The Transfer Insider: Implosion at St James Park

In the last few weeks I’ve covered the various sagas involving Carlos Tevez, Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Luka Modric, nothing has happened and unless you’re them, their agent or their club it is basically guesswork – it could easily be the same for the aforementioned foursome as well.  Such are the wheels within wheels that surround them that they simply may not know themselves whether they are coming or going.

At a guess, I’d say Tevez and Nasri will probably have to stay, while Fabregas and Modric could be off – I’m leaving that now, they’re all covered enough anyway – I’d suggest keeping tabs on Gazetta Dello Sport (Italy), Marca (Spain), quotes emitting from Catalan radio (Barcelona) and the BBC, Sky and the London Evening Standard to get the best idea what’s going on with their respective situations.

The Joey Barton Saga & Newcastle For The Drop?

You may recall I mentioned Joey Barton was an Aston Villa target a few weeks ago and following the latest twist in the drama Alex McLeish could be tempted to make a move.  The situation has of course dramatically changed and McLeish will have more competition, Barton is essentially a free agent despite having a year left on his deal after Newcastle said he could simply move on for no fee but the tea-total, Orwell-quoting  Smiths’ fan has suggested he could ‘stretch out and wait’ seeing out the final year of his deal, if necessary.

I can’t see that happening, the former Manchester City man may still carry his ‘bad boy’ tag with him but that isn’t really the case anymore.  Granted, his outburst – about a two week wages fine on Twitter – was probably not the wisest move but that pales in comparison to, say, stubbing out a cigar in a youth player’s face or assaulting a teenager outside McDonald’s.  What he did was no worse than team-mate Jose Enrique but as the Spaniard is a more saleable asset the club have taken a different route. They just want big-earning (and big-mouthed) Joey Barton out.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s just tweeted he could stick around to wind-up his current employers, he clearly isn’t happy there with the state of things – despite his love of the club itself. The Newcastle hierarchy have riled him and it is painfully obvious there is real discontent within the Toon squad.  Boss Alan Pardew has said he could still be a Newcastle player next season – but that’s just the manager being hopeful, the decision is now out of his hands.

Of more interest possibly is a bet on Newcastle to be relegated and I see that Betfair’s research arm Form Lab Black have tipped up that very possibility in SBC’s Essential Guide to The Season 2011-12, which is out today via

The say: “The promoted sides and Wigan look the weakest teams but they all have relatively easy starts to the campaign while Newcastle and Blackburn potentially offer better value at this stage.

Blackburn finished 15th last season and since 1999/00 13 of the 14 sides to go down that weren’t either a promoted or second-season team finished 12th or lower the previous year, with the percentages of teams being relegated increasing when their league position had worsened from two years ago and they’d finished in the bottom six in the past two seasons – both of which apply to Rovers.

In Newcastle’s case the loss of Andy Carroll’s goals may start to tell, particularly when coupled with the loss of Kevin Nolan, who had netted 29 times in the past two seasons.”

If you add the shipping out of the indisputably talented Barton to that equation then Newcastle could indeed be worse off than is immediately apparent.

Destination Arsenal, Stoke, Everton or United?

Barton’s reputation certainly  won’t put everyone off and I reckon Arsenal would be a perfect fit.  Arsene Wenger is a fan of Barton’s talents – think back to that sensational 4-4 draw last season in the north east, Barton was electric that day and instrumental in pegging the Gunners back.  That kind of bite in midfield (and throughout the team if truth be told) has been sorely missing from Wenger’s sides over the past few seasons and the arrival of Barton could change all that overnight.

There have been other clubs linked but I would suggest if Arsenal did come forward he’d probably opt for north London – If Sir Alex doesn’t throw his hat in the ring as we mooted last week.

Stoke have been credited with an interest and boss Tony Pulis will be able to offer him decent wages, Bolton had been linked  as a possible destination but boss Owen Coyle has ruled out a move, while Spurs, Everton and Championship side West Ham are allegedly in the running.  The Newcastle misfit is 11/2 to join Arsenal with Skybet and Paddypower, 11/4 to join Everton with William Hill (and just 4/6 with Skybet) and 8/1 to head to Stoke with Paddypower. United though are 8/1 to make their move with VC and he is clearly a less risky proposition to United as a free agent. No doubt Barton has the ability to grace The Theatre of Dreams, perhaps like Cantona, the Scouser just needs a stage commensurate with his ego.

As mentioned above, Barton’s teammate, Jose Enrique is also on the move, further strengthening the sense of a club simply seeking to keep a lid on their manifold discontents.

Again the Gunners have been linked to Jose Enrique but Liverpool is the most likely destination for the Spaniard.  Liverpool have been crying out for a left-back for a while now and the 25-year-old is more than capable of filling that void – probably for a fee in the region of £10m-£12m.  Liverpool are also being tipped to swoop for Bolton’s Gary Cahill after a move to Arsenal stalled, the Wanderers have downplayed these claims but it remains a real possibility.

Double Blow For Bolton

Bolton have been hit by a massive double blow, Lee Chung-Yong has been all but ruled out for the season with a double-leg fracture after a pre-season friendly with Newport County, while new-boy Tyrone Mears has also broken his leg in pre-season training.  I’m struggling to see the benefit of playing non-league opposition in pre-season when some small-time hatchet man will always want to make a name for himself and any gulf and skill and fitness will most likely be expressed in horrific, mistimed tackles. It has certainly cost the Wanderers big time here.  Their form dipped dramatically when Lee jetted off for Asian Cup duty in January and he is a big player for Coyle.  New-boy Chris Eagles can potentially fill that void but I’m not sure Coyle picked him up as a winger as he spent last season playing behind the strikers at Burnley. The Bolton boss did however play him primarily on the left when he was in charge at Turf Moor.

The Scot has hinted he could reignite his interest in Shaun Wright-Phillips, whose situation has changed after being told he is essentially surplus to requirements by City boss Roberto Mancini.  The only other sides who have been linked with the winger are Wigan  and Sunderland, the Latics  and the Wearsiders could be a more attractive proposition to his current employers as well as a permanent deal is more likely there – but with Bolton you get the feeling Coyle’s preference would be a loan deal.

In a quiet week, presumably before the storm of late panicked trading , Blackburn look to have pinched the controversial bad boy Scottish striker David Goodwillie from under the noses of Rangers who are being widely derided for their penchant for offering ludicrously low bids for their transfer targets, with the net effect being that their ‘hard ball’ posturing merely antagonises selling clubs, making the likelihood that Rangers ultimately miss out a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As for Goodwillie, he is a hard player to evaluate on the back of just one stellar season in Scotland. From the same area of Stirling as another united prodigy who made it big, Duncan Ferguson. Goodwillie has also endured a similar ‘high police profile’, to the Everton, Newcastle and Rangers striker Ferguson, he escaped rape charges only last week. However, despite sharing a number of characteristics with his predecessor at Dundee United (he is strong, self-confident and has a flair for often impressive improvisation), there is one claim to fame of Ferguson’s that Goodwillie will not want to emulate. Apparently Ferguson, who allegedly once knocked a burglar at his Cheshire home spark out with a single punch before using the unconscious corpse, in the style of a human baseball bat, to set about the intruder’s accomplice, shares an unwanted Premiership record. Duncan Disorderly has scored more goals than any other Scottish player in the FA Premier League, but he is widely considered to be the most expensive striker in Premiership history in terms of the ratio between the goals he scored and the transfer fees he commanded in moves between Rangers, Everton and Newcastle. With a fee believed to be just £2.8m, at least Goodwillie will have a bit of breathing space, in terms of that score.

A look at the lower leagues

Smart Betting Club followers will be well aware that there can be great value in England’s lower leagues, where the bookmakers are perhaps a bit less savvy and the ties are on the whole less obviously predictable.  As the Championship, League One and League Two all kick off this weekend I thought I’d have a look at what’s been going on.  I’ve touched on the Championship a couple of times already in previous articles, incidentally I like the look of Cardiff this season, but never in any great detail.

Two clubs whose situations concern me a bit are Burnley and Nottingham Forest, both have desires to achieve promotion but they now have arguably weaker squads than last season.  Forest are amongst the favourites to secure not only promotion but win the league outright, with most bookmakers they’re third favourites at present and a best priced 16/1 with William Hill (who are well worth a look in the Championship winner market – whoever you fancy).

Forest have brought in quality in George Boateng, Jonathan Greening and Andy Reid – but that’s it.  They’ve brought in three and sold eight, including Nathan Tyson (to Derby) and Robert Earnshaw (Cardiff), and the strength in depth at the City Ground is questionable.  Add to that the on-off (currently off) saga with Hibs’ over Hibees’ boss Colin Calderwood and a desire to have him come to The City Ground as Steve McLaren’s assistant and you have a less than ideal preseason.

Burnley are a bit of a different kettle of fish to be honest as despite their own ambitions the bookies don’t see them as credible title challengers.  The Clarets are 33/1 with William Hill and Skybet, but you may get a better price with this unfashionable outsider on Betfair. However, after losing some big names (Eagles and Mears) they may struggle.  I would argue that the former Premier League side look better value at 20/1 with Betfred and Coral to be relegated but I nonetheless rate Eddie Howe as a manager of talent. My inclination is that the Clarets could be heading for a mid-table finish as Howe continues his rebuilding process.

The favourites to go down are Coventry City with most bookmakers and it is no surprise, given the lack of new arrivals and the number of players who have moved on (including Marlon King and Kieran Westwood amongst others).  However, Andy Thorn seems to have the dressing room on his side and at a best priced 15/8 with Paddypower I’d avoid the Sky Blues to be honest. At this stage at least, as it just doesn’t offer value for money. Even if they do ultimately get relegated, I reckon you’ll be able to back that eventuality at a bigger price than is currently available at some point.

In League One there have been some interesting transfers and one that stands out to me in particular is the arrival of Nolberto Solano at Hartlepool United.  When he made the drop to the Championship I had my doubts he was the right type of player to ply his trade in England’s lower leagues but he proved me wrong and I’m sure the veteran can cut it in League One.  Hartlepool actually play some good football and are one of the more attractive sides in the division to watch. Solano should fit right in and at 22/1 to be promoted with Victor Chandler they could be worth a nibble – and I would certainly avoid the 11/4 best price Betfred are offering for the Pools to be relegated.

Look Beyond The Sheffield Sides In League One

Charlton and Huddersfield are among the leading contenders to win the league, while Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United are also up there.  Leeds and Wednesday fans can verify just how hard League One is to get out of and the ‘fallen giants’ often find themselves struggling, due to other sides upping their game when they make a trip to a stadium such as the Valley or Hillsborough.  I’d avoid the two Sheffield sides in all honesty, they could both get promoted but the Blades will kick off with a weaker squad than the frankly abysmal side who were relegated last season and a title charge looks far more unlikely than the 10/1 being offered by William Hill (again Hills have got the stand out prices for the League One winner at present).  Wednesday are the more likely of the two to prosper. They have looked solid in defence in pre-season, but they look equally poor in attack and goals could be hard to come by for the Owls.

Wednesday kick off the campaign at home to Rochdale and they’re the heavy favourites to take all three points.  However, anyone thinking of adding this to their coupon or just taking an Owls win as a single should be aware of the fact that Jermaine Johnson is ruled out through injury.  He is without question the most potent attacker at Gary Megson’s disposal and although his absence, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t win their opener it is undoubtedly a blow.  If you do fancy an opening day shocker in South Yorkshire Stan James are offering a pretty tasty 15/4 on Dale to win.

On a final note in League One I reckon Huddersfield will be there or thereabouts come the end of the campaign.  The Terriers have lost Anthony Pilkington to Norwich but the loss of the winger has been eased by the arrival of young striker Danny Ward from Bolton.  Ward is proven in League One thanks to loan spells at the Galpharm and Swindon and has a decent goalscoring record to boot. Right back Callum Woods, a former Liverpool trainee, comes highly rated too. After re-making his career at Dunfermline, Woods has been one of the mostly widely scouted players north of the border with Hibs, Watford and Brighton amongst  a slew of club’s taking an interest in the stylish defender. No doubt, Lee Clark’s men have been picking up some decent heat in preseason – not least on the back of a successful tour of Scotland where they earned rave reviews for wins over Hamilton and SPL new boys Dunfermline. The bookmakers agree with me and have installed the Yorkshire outfit as the favourites – at a best price of 6/1 with William Hill.

A Quick League Two Check

I’ve probably rattled on long enough but I can’t leave without a quick look at League Two.  Newly promoted Crawley Town are the heavy favourites to win the title but they will largely be relying on the players who got them there.  Again William Hill are the leading bookmaker for this particular market and they’re 10/3 to secure the top spot, Swindon are second favourites at 10/1.  I’m not suggesting Crawley can’t win the league but there is simply no value in backing them – if you are looking for an outsider try Southend (28/1), Bristol Rovers (12/1) or Shrewsbury (14/1).

Crawley travel to Port Vale on opening day and Vale, who recovered towards the end of last season after a horrendous mid-season slump, are 2/1 with both Victor Chandler and William Hill to take the spoils.  For me this is over-priced and if you don’t mind having a punt in the lower leagues it is one to consider this weekend.

A few final rumblings…

Spurs have been uncharacteristically quiet so far but expect a few comings and goings over the course of the next month.  Wilson Palacios is heading to Stoke, possibly with Peter Crouch, and once Harry Redknapp has got created a bit of space and raised some funds he’ll no doubt be seeking a few bargains, if past form is anything to go by.

One deal which could well be on the cards is a bid for Scott Parker, who is waiting for the former West Ham boss to save him from a season of Championship football. Aston Villa and possibly even Chelsea could rival the north Londoners for the current Football Writers’ Player of the Years’ signature.

Newcastle want Swiss international Tranquillo Barnetta (who showed his quality in an international tie with England) but apparently he isn’t too keen on St James’ Park – they will need a central midfielder though, especially if and when Barton leaves.

West Brom are chasing Reading’s Shane Long, but I doubt they’ll go to the £10m the Royals want and it remains to be seen if a compromise can be reached. The price tag will also scare of Celtic who have long been credited with an interest.

Instead, the Glasgow giants are looking to solve their goalkeeping ‘issue’ with a season long loan for Reading’s England U21 Alex McCarthy according to the Reading Post.

The promising England U21 international stopper who is widely regarded as a star of the future, will be allowed to leave the Madejski stadium to continue his development in Scotland.

I’ll concentrate on the Premier League as per next week but I just couldn’t leave the lower leagues alone with the big kick-off this weekend!


Here is a brief table of completed deals, it may not be a 100% accurate at time of publishing but should prove a useful reference tool.  I’ve not included all the youngsters and fringe men who have been released and who hardly featured last season either, that just seems unnecessary information but I will stick all that in when the window comes to a close.


IN: Gervinho (£11m, Lille), Carl Jenkinson (undisc, Charlton)

OUT:  Gael Clichy (£7m, Manchester City), Denilson (loan Sao Paulo), Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (£1m, Ipswich)

Aston Villa:

IN: Alex McLeish (manager), Nathan Delfouneso (loan return, Burnley), Shay Given (£3.5m, Manchester City), Charles N’Zogbia (£9.5m, Wigan – to be completed next week)

OUT: Gerard Houllier (manager), Brad Friedel (Free, Spurs), Ashley Young (£15m, Manchester United), John Carew (released), Nigel Reo-Coker (released), Robert Pires (released), Stewart Downing (£20, Liverpool)


IN: Myles Anderson (undisc, Aberdeen), David Goodwillie (£2.8m, Dundee United)

OUT: Phil Jones (£17.5m, Manchester United), Frank Fielding  (undisc, Derby), Benjani (released)


IN: Darren Pratley (free, Swansea), Nigel Reo-Coker (free, Aston Villa), Chris Eagles & Tyrone Mears (Burnley, combined fee £2.75m)

OUT: Johan Elmander (free, Galatasaray), Rodrigo Moreno (loan return, Benfica), Daniel Sturridge (loan return, Chelsea), Tamir Cohen, Jlloyd Samuel, Joey O’Brien (all released), Ali Al Habsi (£4m, Wigan), Daniel Ward (£1m, Huddersfield), Matt Taylor (£2.2m, West Ham)


IN: Andre Villas-Boas (manager), Thibaut Courtois (undisc – Genk, now loaned out to Atletico Madrid), Oriol Romeu (Barcelona,

OUT: Carlo Ancelotti (manager), Michael Mancienne (undisc, Hamburg), Jeffrey Bruma (loan, Hamburg), Jack Cork (undisc, Southampton)



OUT: James Vaughan (£2.5m, Norwich)


IN: Martin Jol (manager), John Arne Riise (Roma), Pajtim Kasami (undisc, Palmero), Marcel Gecov (£700,000, Slovan Liberec)

OUT: Mark Hughes (manager), Diomansy Kamara (free, Eskisehirspor), Kagisho Dikgacoi (undisc, Crystal Palace),               Eddie Johnson , Matthew Saunders, Pascal Zuberbuhler , Zoltan Gera , John Pantsil (all released), Jonathan Greening (£600,000, Nottingham Forest)


IN: Jordan Henderson (Sunderland, £20m), Charlie Adam (£9m, Blackpool), Stewart Downing (£20m, Aston Villa), Alexander Doni (free, Roma)

OUT: Nikola Saric (released), Paul Konchesky (undisc, Leicester City)

Manchester City:

IN: Stefan Savic (undisc, FK Partizan), Gael Clichy (£7m, Arsenal), Sergio Aguero (£38m, Atletico Madrid)

OUT: Shay Given (£5m, Aston Villa)

Manchester United:

IN: Phil Jones (£17.5m, Blackburn), Ashley Young (£15m, Aston Villa), David de Gea (£20m, Atletico Madrid)

OUT: Owen Hargreaves (released), Paul Scholes, Edwin van der Sar (both retired), Ritchie de Laet (loan, Norwich), Wes Brown (Sunderland), John O’Shea (Sunderland)

Newcastle United:

IN: Sylvain Marveaux (free, Rennes), Demba Ba (free, West Ham), Yohan Cabaye (undisc, Lille)

OUT: Kevin Nolan (£4m, West Ham), Wayne Routledge (£2m, Swansea)

Norwich City:

IN: Steve Morison (£2.5m, Millwall), Elliot Bennett (Brighton), James Vaughan (£2.5m, Everton) Bradley Johnson (free, Leeds), Ritchie de Laet (loan, Manchester United), Anthony Pilkington (£1.75m, Huddersfield), Kyle Naughton (loan, Spurs)

OUT: Matthew Gill (free, Bristol Rovers),


IN: Jay Bothroyd (free, Cardiff), Kieron Dyer (free, West Ham), Danny Gabbidon (free, West Ham), DJ Campbell (Blackpool)

OUT: Mikele Leigertwood (free, Reading)

Stoke City:

IN: Jonathan Woodgate (free, Spurs)

OUT: Abdoulaye Faye (free, West Ham)


IN: Keiren Westwood (free, Coventry), Sebastian Larsson (free, Birmingham), Craig Gardner (£5m, Birmingham), Connor Wickham (£8.1m, Ipswich), Ji Dong-Won (Chunnam Dragons), Wes Brown (Manchester United), David Vaughan (free, Blackpool), John O’Shea (undisc, Manchester United)

OUT: Jordan Henderson (£20m, Liverpool), David Healy (free, Rangers), Steed Malbranque (undisc, St Etienne).

Swansea City:

IN: Danny Graham (£3.5m, Watford), Steven Caulker (loan, Spurs), Jose Moreira (undisc, Benfica), Wayne Routledge (£2m, Newcastle)

OUT: Dorus de Vries (free, Wolves), Darren Pratley (free, Bolton)

Tottenham Hotspur:

IN: Brad Friedel (Free, Aston Villa)

OUT: Steven Caulker (loan, Swansea), Jonathan Woodgate (released), Jamie O’Hara (£5m, Wolves), Kyle Naughton (loan, Norwich), Bongani Khumalo (loan, Reading)

West Brom:

IN: Billy Jones (free, Preston), Gareth McAuley (free, Ipswich)

OUT: Abdoulate Meite (free, Dijon), Scott Carson (undisc, Bursaspor), Ryan Allsop (undisc, Millwall), Gianni Zuiverloon (undisc, Real Mallorca)


IN: Mauro Boselli (loan return), Ali Al Habsi (£4m, Bolton)

OUT: Tom Cleverley (loan return, Manchester United), Steven Caldwell (free, Birmingham), Charles N’Zogbia (£9.5m, Aston Villa – to be completed next week)


IN: Dorus De Vries (Free, Swansea), Jamie O’Hara (£5m, Wolves), Roger Johnson (£7m, Birmingham)

OUT: Greg Halford (undisc, Portsmouth)