We never lied about dealings wirh Dean
Unsurprisingly, following the completion of Dean Ashton's record transfer to West Ham on Monday evening, I have received a huge number of emails and letters from supporters expressing their views on the subject.
Unsurprisingly, following the completion of Dean Ashton's record transfer to West Ham on Monday evening, I have received a huge number of emails and letters from supporters expressing their views on the subject. Some supportive, others less so. And whilst everyone connected with the Club naturally feels disappointed that we are losing a good young player, most fans regard the price that we achieved for Dean as a very fair one. Even the West Ham manager, Alan Pardew, was quoted as saying that his club had “probably paid a little over the odds” for their man.
In circumstances where Dean himself had made it totally clear that he wanted to go, I do not believe we could have done any more. A player who is frustrated, unhappy to stay and sees his future elsewhere - to keep him against his will is not in the best interests of the club or the player himself.
In my column for the EDP a fortnight ago, I wrote: “While we cannot be as transparent as we would like throughout this transfer window, we will not lie to supporters. We have not done so and we will never do so.”
And with that in mind, it is extremely disappointing that so many supporters feel lied to by their club. When, at around 8 o'clock Saturday morning I received calls from the media asking for my comment on reports in the Press that we had completed an £8million deal for Dean, I had no idea that later that day, at 1.45pm, we would receive West Ham's best and final offer. And so I said that the story was not true - we hadn't sold Dean to West Ham for £8m. If I had known that West Ham would come back in for the player later that day, would I have said something different? Yes, in all probability I would. But football transfers aren't like that. You never know what is going to happen next, or when.
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In the modern game, with various live media wanting constant updates, particularly on a matchday, a statement that is entirely accurate at 8am, may be entirely out of date 12 hours later.
I suspect that there is a common misconception that in all transfers, someone, somewhere, knows everything that's going on. The truth couldn't be more different. We are simply one party in a very, very complex set of negotiations. Dealing with the player's agent, West Ham's managing director and of course Dean himself, in a situation where each party is trying to outmanoeuvre the others to get the best possible deal, means that transfer negotiations take on a life of their own.
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The whole Dean Ashton saga was discussed with our Supporters Consultative Group at its regular meeting last Monday evening. They felt that it would be useful to give supporters a summary of the timing of Dean's transfer - to show that we have been as open and honest as we could have been without jeopardising the transfer. Prior to the opening of the transfer window, Birmingham, Charlton, Wigan, Manchester City and Portsmouth had all been linked with Dean Ashton. But none of those clubs were in the slightest bit interested in bidding for the player at anywhere near the level we valued him at. The first firm interest I received from West Ham was at 6pm - just after our FA Cup game against the East London club. Paul Aldridge, West Ham's managing director came to see me to express interest in buying Dean. He was told that we did not want to sell. Later that evening, around 9.30pm, Mr Aldridge telephoned, offering £6million.
That offer was declined on Monday, January 9. But West Ham came back later that day, offering a further £1m of 'contingent payments' - some likely to arise, others less so. And over the course of the next fortnight, with countless phone calls between all sides, we got closer to the levels we felt were right. A key sticking point was a sell-on clause. West Ham don't generally agree sell-ons, but we insisted on 15%, should Dean be sold-on for a profit in the future. Eventually, just over an hour before kick-off last Saturday, West Ham came back with a final offer to make the deal happen.
Over the afternoon there followed a series of discussions - with Norwich City directors over the terms of the deal, and with Dean's agent over the player's entitlement to a percentage of the profit. Under the terms of his original contract, and his revised deal last summer, Dean was entitled to a 10pc sell-on - £400,000 on the profit of £4million - something that is increasingly common in players' contracts.
After the match we spoke with Nigel and, finally, at around 7pm Saturday evening, the deal was agreed. Dean would waive the whole of his January salary and bonuses, all his December bonuses, the whole of his outstanding signing-on fee and £30,000 of his £400,000 sell-on. And at 7.45pm we received the signed contract from West Ham.
Many supporters, I am sure, will feel that we could and should have told them more about what had been happening over the past few weeks - which clubs were bidding what and when. And I would very much like to have done so, in keeping with the spirit of openness and transparency that we hold so dear.
But to have done so, to have put in the public domain the precise information which Dean's agent and West Ham would love to have had, would only have created far more questions in the minds of supporters. And, more importantly, could well have resulted in Norwich City getting a much poorer deal than we ended up with.
And whilst I remain disappointed that we were forced to sell a good young player, I am confident that we got the best possible price for him - particularly where no other club was willing to join the bidding and create an 'auction'.
Not everything we do will be greeted by universal acclaim by fans. I accept that. But I hope that supporters understand that every single decision that we make at Carrow Road is motivated by one factor alone - the long-term best interests of the Club. For supporters today, but also for the supporters of tomorrow. Sometimes difficult decisions need to be taken by clubs - and it is vital that Norwich City continues to do not what is easy, but what is right. And I am confident that, in relation to Dean Ashton, we have done so.
On The Ball, City!