Summer ins and outs
So there we have it: after three months of fevered speculation the transfer window has shut. I for one am delighted because now I can get back to my daily routine and the focus can now turn to on-the-field matters.
The big question, of course, is: have Rovers had a good transfer window? Let’s look back at what has happened during the course of this summer’s transfer window.
The window began with the departure of Phil Jones to Manchester United. There had been speculation since January that Jones would leave Rovers this summer. He was courted by all the top clubs — United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool — and it was no surprise that he moved on, but like many things this summer the Jones transfer turned into a saga. It transpired that he had a release clause in his contract set at £16 million, which United activated. The player agreed to the move and United expected to seal the deal, but Venky’s decided that they wanted more than £16 million and kicked up a huge fuss claiming that the £16 million clause only allowed Jones to talk to interested clubs and didn’t mean that Rovers had to sell him at the price. Liverpool then came in with a £22 million bid, but Jones was determined to join Manchester United. After days of wrangling a deal was finally agreed. While the transfer fee remains undisclosed, it is understood that United paid £16.5 million up front with a further £3.5 million due in the form of performance-based add-ons. The Jones transfer saga seems to have gone down well with the fans, with many delighted that the owners fought for a better deal; however, the national media was less complimentary, with many journalists claiming that this was another example of Venky’s naivety.
With the Jones transfer complete, thoughts turned to incoming activity. Going into July there was a lot of optimism that the club was about to make a huge splash in the transfer market, with Rovers manager Steve Kean claiming that the transfer budget was “very healthy”. This sense of optimism was further heightened by national media speculation that Steve Kean had a £50 million war-chest. Now the real fun began, and within a matter of days Rovers were being linked with big-money transfer swoops for Papiss Cisse, Alexander Witsel and Pablo Piatti, to name but a few, and the BRFCS messageboard exploded with excitement as it seemed that Rovers were indeed on the verge of something very special.
As July wore on, however, optimism turned to doubt, doubt turned to frustration, and frustration turned to anger. None of the high-profile signings had materialised and Rovers had started to hold talks with players who were on free transfers, but they couldn’t even get those deals done. Rovers’ transfer policy had become a joke. National media ridiculed Rovers and fans wondered what on earth was going on. Where a month earlier the BRFCS messageboard had been full of excitement, now there was anger, despondency and depression. It now seems that Rovers had indeed been after these high-profile players, but it is alleged that the relationship between Venky’s and their advisors Kentaro broke down in July and this was the reason why all transfer activity was suspended as the owners took stock of the situation.
Into August, with the season fast approaching and many fans feeling an increasing sense of despair, finally there was a ray of hope — finally it seemed that things were starting to move. Slowly but surely talk of free transfers subsided and Rovers started to be linked with young and upcoming players. Fans were more buoyant; newspapers continued to pour scorn. I am reliably informed that once Venky’s had taken stock, they decided to change the transfer procedures: Kentaro were sidelined and transfers were now to be done in house with the likes of Paul Hunt, Anthony Bloch and Venny Rao working together to get deals done. Allegedly the owners did not want to pay the agent fees that were being demanded.
So with new transfer procedures in place things started to move. Radosav Petrovic arrived from Partizan Belgrade for £2.5 million (plus add-ons) to bolster the midfield and David Goodwillie arrived from Dundee United for £2 million (plus add-ons). There was now renewed optimism which was further heightened by the arrival of the highly rated Simon Vukcevic, while unknown Brazilian full-back Bruno Ribeiro had been brought in on a free transfer. On the outgoing front, Niko Kalinic left for Russian side Dnipro, fans’ favourite Keith Andrews went to Ipswich on loan and Brett Emerton was allowed to leave on a free transfer to Sydney FC in his native Australia after eight years’ service to the club. There was now speculation that they would add Greek-American defender George John of MLS side Dallas FC and Bosnian striker Vedad Ibisevic of Hoffenheim. Negotiations with both players were reported to be at the advanced stages, but, as transfer deadline day approached, suddenly these deals were halted and there was concern that Rovers would not strengthen further. Any concern was short-lived, however, as highly rated defender Scott Dann arrived from Birmingham CIty on transfer deadline day for a reported fee of £6 million, while Yakubu was brought in from Everton and, as the window was about to shut, young striker Jordan Slew was snapped up for around £1 million from Sheffield United.
A good transfer window?
So, to go back to the original question “Have Rovers had a good transfer window?” it is perhaps easier to answer this by looking at each department of the team:
Defensively, with the addition of Scott Dann, Rovers now have the makings of a formidable centre-back partnership. Dann and Samba are both very highly rated defenders and outside the top 5 it is as good a partnership as there is and this should give Rovers defensive stability. The position where there is concern is at right-back. Michel Salgado has started to show his age and, with the departure of Brett Emerton and with the unknown Bruno Ribeiro providing cover, Rovers seem very light in that position. Generally, however, Rovers should be fine defensively.
Rovers now have an array of options in midfield. There are three defensive midfielders on the books — Nzonzi, Petrovic and Grella — with the likes of Pedersen and Dunn able to play more attacking roles. Simon Vukcevic further reinforces the midfield and is an excellent addition who could be one of the bargain transfers of the summer. Added to this you have Junior Hoilett and Martin Olsson, who could now be pushed further forward with Givet slotting in at left-back. Ruben Rochina can also play in the wide positions. It is fair to say the midfield is now not an area of major concern.
The attack is the one area of huge concern. The summer started with Rovers desperate for a regular goalscorer. Our top scorers last season mustered only five goals and the Rovers nearly paid the penalty for a lack of goals. Roque Santa Cruz and Mame Diouf went back to their respective clubs at the end of their loan deals and Niko Kalinic has been sold. That left Rovers with Jason Roberts. Rovers have added the promising David Goodwillie and the experienced Yakubu, while Mauro Formica has been playing the second striker role and has made a very promising start to the season. Ruben Rochina played and scored twice in the Carling Cup tie against Sheffield Wednesday and shows a huge amount of potential. The fact remains, though, that Rovers at the moment do not have a reliable goalscorer that can guarantee 15–20 goals each season, and this could cause major problems. While it is true that we have players of potential, it is a huge risk to rely on these unproven players. If we look back at last season, the reason that Birmingham got relegated was that they didn’t have a proven goalscorer.
This has been a very mixed window. There have been some good signings and there have been some signings which have potential, but I hope that the decision not to sign a top striker does not come back to haunt Rovers. Moreover, the summer has seen the club’s reputation further deteriorate, mainly due to outlandish statements made by the manager and owners regarding Champions League football which have not been backed up by sufficient spending in the transfer market and also due to the outward appearance that the owners do not know what they are doing.
Questions also need to be answered about the financial situation. Rovers received transfer fees of at least £23 million, which, coupled with the alleged £10 million transfer budget that we had, would have given Kean £33 million as the owners had promised to reinvest all money from sales. However, Rovers have spent in the region of £18 million, so where has the rest of the money gone?
I hope that Venky’s have learnt some lessons and that come the next transfer window the same mistakes are not repeated. Now that the window has closed it is time for everyone to focus on supporting the team. Rovers are pointless after the first three games and face a battle for survival under Steve Kean. We can only hope that the signings will help us in this battle. Whether Steve Kean is the right man to take the club forward, however, is a question for another day.
Discuss the summer transfer window activities on the forum here.