The club made it clear they wanted to sign players early due to the injury crisis at the time and the need to get players tied up before they moved on to other clubs. Joe Cole was signed right at the start of January. Like always, Harry Redknapp was our main competition and he wanted to bring back the boy he had spoken so fondly of when only a 14 year-old under his management. Anyone who was at the West Ham v Liverpool game and witnessed his lack of celebration or heard some of the things he was saying to people at the club before and after the game would have seen that he was very keen to return (as was reported on my Twitter – see my favourites). The club was keen on the signing but had concerns over his wages and the theory that he is unable to play more than two games a week. Once the wages were brought down to an affordable level, the risk was taken and so far, in the games that he has played, it seems to have been a worthwhile gamble.
Another played signed at the start of the window and was actually our first signing in January was “the Irish Messi” Sean Maguire. Let’s be honest, this was a minimal risk deal. If he turns out to be a tenth as good as Messi we have a real bargain on our hands. The player was recommended to the club by the same people who have brought over Shane Long, James McClean, Kevin Doyle and the Hunts for successful careers in England. He has won a number of young player awards in Ireland and the club expect big things from the signing.
Much to Jack Sullivan’s disapproval and Arsenal fans’ approval, Marouane Chamakh was the next to arrive. The club had been crying out for a new forward to add competition and I was/am prepared to give him a chance. This was a player who we had tried to sign in the past but he ended up going to Arsenal instead. He was very highly rated before his spell at Arsenal and was the first player to score in six consecutive champions league games. When he first arrived at Arsenal he looked the business but towards the end of his Arsenal career he looked a shadow of his former self. He is out of contract in the summer and will be very keen to impress. My feeling is that with our formation, and Andy Carroll the obvious number one forward, his chances will be very limited.
The next transfer that followed seemed to drag on more than an Eastenders storyline and prompted the Twitter trend amongst West Ham fans “”Where’s Welly?” The transfer of Wellington Paulista didn’t follow the usual procedures for transfers in my experience. The player announced he was joining the club before he had even been to England, way before a medical had been conducted and international clearance received. I am informed from a Brazilian contact that on his day he is a great talent but inconsistency is his real problem (a classic West Ham player in the making). Whilst the chairmen have recently confirmed to the well-sourced and reliable Sports Direct Website that they had no involvement in the transfer and it was Sam’s choice, I am told the same people involved in the Ilan deal were involved in this transfer. The player clearly was not fit when he arrived and has not been involved at all with the first team as yet. It will be interesting to see how much game time he gets in coming matches and once more wasn’t involved against Spurs.
The frantic start to the window eased off for a few weeks. The main reason for this was protracted negotiations with Blackburn for the transfer of Martin Olsson. The club were working within a tight budget in January as a lot of the budget was spent in the summer and the chairmen are very keen to reduce the debt and not pay over the odds for a player. When/if our premiership status is confirmed at the end of the season I expect a good budget then as well. Our tight budget meant we would not budge on what we would pay and Blackburn appeared to be playing a similar stubborn strategy. I have a feeling bad blood between Big Sam and Blackburn did not help this transfer run smoothly as well. With the deal looking dead we turned our attentions to Stephen Warnock. A long term target of Sam’s who, much to the club’s surprise, opted to join Leeds on a longer deal rather than join us, as it was believed to be a done deal.
With the window coming to a close we were being linked with players left, right and centre. Through the window, the list of players we were meant to be signing grew and grew with certain newspapers and “ITKs” helping to spread these names. The reality was none of these were in fact options and were methods used by agents to attract interest in their clients. It has regularly been commented on how this window was dominated by agents and, in fact, this worries me a lot about the game. The club made it very clear from the start of the window the budget was limited and this would also limit how much we spent on wages. Other stupid rumours continued to persist with loan signings as well, even though we had reached our loan limit. I actually started on Twitter to hope to bring some normality and accuracy to transfer windows, having read all the rubbish in the summer.
Emanuel Pogatetz became our final signing. Another player, who has had a decent career playing in the top flight of Germany, a solid performer in the premiership and a regular international footballer. Nicknamed “mad dog”, he was to provide centre back cover and fill in at left back if needed. It’s a tad too early to cast judgment on how good a signing he is. On the back of the Spurs game I think it is clear that he is a poor option at left back due a severe lack of pace. He clearly was at least third choice left back option, if that! My only glimmer of hope is that past “mad men” have usually gone on to become popular players at the club after difficult starts Repka being the obvious example. Put it this way things can only get better….
The club enquired about signing Paul Robinson, and Stephen Henderson was due to be used in the deal but again there were difficulties with negotiations with Blackburn and an injury meant this transfer didn’t happen and Henderson promptly returned to Ipswich after the deal collapsed. I think this would have been a good deal and I would be pleased for Jussi to be replaced. It seems very harsh to be writing this after a very good performance against Tottenham. I do think though that there have been only a few games where I would say he had a good game and even against Spurs, I might being harsh, but I felt other keepers may have stopped either the first or second goals.
It is too early to talk about summer transfer targets and our premiership status, stadium, manager’s contract and Andy Carroll transfer will need to be sorted out first. One thing that is for certain is that a number of players who are out of contract in the summer will be looked at. I listed a few on my Twitter but I expect the club will try to emulate the success of the Diame transfer and secure at least two early on in the window. There has been much talk of Figueroa of Wigan joining, and whilst it is too early to be confirmed, this transfer has a lot of validity and would certainly be an option. I will discuss some of the other summer targets in another blog.
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