What a difference a day makes!
Well, to be more accurate, what a difference a few hours can make. Last night we all witnessed just how one piece of news can change everything. For the majority of Deadline Day, social media made for depressing reading if you were a Palace fan. At the start of the day, the only possible signing was said to be James McCarthy on loan from Everton, a move that didn't exactly light the fires of excitement amongst our fan base. Come lunch time, that link had ended and the moans truly began. As we trundled towards a boring end of the window, with no prospect of fresh blood on Sky Sports big money day, Twitter and various Palace forums were drowning in comments of frustration, anger and disappointment. It was surely only going to be a taste of what was to come today, post window closure, as all attention would be turned to our board and their lack of action. That all changed however, just after 9pm.
I was genuinely about to write a moan to my mates on our Palace whatsapp group about our inactivity, when a Sky Sports alert flashed up saying we had agreed terms with Michy Batshuayi. I was stunned, shocked, flabbergasted. I let out a loud cry in my chair, as I suddenly needed to return to Sky Sports News, which had been turned off many hours previous. The next few hours were spent as they should be, waiting for updates from Michael Bridge, while repeatedly refreshing Twitter in the hope of news. We had been here before, the hope of something late on, only for it to never get over the line. Amid the excitement, we likely all harboured that very fear, and so, waited anxiously. In the end, I had to go to sleep with the update that it was all but done, to then wake up this morning to confirmation courtesy of a gif shared by the club, showing the bat signal glowing above Selhurst Park. The arrival of Michy certainly provided a huge lift in spirits today. Had this deal have not happened, then social media today would have been at its most toxic. I dread to think what would have been posted by many different fans, each fuelled with the frustration of yet another window that had let us down. Instead though, there has been a buoyant mood, with positivity flowing through every electronically written word. The signing has not only provided hope, but changed the outlook of the entire window. Had you polled Palace fans at this time yesterday, asking if they thought the window was a success, the likelihood is that 'No' would have won by a landslide. However, that same poll today has produced a majority response of 'Yes'. Crazy how quickly things cans change.
The poll may say that, currently in the midst of new signing joy, but this article is designed to look at the window honestly, to try and decide if it truly has been a success, or if we have once more been let down.
To do that, I need to start at the beginning. As January 1st
approached, we knew a few key things. We knew that a goal scorer was
desperately needed. Despite the fact that both Benteke and Wickham were back,
another option was a must in order to try and end our woes in front of goal. We
also knew that some extra depth on the wings was required, given that we only
had Wilf and Andros as attacking wingers, due to Ayew being required in a
striker role. Finally, if we could be greedy, a number 10 who had the creative
spark to unlock defences would be lovely. Requirements aside, we also knew that
money was tight. In the summer the coffers had been extremely low, so it was
unlikely to be any better now. We knew that incomings would probably be loans,
and some outgoings would likely be required to fund them. So the mission was
clear, try to obtain new players that would improve the squad, but do so
without much outlay due to us already skirting the FFP boundary. Simple? Of
course not, but we had several months to try and plan for it, so we hoped it
would be possible.
We nearly got out of the traps like lightning. On the day of the Chelsea home game, Steve Parish told BT Sport that Dominic Solanke was likely on his way in a loan from Liverpool. It hadn't even turned 2019 yet and we appeared to be bang on it. Only, a few days passed with no completion, and then suddenly news broke that he had failed a medical and the deal was off. However, news also broke that Valencia would be cancelling Michy Batshuayi's loan, and we had been offered the player. So while we contemplated that possibility, Solanke signed for Bournemouth on a permanent deal. Things then fell quiet. Links would continue, but quite clearly it was nothing more than paper talk and agent nonsense to try and stir up some activity. When we did make our first signing, it was one straight out of left field, as goalkeeper Lucas Perri was signed on loan from Sao Paulo, as covered in a previous article of mine. We began to then watch as linked targets headed elsewhere, Victor Moses being a key one of those, while our options were running low. Then Yannick Bolasie cancelled his own loan at Aston Villa, sending the rumour mill into over drive. The debate began, as we discussed if he should return or not, with people keen to argue both sides. While we debated Bolasie, Dougie and Parish were securing our second signing of the window. Yes, that's right, Bakary Sako made his return as we took over his West Brom contract until the end of the season. This is another deal that I have already written an article about. With Sako in, that appeared to be the end of it. Faint hopes of Charlie Austin proved to be nothing more than just that, otherwise we were headed for no more incomings, that is until Michy came on board.
So with the window summarised, now I ask myself, has it been a successful one? My honest answer? Yes and no. One key point is that we managed to shift a lot of deadwood this window. We saw the departures of Jonny Williams, Jason Puncheon, Jordan Mutch and Sulley KaiKai permanently, while Alexander Sorloth and Nya Kirby headed out on loan. If I am being honest, three of those first four should have happened in the summer, while the other is of no surprise to me given his failure to break into the first team. The two loans make sense as well. Nya is highly rated but needs first team experience, while Alex needs game time to try and find some form, as well as confidence. These exits freed up money, something much needed in our tight financial circumstances. The fact they were done early was a big bonus as well, because it meant last night we could just get on with the Michy deal, without having to try and move others on first, which has scuppered us on previous deadline days.
You also have to look at the players we brought in. As
mentioned earlier, we needed cover on the wing, and Sako gives us that, as well
as cover up front if we want it. We also needed goals, and Michy can certainly
get those on a good day. We pretty much met our criteria, without bursting the
bank, while also getting Perri in a good deal that enables us to try before we
buy. There is also the small possibility that we could still sign Cabaye on a
free, which would be another welcome addition if it were to happen. So in that
sense, you would be well placed to argue that the window has been a success.
You could also argue that on paper, our squad is actually stronger coming out
of January, than it was going into January, which would be another indicator
that the window was a success. There is however, a 'but' coming.
On the surface, all looks well, but beneath the surface, in my opinion, there are still major flaws. I have already given a strong opinion on Sako, so I won't labour on that point. What I will say though, is that, while I have been told Roy wanted him, from an outside perspective, it looks like a lazy and very short sighted signing. Yes, money was an issue, but it would be easy for fans to look at that deal and say that we simply failed to find anyone else, so just went back to what we knew. It's a point that can easily be countered, so instead, let me focus on the key point. I have seen people congratulate and thank both Parish and Freedman for getting MIchy in. From all the known information however, the reality is, this has not happened because of them. Michael Bridge himself said that we had shut up shop and gone home for the night, when Chelsea rang. The sad fact is that the joy and jubilation felt both last night and today, wasn't because of our board, but because of Chelsea's desperation to offload Michy. They were facing being stuck with him until the summer, which they didn't want, and so last knockings they phoned us offering a cut price deal. Our board had decided to settle with what we had, something that all Palace fans felt wasn't enough, and that is worrying. Yes, there is no point signing people just for the sake of it, but at the same time, we worryingly seem to keep failing to learn from our mistakes in leaving ourselves short where it is most needed.
I guess, the issues with this window, are more issues with the way we seem to do business. Parish and company avoided a massive backlash today thanks to Chelsea, but if they don't buck their ideas up, that backlash will eventually come. In six years we have thrown money at far too many duds, I mean, the list is ridiculously long. Not only have they been costly, but they have had no sell on value. This incredibly poor business has meant that some big money signings like Benteke and Sakho has crippled us in FFP, because we don't get the balance. Clubs like Bournemouth spend money, but they also sell a player for several million to help balance the books. Other than one window where we sold Gayle and Bolasie, we just haven't moved any of our dross on for at least our money back, let alone a profit. Yes, we have held onto our key assets, which is massive for a club like us, and something other clubs haven't been able to, but to maintain that, you need to be able to sell on the less important assets, and we can't.
Too many transfer windows have left us baffled. Failing to
sign a left back when we didn't have one was just criminal. The deals last
January, especially Jach and Rakip, were just ludicrous. I mean, to sign three
players and two of them weren't even good enough to play in our U23s much, that
is just shocking. In what other job could you do something like sign Rakip, to
never play, and not get in massive trouble for it? This window was going to be
the same, it was going to be a farce until Chelsea saved the day, and it needs
On the inside, it may well be very different. From the outside, however it looks like a shambles. At times, it comes across as though the board just sign who they want, regardless of whether Roy wants them or not. Now, I'm told that is not the case at all, but to the outside eye, it very much comes across that way at times. It also comes across like we genuinely have no clue how to scout, how to negotiate and how to prepare. Again, these could all be very wrong, but from an outside perspective, far too often, that is how it looks. What is needed at the club, is a bit of transparency. For a long time now, Dougie gets ripped by our fans who question what on earth he actually does. As we keep making errors and falling short in transfer windows, the fingers point at him. In fact, in what has been a short tempered season for our fan base, fingers are currently pointing in many places. This is what happens though, when people get frustrated, they start to proportion blame. Some of the stick Dougie gets is wildly ridiculous, but at the same time, it is hard to argue against, because no one really knows what the hell he does. It isn't just Dougie. Phil Alexander is another. I mean, other than be the only one to keep surviving administrations, what on earth does he do? Even Mark Bright, who I am a big fan of, as far as I am aware he gets a wage from the club, but what does he do? This is where things are going wrong, because from an outside view, we can't get decent players signed, but we can gives jobs to the old boys. This, by the way, is easily rectified. It just needs Chris Grierson and his media team to do spotlights on these people, a little interview and video of them chatting about their role and basic day to day activities for the club. Do that, and people can stop questioning, stop pointing blame when perhaps it isn't warranted.
All this, is why I say the window both is and isn't a
success. In the end, we got what was needed, and if we are being realistic, our
squad should be one pushing to mid-table safety quite swiftly and embarking on
a possible FA Cup run, not struggling to the very last moment, desperately
trying to survive. We also, however, showed the same struggles and failings of
previous windows, and so I can only hope that at long last, we learn from our
errors and do things better in the summer. Just imagine, if we hadn't signed
Michy, and then tomorrow we lose to Fulham. What a nightmare Parish and company
would be in for then. Part one of that has been avoided however, and let's hope
that this window's business goes on to be just what we need to kick on, and end