I don't know about you, but I feel as though we have been here before!
So, we are once again in a transfer window. We once again find ourselves in major need of player investment. We once again find ourselves fearing that we just aren't going to get it. Ok, so before I go any further with this, let me first highlight the fact that it is only the 9th January, and so far only two Premier League teams have signed a player. Liverpool have bought Takumin Minamino for a reported £10m from Red Bull Salzburg, a deal done in December. Meanwhile, Aston Villa have completed the loan of Danny Drinkwater, after his disaster loan with Burnley was cancelled. No one else has done any business, despite the fact that clubs like Man United, Arsenal, Spurs, Villa, Norwich, West Ham to name a few, could all do with fresh players to turn around their fortunes. So, in that sense, we are in no different a spot than the rest.
We all know, that January is a tricky month for making deals. Prices get ramped up even higher, and clubs are reluctant to sell to rivals, or until they have their replacements lined up. All these, along with the fact there are only 31 days to do business, make it a very tricky time to get things done. It is a month though, that can transform a season. We saw this under Sam Allardyce, when January saw PVA, Schlupp, Luka and Sakho all arrive, and steered us to survival. At the same time though, you don't want to over spend, and buy rubbish, which leaves you financially stuck down the line, so it is a nightmare!
Now, at Palace, there seems to be an issue when it comes to transfers. None of us actually know why, although various reasons have been reported/rumoured. I have seen it said that we have no money to spend. Originally this was linked to FFP, but that has since reset and nothing has changed. It has also been put down to the fact that that our wage bill is so high, we haven't made money through players sales, and our income revenue from ticket sales isn't high enough in relation to our outgoings. These are feasible reasons. The likes of Benteke, Sakho and even Wilf's newest deal, will have pushed our wage bill up massively. We don't ever really make sales, and apart from two or three players, we don't make money on players. Plus, our attendance remains at 26,000, seriously low for the league, and lowers our income. There have also been other possibles aside from just not having the money. An impending takeover has been one, although that seems to have died a death. The more prominent though, is a boardroom split. For a long time, the blame of our transfer struggles has laid at the feet of Steve Parish and Dougie Freedman. Yet, if what Roy Hodgson said in a recent press conference is to be believed, both Dougie and Parish are onboard for doing deals, and it is the Americans Harris and Blitzer who are refusing to budge. The reality is, none of us know the exact truth, and so I want to focus on what we do know. The board and transfer team as a whole, have let down the fans, and have let down Roy Hodgson.
Several years ago, when Alan Pardew was appointed as manager, a new exciting dawn seemed to be upon us. His Palace connection, along with his exciting football he got us playing, made it feel like we were taking a huge step forward. That seemed even more the case, in Pardew's second window, when we saw a player of the calibre of Yohan Cabaye join our ranks. A year later, and we saw Andros Townsend, Loic Remy and Christian Benteke walk through the Selhurst door, further enhancing the belief that we were taking huge strides forward to advance ourselves. In a way, you could say we have, because here we are, a few years later, in our seventh consecutive Premier League season. Sadly though, our Premier League status aside, the club has done nothing to progress itself. In fact, we have very much stagnated. The board have left us to tread water.
There is so much potential at this club. We are on the cusp of really kicking on, yet at this vital time, those who call the shots, are failing to do so. They seem to be oblivious to what pretty much the entire fan base can see, to what Roy can see. For several years now, our playing squad has needed investing. While the first eleven has been solid, it has lacked serious quality in depth. It has needed the quality to be added, and the board just haven't delivered. The squad has been left imbalanced window after window, meaning the task at hand as only got bigger and bigger. Now, we have reached the point where not only do we need several players to improve our quality of depth, but our core squad is all starting to age out at the same time, meaning a huge overhaul will end up being required. It is just madness.
I hate to say it, but serious questions need to be asked of those in charge. Several seasons ago, the board allowed us to go into a season with no left back. Ok, we had Zeki Fryers on the books, so as I said, no left back. Martin Kelly was hung out to dry at left back. In the January, we signed Pape Souare, but all of us fans could see that come the next summer, we would need a second left back for options and depth. The board didn't sign one, and two days after the window shut, Pape had a car crash, and once again we had no left back. It was criminal that the board would allow such a situation to happen, so surely they would not make that mistake again right? Wrong. We have done it with strikers, when we only had Benteke available, and didn't sign anyone else. Low and behold, Benteke got injured and Roy had to put Zaha up front. Now this season, we sold AWB and didn't replace him. The board let us go into the season with one right back, and one left back, both of whom are now injured. The fact that they keep making these same errors is truly embarrassing, and they should be ashamed with themselves for it. I get that they don't want to just waste the money on rubbish, and I totally agree with it. Lord knows, they have a lot of history since promotion, of over spending on absolute dross, which is why we can rarely make any money on assets. At the same time though, they have plenty of time to plan, and just seem to waste it. AWB sold at the start of the summer, and they would have known before completion that it was happening, but failed to replace him. We have needed strikers, another left back, and wingers, for several seasons now, yet none seem to materialise. It has reached the point that a lot of fans now, have absolutely no faith in the board when it comes to transfers. Dougie Freedman is a big target of frustration. As the man supposedly in charge of organising deals and getting targets identified, our failures on the transfer front have called for many to question what the hell he actually does. For a good while, I used to defend him to my mates, as it was easy to find ways to do so, especially against sheer anger. However, now, it has become impossible. As window after window passes, and the same failures continue to rear their ugly head, I too question what Dougie and the rest are actually doing.
Now, while I personally feel frustrated and angry at the neglect of our squad, and the opportunity being wasted, the personal I really feel sorry for, is Roy Hodgson. Roy has done more for this club, then any of his predecessors, and yet has had the least backing from the board. When we got promoted, Ian Holloway was given 13 news signings(a ludicrous amount). Tony Pulis was here for six months, yet in January we signed him Wayne Hennessey, Tom Ince, Scott Dann, Jason Puncheon made permanent, and Joe Ledley. Then the day before he left in the summer, we signed him Martin Kelly and Brede Hangeland. Warnock was here four months, and got Fryers(£1m), Frazier Campbell(£950k), James McArthur(£5.5M) and Zaha on loan. Pardew in his longer spell, got the likes of Zaha(£6m) made permanent, as well as Souare(£3m), Chung-Yung Lee(£3m), Jordan Mutch(£5m), Yohan Cabaye(£10m), Andros Townsend(£13m), Alex McCarthy(£3.5m), Christian Benteke(£32m), James Tomkins(£10m), Connor Wickham(£ 9m), Emmanuel Adebayor(free), Bakary Sako(free), Steve Mandanda(£1.5m), Mathieu Flamini(free), Patrick Bamford(Loan) and Loic Remy(Loan). Sam Allardyce was here for six months and he got PVA(£13m), Schlupp(£13m), Luka(£12m) and Sakho(loan). Hell, even Frank de Boer got Jairo((£9m), Timothy Fosu-Mensah(Loan), Ruben Loftus-Cheek(loan) and technically Mamadou Sakho(£26m). You could argue that Sakho ended up being for Roy, but he was a player that Parish always was going to buy, and had been trying to do so for FDB.
Those are a lot of players, with some big fees, and some very high wages. Now, let's look at what Roy has had. In January 2017 he got Alex Sorloth(£9m), Jaroslaw Jach(£2m), Erdal Rakip(Loan) and Diego Calvieiri(free). Roy had been desperate for players due to injury, especially up front. Sorloth played a little, but was clearly not ready for this level. Jach and Rakip were so useless, that even with a player shortage, they could not even get close to making an appearance. Jach has been out on loan at low level cubs since, and Rakip failed to get a game back at Benfica, before being sold. Then in the summer of 2017, having kept us up against the odds, Roy got the following to kick us on. Vicente Guaita(free), Cheikhou Kouyate(£9m), Max Meyer(free), and Jordan Ayew(Loan). Guaita was a position desperately needed. We also had two holes to fill in midfield with the losses of Cabaye and RLC, while we were desperately short up front. These signings simply replaced what had left the club(Ayew replaced Sako). They did nothing to fill the other gaps that had already existed in the squad prior to departures, and we were left with the same shortage of quality in depth. Come January, we were absolutely desperate up front. The solution? We were linked with defensive midfielder James McCarthy all window! What did Roy get? Bakary Sako(Free) and Michy Batshuayi(loan). Now, Michy was a great bit of business, however, as Michael Bridge highlighted on the day, this happened because in desperation, Chelsea offered us a last minute bargain deal, not because we had pushed the deal ourselves. It helped get us through though, and after a season of actually staying out of the bottom three for its entirety, surely last summer was the time to really push on. It started with AWB leaving, and continued with Zaha being linked with a departure all window. What did Roy get to take us forward another step this year? Stephen Henderson(free), Jordan Ayew(£2.5m), James McCarthy(£1.5m), Gary Cahill(free) and Victor Camarasa(loan). Once again, we failed to actually provide any quality of depth in the squad, apart from at centre back, and at central midfield(the one place we weren't short).
So, just in transfer fees, Roy has had roughly £24m spent on him, the rest have been free transfers and loans. This is across four transfer windows. Big Sam had almost £40m spent on him in one transfer window. Alan Pardew had four transfer windows, and had roughly just short of £100m spent on transfers! Pulis was much less in his one window, but naturally the costs of players have risen drastically since then. Also, Pulis got the players he needed, in the positions he needed. Even FDB got £9m spent, and he was here for four games. In fact, given that Parish wanted to buy Sakho, and did so whether FDB wanted him or not, and then Roy inherited him, you could say that technically, by spending £26m on him, Parish has actually spent more on transfer fees for himself, then he has for Roy!!!
Now, just to balance it out, not all is doom and gloom. One thing I will say, is that recently, when we have done business, it has been much shrewder. Guaita, Cahill, Kouyate, Ayew, Batshuayi have all proven to be great additions to Roy's squad, for very good value. Sadly though, it isn't enough. If you want to not just survive, but thrive in the Premier League, you have to improve the squad every summer. This is why for several years, no one retained the Premier League trophy. A team would win it, and then just assume that squad would win again, only those around them then reinforced, and over took the team that did nothing. Look at this season, City failed to improve their defence, and are miles adrift. The same goes throughout the league. Sadly, we just aren't doing it. For me, I fear it will cost us in the long run, and in the near future, I think it will cost us Roy.
Roy has been more vocal than ever in recent weeks, about the need for additions. In his first season, he dragged us from what looked like certain relegation, to having a hope by the January window. He needed quality additions to complete the job, especially given the injuries we had, but he didn't get it. We tried to go cheap, and failed. Then having kept us up and finished strongly, the summer provided the opportunity to strengthen and kick on. Instead we just replaced what we lost, and that was it. Come last January, when a cup run was in the offing and the league was decent, we failed to give Roy the additional tools to see it through. Then, once again this summer, Roy has had requirements, and they have not been met. Now, after several months of getting away with it, we have been hit by a massive injury crisis, which has exposed the neglect of our squad greatly. So, with his contract running out, Roy is begging for new additions, so that perhaps at the very least, he could pick a senior 18 come match day. If this window shuts, and the board haven't backed Roy with the additions he desperately needs, I can honestly see him walking away from the club in the summer. A lot of fans, sadly, would rejoice at that. For me though, it would be a huge blow, and another setback. It would also expose the fact that no planning has been made for life after Roy.
The problem is, Roy has been taken advantage of. Despite what anyone moans about him, Roy knows how to get a solid team out of what he has. Parish and co have relied too much on the fact that they can get away with doing very little business, and Roy will keep the ship afloat. That for me, is not good enough. The fact is, while we are now out of both cups, we are still 9th in the table. We have a real possibility of finishing in the top ten for the first time ever in the Premier League. As mad as it sounds, we also have the outside chance of a Europa League spot. Our injury list is making that job hard, and I fear our reluctant board are going to do very little to correct that. It is such a great opportunity, but one we are letting slip through our fingers.
After saving us, after promotion, after seven consecutive years in the Premier League, and with the plans he has in place, Steve Parish should leave behind a great legacy when he eventually departs the club. However, sadly, that legacy is getting soured. He is at risk of his legacy being tarnished by failing to deliver the new stand that he once said was happening, and by failing to capitalise on the best years, and best opportunities, the club has ever had. I for one, hope that changes, starting with some decent transfer activity this window.
My apologies for the negative article, but on this occasion, it could not be helped, as this is a matter that I feel is digging away at all Palace fans.