Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The value of the Pound - More on Andy Johnson

It seems record breaking transfers can create a bit of a stir. The club is due to confirm the signing of Andy Johnson at a press conference today alongside new right back Fredrick Stoor.

In response to my concerns about the cost of Andy Johnson, both Rich CCN and Colin CatB offered compelling arguments that a 10 goal a season striker is actually quite hard to come by and also very much worth having. Obviously there's no guarantees that AJ will score 10 but they are right that he has a decent track record of doing so. Rich also mentioned his pace, which is definitely something I think we're missing right now. Kamara had pace but too often didn't look like he knew what to do when his pace had found him a bit of time and space. However, even these arguments failed to make me completely at ease with breaking our record transfer fee.

With the deal taking a typically Fulhamish length of time to complete I've had plenty of time to ponder the pros and cons. Something that has crossed my mind is what a £13Million pound transfer REALLY means. When Spurs signed Darren Bent for £18Million last season a Spurs supporting friend at work (who suffered no end of grief from Arsenal colleagues) countered that whilst the fee might eventually have reached that figure, Tottenham certainly hadn't just splashed out the full amount from the off. In today's modern transfer market there are all sorts of conditions that affect the final price you end up paying. That means we may be paying something like an £8Million fee up front but the rest would only come after so many appearances for the club, a set number of England caps, maybe even a number of goals scored. In fact we may even be paying the initial fee in installments. It seems the credit crunch might even affect your common or garden Premier League chairmen.

Of course it's unlikely we'll ever know the exact terms of the deal. Fulham are the kings of the "Undisclosed" transfer, and even if we do announce a figure it's unlikely to go into the intimate details. For some reason that helps me feel more comfortable with the whole business. With the dust settled and Johnson soon to be a confirmed part of our team it's all largely irrelevant anyway. I'm ready to start singing his name - let's get this season started!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Price Of Success?

A lot has been said about the proposed move of Andy Johnson from Everton over the last few weeks. It's very hard to work out when paper talk is real or fiction, but with prolonged and continuing claims from a wide range of sources it would seem that we are definitely interested and working quite hard to secure his services.

My experience of seeing him play is pretty limited. I remember him setting the league alight in his first Premier League season with Crystal Palace. A lot of those 22 goals came from penalties and there was much discussion about how easily he went down in the box. He looked pretty sharp when he played against us at the Cottage. He scored (a penalty of course) but faded as the game went on and we recorded a comfortable 3-1 win. Since moving to Everton he's stayed on his feet a lot more and has (appropriately) seen a subsequent drop in his goals tally. In fact looking at his last six seasons (even allowing for the difference in quality between leagues) there is a clear decline in his goal totals.

2002-03 C.Palace Championship 14 goals
2003-04 C.Palace Championship 32 goals - Promoted
2004-05 C.Palace Premier League 22 goals - Relegated & England debut
2005-06 C.Palace Championship 17 goals - Lost in playoff final
2006-07 Everton Premier League 12 goals
2007-08 Everton Premier League 10 goals

If his transfer fee was lower I don't think this would seem as quite so big an issue.
Playing for Everton he was one of maybe four contenders for a starting place, at Palace he was probably the first name on the team sheet. Moving to Fulham might give him that status again and provide greater opportunity to show the league what he's got. However, when a fee is reported of £10.7Million it's not surprising we fans start to get a little agitated.

For one thing there's a feeling we're being ripped off. Everton paid £8.6Million for him back in 2006 and there's not much evidence to suggest he's improved in that time. He has added to his England caps but is a long way from being considered one of the prime squad members. There's also the concern that the last time we spent this much money - and if the figure is true we are looking at a total that is only £300k below our all-time record fee - it all went horribly wrong. Steve Marlet wasn't a bad player per-say but he struggled to shrug off the expectations of an enormous transfer fee. For a club of our size to pay so much money suggests high expectations at management and board level which AJ can only really meet by scoring a lot of goals.

Should it really matter to us what price the club pay? Should it affect our judgement of how good a player is? I think it does matter. I think it is fair to have greater expectations of a player that cost £10Million compared to a player that cost £3Million. That said I'm happy to leave these decisions in the hands of Roy Hodgson. If he thinks Johnson is worth that sort of money then I'm content to accept that he is. Roy has talked of building a squad of 20 or so core players, increasing the quality so that any of those players are capable of performing for us, reducing the number of fringe players who aren't up to scratch and looking for players who are intelligent users of the ball. These are exciting times again. We earned a reprieve from certain relegation and now we're doing our best to make sure that doesn't happen again. If AJ completes his move I hope he plays a big part in doing just that.

Monday, July 21, 2008

HEC Normal service resumed

OK, it's been two months but I'm back ... well, after a fashion.

There are lots of good Fulham blogs around now, so rather than just repeat the same stuff I'm going to take a step back and re-evaluate what I write. My original reason for starting this blog was to keep track of the games I attended and events of each season. I'll be focussing a bit more on doing just that and keeping HEC a personal record of the season. The main upshot of all this is that I'll probably only post once or twice a week and will try to avoid posting news items that you can read elsewhere. We'll see how it goes.

I've enjoyed the summer break from Fulham. I think it's good to have a bit of time away from thinking about football in general and Fulham in particular. I've made a conscious effort not to get too involved in transfer speculation or to get over excited about the coming season. I watched a fair bit of Euro 2008 and think I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I would have done if England had qualified. All the teams I supported were pretty rapidly knocked out despite early promise. Croatia, Holland, Russia all impressed but didn't go the distance. In the end, despite a typically disappointing final, the best team won. Spain were excellent throughout and I was really pleased for them. I also discovered lots of good players I'd not really seen play before (See my other blog for details HERE). All in all a very entertaining tournament which is what it's all about.

Special thanks to Flum @ TIFF for permission to use his great panorama of the Cottage. Hopefully it looks OK - I've viewed this page from three different computers and got slightly different results each time. It adds a bit of colour anyway and I'll never get tired of looking at a packed Hammersmith End.

Quick mention for this year's Fulham Review. Richard has all the details about it at Craven Cottage Newsround HERE.

So the Premier League begins in 34 days and football is about to get serious again. Can't wait.