Rickie Lambert – the man who rescued City’s transfer window or another Robbie Fowler?

CoymayCardiff City kept their supporters waiting right up until the eleventh hour to confirm it, but it seems that a deal to bring in the striker we so desperately needed was done hours earlier when West Brom’s former England international, Rickie Lambert agreed to sign for us on a two year deal for an undisclosed fee.

I think it’s fair to say that Lambert’s arrival has raised spirits among most City fans because in the past few days a gloom, probably brought on by our joyless and punchless displays so far this season and a sense of resignation that we were unwilling and/or unable to pay the sort of fees so many other teams in our league were shelling out as the transfer window started to creak towards closing, had settled over the club.

As is always the case, most attention centred on the Premier League as the reality dawned that the latest television deal had created a situation whereby what I would call pretty mediocre players were being bought for eight figure sums. It seems to me that £20 million these days gets you a player which would have cost us around a quarter of that if we had bought him three years ago as we prepared for our season in the Premier League.

What concerns me is that this mad inflation has seen it’s way into the Championship and we are now in a position whereby sides who are not party to the sort of parachute payments that we are, like Bristol City, Wolves and Derby, are thinking nothing of making multi million pound bids (£14,000,000 in the case of the last named apparently!) for players.

This seems like madness and, although there’s a part of me that looks at the sort of spending which has been going on in the latter part of this summer at other clubs with envy, the truth is that I’m happy that we are not playing a game which, on the face of it, has to mean serious problems in the future for some of the clubs that have been splashing the cash in recent weeks. After all, it has to be that some of these sides are not going to make it into the Premier League in the foreseeable future.

However, if you examine things a little more closely, a slightly different picture emerges and a bit more research reveals that Cardiff City are shown in a very poor light compared to many other clubs in our league.

The biggest Championship spenders this summer have been the relegated pair Newcastle and Villa, but the parachute payments they now get put them at a level which is above virtually all of the sides they’ll be playing every week over the next eight months. However, certainly in the case of the first named, they have seen their coffers further boosted by the sales of players for the sort of sums that have become the norm in the Premier League.

If other sides in the Championship cannot compete when it comes to parachute payments, then many of them have benefited from shrewd work in the transfer market and an ability to develop their own high quality players through their own Academy system.

To show you what I mean, you only have to look at what’s happened at two clubs this summer that I wouldn’t have thought many would have regarded as serious promotion contenders at the start of last month. Bristol City have signed young international players from Sweden and Iceland who I wouldn’t have thought came cheap at all, signed players like Lee Tomlin and Gary O’Neil permanently, paid a six figure sum for the promising Callum O’Dowda  and brought in Tammy Abraham on loan from Chelsea who is currently scoring goals for fun for them.

All of these signings have been paid for by the possible £15 million they are getting for Jonathan Kodjia from Villa and I daresay that they’ve still got a few quid profit on top – let’s not forget either that Kodjia was someone who we looked at last summer and decided he wasn’t worth the £2 million he would have cost us.

Then we come to Barnsley who would generally be regarded as a more modest outfit than the wurzels. They have made a good start to life in the Championship and are profiting from clever use of the loan market and permanent signings which have tended to come from the lower divisions and yet, when you look at the income that has flowed into that club in the last couple of months, you have to think they have the means to be able to be a lot more bold in the transfer market if they wanted to be.

However, when you are able to spot a centreback in League Two who you can sign for £250,000 and then sell him a year later for twenty times that amount like Barnsley did when they bought Alfie Mawson from Wycombe and then sold him to Swansea, do you really need to be spending millions left, right and centre? This is especially so when you have an Academy that can unearth a player like John  Stones who makes you £7 million because you had the good sense to negotiate a sell on clause when you sold him three years ago.

You look at those two clubs and contrast it to the situation we’ve got ourselves in and it only reinforces the view that we have brought on so many of our problems ourselves.

Oliver Burke at Forest, Demarai Gray at Birmingham, Aaron Tshibola at Reading and Lewis Cook at Leeds are all examples of Academy products at clubs who are hardly in the moneybags category for this league being sold for sums that sustain those teams and, in some cases, fund their total transfer spend during a transfer window.

We just do not produce players like this any more and, with rumours of Academy cutbacks being implemented within the past week, you have to wonder when we are likely to see another Aaron Ramsey or Joe Ledley coming through our ranks.

Bristol City had a price in mind for Kodjia and stuck to it throughout the summer and so have ended up with a deal which says that, based on one season in the Championship, he is three times the player, at least, that the current Scotland goalkeeper, who was regarded as the best in the Premier League in 13/14 by many, is.

Yes, I know it’s a different market when it comes to strikers and goalkeepers, but are you telling me that, with almost two years left on his contract and at an age which is often regarded as a goalkeeper’s peak, David Marshall is really only worth £3.5 million (possibly rising to £5 million) in this of all summers?

Rickie Lambert celebrates a fairytale England debut which saw him score the winning goal against Scotland with his first touch in international football. A late developer, who played in the lower divisions until he was twenty eight, Lambert was superb for Southampton in both Championship and Premier League as he combined traditional target man virtues with a skill and awareness not often seen in such players - still playing for his country two years ago, the thirty four year old is an intriguing, and perhaps excellent, signing for City.

Rickie Lambert celebrates a fairytale England debut which saw him score the winning goal against Scotland with his first touch in international football.
A late developer, who played in the lower divisions until he was twenty eight, Lambert was superb for Southampton in both Championship and Premier League as he combined traditional target man virtues with a skill and awareness not often seen in such players – still playing for his country two years ago, the thirty four year old is an intriguing, and perhaps excellent, signing for City.

The difference is that there is nearly always a desperation to sell at Cardiff (on the rare occasions when there isn’t, we tend to be throwing cash around as if there’s no tomorrow!). It may be eight years ago now, but the Ramsey transfer is so revealing – we produce a player who is better than those listed above and we sell him for peanuts without a sell on clause and even accept a cut in the agreed fee because the buying club are willing to pay us up front!

Cardiff City has been a club fighting, and mostly losing, a financial war since 2004 and when we reached a situation where we could have won it when we had all of that television money coming in after getting promoted, we proceeded to show that none of the lessons of the Hammam era had been learned.

There are those who blame Malky Mackay entirely for the Andreas Cornelius transfer which has come to symbolise why he “failed” at Cardiff City and the club were shown to be not good enough for the Premier League.

It was this deal, more than any other, that ushered in the Transfer Committee at Cardiff which would oversee all future player moves - owner Vincent Tan and Chairman Mehmet Dalman have been constants in this Committee since it’s inception in January 2014, with the club’s CEO (Simon Lim initially and now Ken Choo) and the manager at the time completing the foursome.

It’s very instructive to look at the list of players we’ve signed since the inception of the Transfer Committee and the end of last season (transfer values where available are taken from Wikipedia);-

Jan 2014
Magnus Wolff Eikrem – £2,000,000
Mats Møller Dæhli - not known
Jo Inge Berget – £2,000,000
Kenwyne Jones – Player-exchange
Fábio – not known
Juan Cala – Free, but I saw it reported as around £1 million at the time*.

Summer 2014
Guido Burgstaller – £800,000
Adam le Fondre -£2,170,000
Kagisho Dikgacoi – Free
Javi Guerra – Free
Federico Macheda – Free
Charlie Horton- Free
Tom Adeyemi -£882,000
Danny Johnson – Undisclosed
Sean Morrison- £2,620,000
Anthony Pilkington – £875,000
Danny Gabbidon -Free
Bruno Ecuele Manga -£4,400,000

January 2015
Scott Malone – £90,000
Alex Revell -£175,000
Lee Peltier – Nominal fee
Stuart O’Keefe – £750,000
Eoin Doyle – £750,000
Matthew Kennedy – Undisclosed

Summer 2015
Semi Ajayi -Free
Jordan Blaise -Free
Gabriel Tama? – Free
Idriss Saadi – Undisclosed
Marco Weymans – Free

You will see that I’ve not included loan deals here – I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the money we spent bringing the likes of Zaha, Ravel Morrison, Ameobi and Lawrence to the club runs into millions, but, in the interests of fairness, I should add that Tony Watt and Lex Immers could be said to be good loan signings last season.

When you look at that list, it doesn’t reflect the Transfer Committee in a good light does it? Who among all of those players have made a profit for us in terms of their transfer fee when they left the club or would do if they were sold today?

Well, I suppose Scott Malone was valued higher than £70k when we swapped him for Jazz Richards and there’s no doubting that we made money on Fabio, but, when you factor in wages as well, I doubt it if that is the case.

There are also some current players who it could be argued that we could get the transfer fee we paid back and more, but I’m not fully convinced that this is true.

That Cornelius transfer is, rightly, held against Malky Mackay when the talk switches to his transfer dealings, but we tended to get all or nearly all of our money back when other very big buys by him like Gary Medel and Steven Caulker left the club.

The truth is that, Fabio excepted, the only times we make a profit on transfer fees in recent years is when a player signed by Dave Jones (e.g. Marshall) or Malky Mackay (e.g. Jordon Mutch, Joe Mason and Simon Moore) is sold.

So, while there were problems beforehand, I would strongly argue that things have got a lot worse under the Transfer Committee’s watch. They have, more than anything else, only strengthened the argument for those who say that there needs to be more people with football experience involved in the implementation of transfer policy.

I should say now, that, if you think I’m giving the club’s money men a hard time here, it’s fairly mild compared to what they would have got if we had not signed Lambert yesterday. I’ll also mention that, looking at that list, there is some evidence that the Committee might be learning from it’s past mistakes – I suppose time will tell on that score when we are able to make a proper judgment on the quality of the recruitment work done over the summer.

As it is, at the end of last season I would have rated the different departments of the team as follows;-

Goalkeeper – automatic promotion standard  (best keeper in the league and a capable understudy)

Full backs/wing backs – halfway up the league standard

Centrebacks – top six standard

Midfield – top ten standard

Wingers – top half standard

Strikers – bottom six standard

Based on what I’ve seen so far this season, I’d go

Goalkeeper – impossible to judge, but I fear it could be bottom three standard because we’ve made a right pigs ear of this position in the last fortnight or so

Full backs/wing backs – bottom third standard

Centrebacks – Bruno Manga is struggling a bit and Ben Turner’s gone, but Lee Peltier’s doing well in a new role for him and Semi Ajayi has improved, so I’ll stick with top six standard

Midfield – we’ve only lost players who weren’t going to feature, but we’re bottom half standard at the moment

Wingers – not used yet, so hard to tell

Strikers – still bottom six standard (if not lower)

Yes, it’s been a pretty miserable experience watching us so far this season, so it would be easy to heap even more blame on the Transfer Committee, but it should be said that when we start playing again, the probability is that we will have three new signings in our line up as well as someone else who has barely kicked a ball for us since he signed a few weeks ago.

When we play at Norwich, the odds are that Ben Amos will be in goal instead of Ben Wilson, that Joe Bennett will be playing on the left and that Rickie Lambert will be leading the attack – I’m hoping that Emyr Huws will finally be ready to start playing  a bigger part as well.

Now, it must be said that, with the exception of Huws, a look at the messageboards of clubs this foursome last played for does not make for encouraging reading – just as with Jazz Richards, there’s barely a good thing being said about Amos, Bennett and Lambert. I must admit to having no great faith in Amos either, but he does have a decent pedigree I suppose.

One of our regular correspondents on here has given us his far from complimentary opinion of Bennett as well in the Feedback section and so I can’t help thinking that so much relies on how Lambert fares for us.

City have previous when it comes to signing Liverpool born former England strikers and, having mentioned him in my last post on here, this has the feel of a Peter Ridsdale type transfer to me.

West Brom fans are glad to be shot of Lambert and as someone who will turn thirty five during this season, there always has to be the chance that he is into a steep rather than gentle career decline. However, he’s someone who I cannot remember ever having spent any significant time out with injury during his long career, so you’d like to think he has a few more years of good football, at Championship level anyway, left in him yet.

If he is still anything like the man who made playing in this division look so easy when he was with Southampton, then we will have got ourselves someone who could make a huge difference to the team – we still have to improve the connection between midfield and striker(s), but, hopefully, having Huws in there and Immers back in his best position will help in that direction.

Suddenly, I’m not quite as despondent about what will happen to us up to January. Maybe our Transfer Committee have pulled a rabbit out of the hat this time – at least we’ve not signed Kyle Lafferty who is one of those players who always has me saying “I’m so glad he doesn’t play for us” when I see him in action!

*I now recall that, although there was no transfer fee as such for Cala, he had agreed to sign for Getafe beforehand and we paid them a reported £1 million when they agreed to release him from that commitment.



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5 Responses to Rickie Lambert – the man who rescued City’s transfer window or another Robbie Fowler?

  1. Russell says:

    Thanks Paul the transfer summary is well positioned, I actually think over the last year we have bought well, Immers, Hughes, Jazz, are solid players, Amos and Bennett may surprise a few. I tend not to believe everything ex fans say about players moving on , as like CCMB they usually barmy, or holding grudges,you only need to view some of our own fans views on Whitt’s.
    I also remeber Palace fans negative views on O’Keefe.

    Think the transfer commitee has tried to get value in a tight competitive environment, whilst ensuring we don’t overspend,and balanced with the fact comming and settling in Cardiif is not the ideal choice for many who would prefer playing in England, and nearer home .

    I look at the squad on paper with its internationals and wonder why we arn’t more optimistic and wonder perhaps with some good results we would see something develop into a half decent side . We were nearly top 6 last year and if the goalkeeper position becomes stable with Amos we may improve this year, Marshall was very good however I felt his distribution was at times average ,as was his authority in the box. I hear Amos has good feet and can distribute,we maybe pleasantly surprised?

    If as mentioned Lambert has kept fit ,we know he is an old skool
    forward we may have had a useful signing,would love to see a type of Tony Watts alongside him alias its not to be and Healey who fits that bill is at the County alongside the beast.

    Let’s hope we do the Canaries and stop the rot ,in readiness for our old foe Leeds,who in a right mess.

  2. Roy says:

    Good article, Bob, and good reply, Russell. Not much else to add other than we should have held out for more than 5 million for Marshall. After all, weren’t Sunderland in the market for a GK? CCFC need a hard-nosed negotiator, not the apparent pussies they have at the moment. Perhaps Vinnie needs to get more involved – he couldn’t do any worse, and he sure as hell didn’t build his business empire by folding at every turn.

    PS Bob. Can you start a mailing list for your column? It’s so painful to have to dredge through the immature and child-kile drivel on the CCMB to find any quality. You and about two other posters are the only ones worth reading. Just a thought. You can set it up with Chimpmail – easy and free!

  3. Dai Woosnam says:

    Paul…even if as you say, you have borrowed from Wikipedia here, I still salute you for the sheer work involved in your above piece.
    What really DESPERATE reading that litany of failed transfers makes!

    And, here’s the thing: try though we may to pin these disastrous acquisitions on a “committee”, the plain fact is that Sir Vincent doubtless agreed to a committee, only because the days of a “George Graham and bungs” just HAD to be a wake-up call to all football club owners. It thus became vital that they have checks and balances* built-in when it came to any transactions.
    Yet, by definition, the driving force in any such committee just has to be the club manager. After all, he is the specialist recruited at major expense, to look after affairs on the field…and that includes choosing which personnel wear the jersey.

    So here we have three massive failures of recruitment…and they can be largely each pinned at the door of successive managers. Machiavellian Malky, the Grinning Kamikaze, and thirdly – although admittedly putchasing from Netto rather than Waitrose – Mr Chips…(ex McCain Stadium that was).

    All three should go before the Court of Public Opinion, and be sentenced to never being allowed to buy a footballer ever again.

    As for your comments on the derisory fee paid for the best goalkeeper playing in these islands (bar possibly the Spurs and Stoke keepers): they echo mine which I posted on your wonderful blog, just a few days ago.

    However, the money RECEIVED for a player…well, that truly IS down to the four man committee. Hope there is a sell-on clause…cos good fit keepers can play on like Shilton, Southall, etc., to nearly forty…and even longer when it comes to the SUPER fit like John Burridge. (Sp?)

    * a passable “spoken word” pun…even if it does not quite work on the page.

  4. Dai Woosnam says:

    Oh dear…better for me to have said “one of the top five goalkeepers playing in these islands”.
    Well, I seem to have forgotten a certain Mr David de Gea at Old Trafford …! And he is clearly the best custodian of the lot, is he not?
    But give me Marshall before Courtoise, Hennessy, Adrian, Forster, Hart, Foster, Gordon, MacGregor…etc., etc., any day of the week.
    And we can include another name in that list. The name of the man astonishingly named in the PFA Team of the Year 2013-14. (Wales Online please note, as I was told you have been saying that Marshall was picked in that team…maybe my informant has given me duff info. I hope so. For the plain fact is that Marshall was astonishingly overlooked in favour of the Chelsea keeper.)
    Peter Cech.
    I would still take Marshall before him…and of course before Tom Heaton too: his one-time understudy at the CCS.
    One of the top five keepers in the British Isles for just £3.5m…?!

    Perversely, almost as fishy in its way, as the best part of £10m frittered away on the NON Great Dane.

  5. The other Bob Wilson says:

    Thanks for the replies and sorry for not replying to them earlier.
    Sorry, Russell and Dai, but I cannot agree with your comments on the Transfer Committee. Russell, the Committee may have tried to get “value in a tight competitive environment”, but I see very little evidence that they have done. The fact that, until last month, we had not sold a single player signed by the Transfer Committee for a transfer fee that was higher than the one we paid for them tells you so much about their effectiveness, while the verdict becomes even more damning when the millions wasted on loan signings that didn’t work and wages of players that were being paid too much for other sides to consider buying them are taken into account.
    Dai, I think we have been at a point where the manager has often been outvoted by the other three members of the Committee for at least two years. I believe it’s fair to say that the Committee was set up to try to make sure there would be no more Cornelius type transfers and, to the extent that we’ve not paid anything like as big a transfer fee since it was set up, they’ve succeeded. However, you only have to look at that litany of failure that is the list of signings made by the Committee to realise that, when you look at the whole financial package (i.e. transfer fees, signing fees, agent’s fees, wages and bonuses), there has been far more money wasted by the Transfer Committee than there ever was on the Cornelius transfer.
    Also, I have serious doubts as to whether the manager (whoever he might have been) was the “driving force” behind every single transfer in recent years. Going all of the way back to the summer of 2011 when the newly appointed Malky Mackay supposedly signed Etien Velikonja, it was strange to hear him later say that he had the player scouted while he was at Watford and was hoping to sign him, but, because he regarded Cardiff as a step up from his former club at that time, he believed we needed better than him.
    Now, you can choose to whether to believe what Mackay said there or not, but it does seem strange that Velikonja played so little first team football for City under Mackay’s management if he was the driving force behind the striker coming here.
    Similarly, if Ole was behind the signing of Javi Guerra and Juan Cala, why did he seems so reluctant to play them? Vincent Tan owns a Belgian club (FC Kortrijk) and since that happened, we have started to sign players based in that country as well as France, the Netherlands and Scandinavia. It seems obvious to me that there is someone at Kortrijk who is helping is with our recruitment from mainland Europe and I suppose it could have been Ole, Russell Slade and now Paul Trollope who is telling them to find me some players, but it seems more likely to me that it his boss at Kortrijk who is the driving force behind this process – I could go through that list (and also the signings we’ve made this summer) and label each of the players a manager’s signing or a Vincent Tan signing (there may also be one or two Mehmet Dalman signings as well) and I honestly believe that my opinion would be correct in the large majority of cases.
    Vincent Tan isn’t responsible for all of the bad decisions made by the Transfer Committee (in fact, I’d say there have been some pretty good “Tan signings” since January 2014), but, by the same token, you cannot put all of the blame for that list (which you say makes “DESPERATE reading”) onto Messrs Solskjaer, Slade and now Trollope (all of the players in that list were signed after Malky Mackay had left the club) – the Committee was supposedly set up to stop a manager riding roughshod over the wishes of the money men at the club and your claim that it is still happening is, effectively, an admission that Messrs Tan, Dalman and Lim/Choo have failed in that objective.
    A few words about our goalkeeping situation as well – I tend to rate Marshall as highly as Dai does and I believe we are really going to miss him in the coming months. However, even if Ben Amos turns out to be as good as Russell hopes he is and Marshall’s loss isn’t as big a disadvantage as a I fear it is, the decision to sell him for £3.5 million (was Paul Trollope the driving force behind that I wonder?) has to be a seriously flawed one surely.
    Roy, I’m with you all of the way regarding your first paragraph until the last sentence! I feel we need someone who is more streetwise in football terms and has a greater knowledge of the game’s workings when it comes to negotiating contracts with the representatives of transfer targets.
    As for your second paragraph, I’m going to look into the possibility of setting up a mailing list and have already registered with MailChimp – I’ll probably put something on here about it within the next week.

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