So, Leon wants out. On the one hand it came as a shock, on the other, this is Leon “I’ve played for 83 clubs” Clarke. Of course he wants to leave.
With this in mind, Sky Blues Blog columnist Jim Lee has been doing a bit of soul-searching regarding the struggles and decisions we may be faced with over the course of January.
Take it away, James..
By Jim Lee
Happy New Year everybody, it’s January! And you know what January means? January means making resolutions that we’ll have cast aside by February. January means half your mates refusing to leave the house on a Friday because they’re pursuing the purity of a “dry” month. And apparently, January also plays host to the female equivalent of Movember, disturbingly named “Fanuary”. Ahem.
Fortunately for us all, I won’t be talking about any of those things. But I will have a natter about something else January brings. It’s that spectre looming large over us all. You know it. It’s the feeling of intense fear that all our good players are going to be pinched by massive clubs. Otherwise known as Huddersfield, Bournemouth, and the likes.
This January is no different. With the club performing with uncharacteristic brilliance in the most challenging circumstances, it’s only natural that our standout names will be bandied about as potential targets. Whether there is much basis to said banding is hard to determine; but regardless, it happens. This year, Cyrus Christie and Leon Clarke are the names that keep coming up.
The value of the transfer fee
With theoretical exits being touted, the discussion so often turns to what we’d let a player leave for. This has particularly been true of Christie, who is out of contract in the summer, with seemingly no desire to put ‘pen to paper’ on a new deal. The tweeting public begin throwing about acceptable figures, proclaiming that we may as well “cash in” while we can, and that 500k / 1m / 1.5m will do.
The “acceptable” figures for “cashing in” on a player seem to be largely based upon the perceived market rate of this type of player. “A young, flashy, attacking full-back doing a good job in League One?! Yeah, he must be worth a good 500k!”
And it may well be the case that the going rate for that type of player is indeed 500k. So, it’s 500k or nothing; and 500k is better than nothing, yeah?!
Well, I’m going to challenge the logic on that one. Stick with me…
The real value of the transfer fee
Let’s ask a question. For argument’s sake, if we get 500k for Christie, rather than nothing, where is the money going? Why I think this is a particularly pertinent question for us, in particular, is because of the situation the club finds itself in.
At most ‘normal’ clubs, getting a 500k fee for a player would probably lead to discussions on what other players could be available for 500k. Perhaps a worthy replacement, or even two, could be bought in for that money? Maybe so, and hence we, as supporters, could justify it.
But I see CCFC as a bit of a financial anomaly at the moment. With the club playing miles from home in front of pitiful crowds, I don’t really know for sure how the model of the club is being held together. We’re told that the owners are “funding the losses” over this period, and this seems to be the case (although, to be fair, we’re also now raking in the revenue from those pie sales – eh?). But with the model so disrupted and diverged from the ‘norm’, I do have a little trouble believing the idea that any money coming in would then be ploughed into filling gaps in the squad.
Basically – what I’m getting at is that I don’t have faith that any transfer fees would be invested into improving the team (or adequately plugging the holes left by absences, as the case may be). Given our situation, it’s a reasonable assumption that incoming fees (or a chunk of them, anyway) may just go towards prettying up the balance sheet.
I don’t want that. I want to see the most competitive team possible on the pitch. I want to see us challenge. I doubt I’m in the minority, either.
Maybe I’m being naïve and inconsiderate of the club’s financial position. The crowds are very low and income undoubtedly suffering. The shortfall needs to be made up somewhere, and if selling a player presents a chance to do that, perhaps it’s in the interests of the club’s health to sell. However, my view is that the owners alone should foot any losses associated with their Ricoh land-grab game. But I digress…
The table never lies
Speaking purely in footballing terms, we’re in decent shape right now. That probably seems like a completely bizarre statement, considering our squad is so thin that we played a centre back as a striker the other day. We’re already operating with a badly depleted squad, but purely from a league table perspective, it’s not a bad spot to be sat – just within touching distance of the playoffs (and, in +10pts land, safely within them). Remarkable, really.
Yeah, we’re still an outside shot. But as Grace put so eloquently (presumably about a similar situation); “it’s not over, not over, not over, not over yet”. There’s still a fair way to go, and if we string together a run, who knows?
Situations like this come about rarely for us; and God knows if we’ll have anything like a similar look-in next year. If we’re going to roll the dice and have a shot at it, we want to put our best dice-throwing hand forward. (That isn’t even close to being a ‘thing’, but I’m sure you get the sentiment).
So when I say I want to see the most competitive team on the pitch as possible, it’s with good reason. It’s because we maybe ACTUALLY have a shot at achieving something. For once.
Through the crosshairs
And so to the players in question. What chance with them, and what chance without them?
Suggestions from many suggest we could afford to lose Cyrus in this window, due to energetic young whippersnapper Aaron Phillips clipping at his heels. I’m a huge admirer of Phillips, and love the manner in which he has introduced himself to us this season. Am I comfortable with him starting at right-back? Absolutely. Do I think we’re in a better situation with Cyrus gone and Aaron as our primary senior right-back? Absolutely not.
He has his detractors here and there, but all in all, Cyrus is hugely important to us. He’s grown into a player of real stature; you can see it just in the way he carries himself. The end product may not always be there, but he does pose a threat. Even with a ready-made replacement in waiting, losing that type of player is undoubtedly negative.
Furthermore, having an acceptable replacement may seem reasonable enough reason to allow a departure; but do we really want to have yet another position where we’re short of cover? Do we not have enough of that across the rest of the park?! What if Phillips gets injured? Or what if, as a young player, he just suffers a dip in form? We’d feel silly “cashing in” then, wouldn’t we? Would the 500k be worth it if we ended up three points outside the play-offs?
As you can tell, I’d rather we kept Christie. As for the other Mr C, my feelings are tenfold.
Within the last few hours of “going to print” (i.e. typing this in the hope that it will get published), Twitter has gone mad as Leon Clarke make be on his bike; cycling up to Wolverhampton, or whichever other city an obscure Sky Sports related account has linked him with.
This is the one that really worries me. If I feel iffy about our right-back leaving, in spite of the cover we have at right-back, can you imagine what I reckon to one of our strikers leaving? God forbid.
It’s not any old striker either. Leon continually pops up with goals when we need them. Bloody loads of them. From the first time we saw him in the JPT against Preston, through to last week in the Cup at Barnsley. Goals goals goals.
Remember too, we have this horrible tendency to concede. We’re only where we are because we score so many; of which Leon is more than just a bit-part contributor. He is vital.
Let’s cram all the above into a paragraph.
Letting Leon go (and to a lesser extent, letting Cyrus go) would be pretty short-sighted in my reckoning. I don’t subscribe to the argument of “cashing in while we can”; simply because I don’t think we’ll see anything but competitive disadvantage arise from it.
And sod it. I just want a bit of bloody glory.
No deal, Mr Banker!
You can follow Jim on Twitter @_threeofclubs