced and agree with you some young players in to keep the Club in the premiership and continue to improve the quality in July and August. Birmingham City FC are a Premiership Club for God’s sake, let the Blackpool’s and Wigan’s of the world go back into the Championship, not the 2nd City of England.
    By the way you may be surprised to know I am an Aston Villa (or Vile as you call us) supporter but one who believes that the City needs two strong sides and also that the Blues supporters have had enough of sweet talk and promises from countless Boards over the years.

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