Saturday, 2 July 2011

Albion's transfer activity

After just over a month of very little to talk about in terms of football, the transfer window opened on July 1st and supporters like myself who were missing our fix of football-related news to discuss finally had something to talk about.

In fairness, Albion had been one of the busier clubs before the transfer window opened, with Gianni Zuiverloon, Abdoulaye Meite, Giles Barnes and Marcus Haber all being released. On top of this, we were able to strengthen our squad with the additions of Gareth McAuley from Ipswich Town and Billy Jones from Preston North End on free transfers At the time of writing this, we are reportedly close to completing the signing of former Albion favourite Zoltan Gera on a free transfer after his release from Fulham.

Abdoulaye Meite is one of four Albion players who were released at the start of the summer.

This apparent policy of signing players on free transfers has led to criticism from some Albion fans, as they believe that we should be spending vast sums of money on players who may be no better than the signings we had made thus far. I have often thought during transfer windows that we need to spend more money than we have done, but when you look at our two record signings - Borja Valero and Luke Moore - it is clear that spending money does not necessarily guarantee that a player is going to make an impact.

However, this criticism will continue following the departures of Scott Carson and Valero to Bursaspor and Villarreal respectively, both for undisclosed fees. Although the amount of money Albion received for these two players is not known, it is fair to say that it would probably be enough to add at least one or two quality players to the squad over the summer.

My opinion on our transfer activity so far is that we are essentially replacing the players who we released with more consistent, experienced players.

McAuley has made over 25 appearances for Northern Ireland and has a wealth of experience in The Championship with Ipswich Town and Leicester City. He has also been playing football at a reasonable standard for 15 years since his career began in Northern Ireland with Linfield and so will know exactly what is required to deal with some of the attacking players he is going to come up against in the Premier League, despite it being a higher standard. Due to the fact that he is a solid, old-fashioned central defender, he is a very good replacement for Meite.

Jones is another player with a lot of experience, albeit at a lower level. He came through the youth system at Crewe Alexandra, which should lead to him being a very good footballer and also means that he should have a lot of confidence on the ball. Despite only being 24, he has already played nearly 300 career games and was also rumoured to have attracted the interest of Manchester City back in 2007 after a series of impressive performances for Crewe in League One. He is a right-back by trade, but can also play in midfield. With this in mind, he is an ideal replacement for Zuiverloon.

Although we have yet to officially confirm the signing of Gera, it seems as though the deal is fairly close to completion. He is a player who needs very little introduction to Albion fans, having spent four years at the club and making a massive impact in the process. His habit of scoring goals against Wolves was always going to make him a popular player among the supporters, with his exuberant celebrations and outstanding work ethic increasing his popularity further. If he does sign, he is a natural replacement for Barnes and is a player who can provide back-up to the first team, as well as genuinely challenge for a starting place if he impresses during pre-season. 

I am sure there are more signings in the pipeline, especially up front, where we undoubtedly need to sign a goalscorer to try and take some of the pressure off of Peter Odemwingie. A goalkeeper is also going to be a priority now Carson's departure has been confirmed, with the likes of Steve Harper, Robert Green and Tomasz Kuszczak all being linked with us. If we are able to add players in these two key areas as well as possibly strengthen other areas of the squad should quality players become available, then I think we will be in a very good position to push on next season and build on our outstanding finish to the season last time out.

This is a time of the year when there are a number of rumours going around and supporters become frustrated with an apparent lack of transfer activity, but based on the vast majority of our additions over the last few years, I believe we can really trust Roy Hodgson, Dan Ashworth and the scouting department to ensure that we bring in enough players with the ability to improve our squad ahead of the forthcoming season.

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