Thursday, January 3, 2013
Chris Hughton proved to be something of a master of the political art of saying a lot without saying anything at all when he responded to questions over Norwich City’s activity in the transfer market this month.
“We are working hard, there is no doubt about that, and on most occasions when you do that you hope that you can be successful. But it is making sure that anything we do is right for this football club.
“What we won’t do is strengthen in areas that we don’t think is right for us.”
It’s the time of year when speculation reaches, as they say, fever pitch. When keyboards throughout the land are red hot as speculative stories are churned out by the dozen.
While much of the end product is way off the mark, most of it is substantive. Robin van Persie won’t be signing for Norwich, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for a new striker at Carrow Road.
Hughton, reportedly at Celtic for their game against Motherwell yesterday, has been linked with a number of names, most of them from overseas – although Crystal Palace’s Glenn Murray is said to be the subject of a £3m bid after scoring 22 goals in his last 21 games.
Who comes in will be highly interesting, but there is also a question of who goes out – if anyone.
Cardiff City were recently rumoured to be keen on keeping Simon Lappin, who has just returned from a loan deal with former Norwich City defender Malky Mackay’s excellent side. That rumour has waned a little, but may still have a few legs.
Hughton may have decisions to make on the likes of Lappin, Chris Martin, Korey Smith, James Vaughan, Elliott Ward and Daniel Ayala – all of whom are either out on loan or just returning. Jacob Butterfield is in a similar position, but as a Hughton signing who was sent out on loan as part of his return to fitness after injury, you have to think he has rather more opportunities ahead.
Korey Smith was an interesting inclusion on the bench at West Ham on New Year’s Day, having spent much of his time away from Carrow Road over the past 12 months.
With a clutch of players looking set to miss Saturday’s FA Cup third round tie at Peterborough United, Smith and Lappin, perhaps more than any others, will be hoping to feature – although that may not necessarily answer the question over their futures at Norwich. Shop windows are always mentioned during the sales and London Road might just provide some good viewing for potential suitors. On the other hand, Hughton will want them fit and ready if he needs to promote them from the fringes to the first team bench, or beyond.
You don’t have to have been out on loan – Marc Tierney – or particularly ‘fringey’ – Steve Morison – to be the subject of speculation.
Outside of Carrow Road, the sums of money changing hands will, in most places, be substantially larger.
The Premier League big boys will dabble – perhaps even the smaller fish with a few quid burning a hole in their pocket will have a go. Queens Park Rangers simply have to if they are to survive, while others will look rather longer and harder at the figures and decide to err on the side of caution.
Transfer windows can be tough on all concerned – and they don’t always work out. Fernando Torres moved from Liverpool to Chelsea two years ago for a staggering £50m. At the end of the same window, Liverpool paid Newcastle £35m for Andy Carroll.
Sir Alex Ferguson is not fond of the mid-season window.
“The January transfer market has never been the best transfer market and that has been proven over the years with very few big transfers happening,” he said. “All the big transfers happen in the summer.”
Fortunately for him, United are top of the league and favourites for yet another title.
Other managers need strengthening for a number of reasons: in their attempts to catch Fergie; in their attempts to remain established in the top flight, with European football a target; in their attempts to simply stay in it for another, cash-laden season.
Whichever position they are in, the window sometimes prompts costly acts of desperation, subterfuge and deceit.
No wonder Hughton is happy to tell us absolutely nothing at all, but ensuring we have a soundbite anyway.