Month: July 2017

Stop the transfer train because I want to get off

In the early hours of Wednesday morning I tuned into the ‘Premier League Asia Trophy Preview’ while whittling my way through a packed Sky+ planner.

Said programme was an interview hosted by Sky Sports presenter David Jones, who spoke to four managers: Frank de Boer, Tony Pulis, Craig Shakespeare and Jurgen Klopp, as the title suggests, previewing the forthcoming pre-season tournament, the Asia Trophy.

Maybe watching such a show at the barbaric hour of 3am had the effect, but it seemed like I was in a world where all control had been lost, or maybe this was just an all-too-accurate reflection of Planet Transfer Market once the activity of Crystal Palace, West Brom, Leicester City and Liverpool was discussed.

Unlike in the eyes of most others though, the main issue is not necessarily people like Kyle Walker commanding circa £50 million fees – that is just the price you pay for mega-bucks television deals and English players, especially half-decent ones, being so few and far between.

No. What the real problem is, is the tremendous titillation of it all.

Presenter Jones, who emphasised the word ‘transfers’ in his introduction to the segment with so much vigour that it seemed Tourette-like, was, to be fair to him, just doing his job as the Sky Sports mouthpiece to what has long-been the entertainment within the entertainment.

In what is a ‘Chicken and Egg’ scenario, there is an issue football has now where the amount of people interested in the 90 minutes is decreasing while the hullabaloo before and after it seems to be sky-rocketing. Any print media journalist asked the difference in readership figures between the match report and the ‘Player X linked to Club Y’ story will tell you that.

How could you not be excited when, in the words of Jones, “all managers are battling the transfer spending, which is hitting new levels”?

The managers themselves are not getting caught up in it though. Pulis labelled it “ridiculous”, de Boer “crazy” and Shakespeare admitted he “doesn’t really like it, but you have to accept it.”

Klopp, who previously quipped Germany is still normal with players still moving clubs for fees such as £5 million and £7 million, put it better than anybody else, however.

When asked if he was planning any more incomings for the Liverpool fans with “baited breath” (again, a phrase fired from Jones’ mouth like a bullet out of a gun), he responded: “Look. There’s nothing I could say that could help.

“We are interested in a lot of players around the world, but at the moment I’m working with the squad I have. With all respect, that’s my job in the first place.

“If I go into training and think: Oh my God, still them? That’s not okay, but that’s the first part of the job – nobody thinks about improvement and development of the players you have.”

The crux of the matter though is why is nobody thinking about improvement and development? Is it all just too dull?

There is no flashy ‘totaliser’ for every player a manager improves instead of buying, there is no bold yellow strap at the bottom of a screen when an 18-year-old gets his first start and there is certainly no all-day event that some joke should be a national holiday quite like the perpetual damp squib that is Transfer Deadline Day.

Maybe it is time to get off the transfer train, maybe we missed our stop a long time ago, and, if so, maybe we are approaching the end of the line, we just need to hope we are not going completely off the rails.

 

 

Advertisements

Charlie Colkett: How a move to Holland may be the making of the Chelsea midfielder

A Chelsea youth product signing a season-long loan deal at feeder club Vitesse Arnhem is nothing new, but the Dutch club being the making of one of those players just might be.

The love-in between the current Premier League champions and Vitesse of Holland has always been a contentious one, not least because it practically never leads to Chelsea promoting any of the loaned-out kids to the first-team fold.

What Vitesse have managed to do, however, is be the first step, at least, to a more successful career, more often than not, away from Stamford Bridge.

Nemanja Matic, who was one of the first to move to Arnhem in 2010 when the link was first born, is the most, and arguably only notable success of those that remain in west London, but even he was sold to Benfica, and then bought back a few years later.

Patrick van Aanholt have all gone on to establish decent career for himself at the likes of Sunderland and Crystal Palace while Christian Atsu and Bertrand Traore have departed this summer after different successful loan spells at Newcastle and Ajax.

Even Dominic Solanke, who had a decent spell at Vitesse two seasons ago (scoring seven goals in 25 games) got sick of being patient and declined a new contract at Chelsea to move to Premier League rivals Liverpool for a fee pending tribunal.

He wasted no time in showing Chelsea what they might end up missing, as he was named the best player at this summer’s Under-20 World Cup, which England won.

Meanwhile, Charlie Colkett, who captained Chelsea to back-to-back UEFA Youth Leagues (the under-19 Champions League) and back-to-back FA Youth Cups, is already in the process of having to rebuild his career somewhat, at the tender age of 20, after two loan spells in England’s third tier that left an awful lot to be desired.

A loan move to Bristol Rovers did not go quite as planned, with Colkett struggling to really set fire to the Gas, who Colkett admits never suited his playing style anyway. So much so that Chelsea recalled him in January and immediately sent him back out on loan, to West Country rivals Swindon.

Swindon over the past few seasons have garnered a reputation for a passing style of play, or a “footballing background” which Colkett says attracted him to the Robins, but with Town in a perilous position, easing their way down into League Two, Colkett was on a hiding to nothing through little fault of his own.

Irate fans are not going to take easily to a Fancy Dan trickster while getting out-fought and out-thought by Scunthorpe.

However, with Vitesse being a good standard of side – they qualified for the Europa League last season, it should give Colkett more freedom to be, Charlie Colkett.

Off the pitch, in interviews at least, Colkett is painfully shy and rarely answers a question with more than one sentence, but when on grass, all that fades away and, to use a well-worn cliche, he lets his football do the talking.

Even when not having the best of times at Bristol Rovers and Swindon that was more than apparent, with a couple of flicks against MK Dons and Coventry soon lashed into ‘Best Skills’ compilation videos.

In a league such as the Eredivisie, which has always favoured the flashy and the flamboyant, a player such as Colkett should thrive, much like fellow English midfielder Lewis Baker did last season, as he netted 15 goals in all competitions, which made him their second-top scorer last campaign.

Realistically, Colkett will never make the grade at Chelsea but if and when he is sold on for a healthy profit like so many more before him, he could well be looking back at his year in the Netherlands more favourably than the English lower tiers.