Doncaster: Secrecy vital to Ashton's sale

CHRIS WISE Norwich City chief executive Neil Doncaster has defended his club's “wall of silence” stance during the protracted Dean Ashton transfer saga. And he gave a chronological guide to how City’s record transfer deal came about.


Norwich City chief executive Neil Doncaster has defended his club's “wall of silence” stance during the protracted Dean Ashton transfer saga.

The Canaries steadfastly refused to comment on weeks of speculation linking the striker with a move back to the Premiership with West Ham, saying they would only make a public statement if there was something concrete to report.

That drew some criticism from supporters who claimed they were not being kept properly informed on the future of City's record signing - and Doncaster admitted yesterday that he could fully understand their frustrations.

But he insisted the club had gone about its business in the correct manner - and that an open approach to transfer business would have “dramatically harmed” the club's best interests.

“The good relationship between this club and its fans is always going to be tested when you sell one of your good young players in circumstances where negotiations drag on for a length of time,” he said. “People care passionately about the club and it's future, and it's stars, and they want information.

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“It's easy to be clear about what happened now - but while talks were ongoing it was a lot more difficult.

“If we had gone out and made it clear what the status of the negotiations were with one club at every opportunity it would have kept supporters better informed. But it would also have dramatically harmed the club's best interests because West Ham would have known exactly where we were and the player and his agent would have known too.

“It serves the long-term future of this football club best if such business is done in private. While doing that we will always try and keep supporters appraised of what happens as best we can.

“We appreciate absolutely that it is a frustrating situation for fans - and that in the absence of concrete information rumour and speculation becomes rife.

“That's why we tell fans that if there is ever anything official to be announced then people will get that information on the club's website.”

City made just one public statement on Ashton throughout the drawn-out saga, and that came on Saturday lunchtime after a couple of national newspapers reported that an £8m deal with the Hammers had been struck. At that point nothing had been signed, while the figure was also incorrect, so Doncaster opted to put the record straight - even though he knew there was a possibility of the transfer being completed that day.

“To keep supporters informed of every twist and turn in a negotiation is ultimately damaging to a football club,” he said. “But in this case we thought it was important to say something. When the Daily Mail and Daily Express reported that we had agreed a fee of £8m for Dean we decided to make clear that that was not the case.”

Doncaster went on to reveal that the City board had turned down two massive bids for Ashton during the summer before finally deciding to sell him on when it became clear that he had his heart set on a move back to the top-flight.

“In answer to questions about the club's ambition after the sale of Dean Ashton we have to remember it was but a year ago that we brought him in for a club record transfer fee,” he said. “We fought off considerable interest to keep him during the summer, including two firm bids in the region of £6m from Premiership clubs. And we then extended Dean's contract - but when he made it entirely clear that he wanted to go, as much as the club remains ambitious, you have to face the reality of the situation.”

As for Ashton's decision to sign that improved deal, only to demand a move less than five months later, he added: “Football remains a kaleidoscope. You look through the window and each time there is a different picture. That's football - things are always changing. I should imagine that Dean, like everyone else, didn't anticipate the season would be such a big challenge. But we are where we are.

“I am sure when Dean signed that improved extended contract he didn't intend to leave the club in January. Circumstances move on, West Ham made their interest clear earlier this month and Dean and his advisors felt that moving on at this time was the right thing to do.”

t West Ham's bid to lure Dean Ashton away from Carrow Road got under way immediately after the FA Cup third round tie between the two sides, Neil Doncaster revealed yesterday.

City's chief executive was approached by his opposite number Paul Aldridge who declared his club's interest - and later slapped in a £6m bid for the striker.

Here is Doncaster's chronological guide to how City's record transfer deal came about:

“We first received contact from West Ham on the evening of the FA Cup game between the two sides on January 7,” he said. “Their managing director Paul Aldridge came to see me after the game and expressed an interest in buying Dean.

“I told him that we had no interest in selling. Later that evening West Ham contacted us again and made a bid of £6m for Dean.

“On Monday we declined that offer and later in the day the bid was raised to £7m, based on a guaranteed £6m plus £1m of contingencies.

“Negotiations then continued over the next two weeks, particularly surrounding a sell-on percentage. At one point during that process West Ham's interest in the player became apparent in the media which wasn't helpful.

“From that moment onwards, after Dean made it clear than he wanted to go, all we could do was make the best of the situation we found ourselves in - and achieve the best possible price.”

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