Wednesday, 17 April 2013

'Irish Messi' story revives

Soon we will be in the silly season when rumours about possible signings will fly around. It is always difficult to sift out which stories have any element of credibility (occasionally I get tips from people I do occasional work for in the media). It's clear that many stories start with agents: Club X has a serious interest in Player A, Club Y might be, so why not suggest Club Z might be as well to improve the chances of a lucrative signing? Other stories are the result of lazy journalism. A journo speculatively links a player with a club and others repeat the story so that it starts to acquire momentum.

Of course, one of the big question marks is how much money will be available in the summer. Unconfirmed stories last summer suggested that some prospective signings had to be shelved. It has been suggested that there was a period leading up to the summer last year when the club had significant cash flow problems. Rumours of administration have surfaced again in the last week or two, but I discount them.

Further outside investment in the club would enable us to strengthen the squad. Although the London football market is highly competitive, I think that the club remains an attractive prospect, particularly if the economy starts to revive, of which there are a few tentative signs. Some people are concerned about the threat to our support base posed by West Ham moving to the Olympic Stadium, including the Chicago Addick and Richard Hunt writing in the last VOTV. However, the river long stopped being the emotional barrier that it once was. (My father started as a West Ham supporter when he lived in North Woolwich, then part of Kent and Woolwich borough, but switched allegiance when he moved to Eltham). There have always been quite a lot of West Ham fans south of the river, not to mention Gooners. This is just a fact of life and if we could get our home form to match our away form, attendances and season ticket renewals would go up.

One sign that a story might have some basis to it is when it persists and re-surfaces. This is the case with Alan Judge of Notts County whose contract expires at the end of the season. The Magpies refused to sell him at the beginning of the year, despite an offer of £500,000 and a tractor from Ipswich Town. Given that County have ended up mid-table, they might as well have taken the money.

Judge, who was born in Dublin and is a former Republic of Ireland under-21 international, made his way up through the ranks at Blackburn Rovers and they are said to want to re-sign the 24-year old. However, the turmoil at Rovers might put him off, even if he was offered a freezer full of chicken pieces to sign. Brighton and Hove Albion are also interested in the so-called 'Irish Messi'. But reports are saying that we remain keen on him. Whether we could succeed in a bidding war, and whether he would be worth an inflated price and high wages, is a very open question.

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