Balancing the books

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In some ways it was a fairly dull transfer deadline day, the usual suspects and ITK journos were rolled out on Sky Sport News to keep the interest going but with the Alves deal being more a rubber stamp than last minute negotiations it was left to the Pompey/City/Defoe/Benjani farce to keep things ticking over between tea time and midnight. The fact that Andy Reid (to Sunderland) was the biggest single deal apart from those listed sort of tells you how much of a struggle they had on their hands.

Latics kept mostly out of it with a single, loan signing wrapped up by mid-afternoon bringing a close to Steve Bruce’s bring and buy sale, and with no-one else leaving the club, it’s the first January that I can remember where Latics look at least numerically stronger come the end of it.

Two departures compared with five (or six depending on how you look at it) signings is reasonable business but nothing like the movement that many were predicting when Bruce took the Job last year. Perhaps we should be placing some credence in the reports that the new man was surprised by the quality available to him at the club and, for once, believe the manager when he says he thinks he’s got enough to do the job at hand?

Let’s have a look

You put your right arm in

Wilson Palacios
I’m still struggling to come up with a decent quidditch joke to accompany the Honduran Harry Potter, maybe I should ask Arsene Wenger to help me out. After all it was the Arsenal manager who put the Honduran international in Steve Bruce’s direction when he was still manager of Birmingham.

Clearly a player with promise the jury is still out for me on whether Palacios is ready for Premier League football. He reminds me a bit of Jimmy Bullard, tenacious, energetic with a fair bit of skill, but with plenty of rough edges to knock off. I’d prefer to have him labelled up as one for the future, but with the lack of numbers in central midfield I guess we’re not going to have to wait to find out just how good he is.

Maynor Figueroa
Unlike his mate, Figueroa doesn’t come with the Wenger stamp of approval. Signed on the basis that he is one for the future, the six month loan deal seems to be more of an extended trial than anything.

I’ll have to admit that it has crossed my mind that Figueroa is along for the ride, brought in to keep Palacios company until he settles in. Either way there’s sense in what’s been done; we either get a decent left back or a happier midfielder. If it doesn’t work out then only Figueroa loses out, but them again it’s possibly easier to get noticed in our reserves than tucked away in South America somewhere.

Antonio Valencia
If Latics were right to have another look before committing on Tony, then only time will tell whether signing him now was the best step forward. A blistering run of form between the change of manager and the transfer window played their part, but the pessimist may have suspicions about the rumoured interest from elsewhere and whether the lad was playing for a contract where ever it was.

For now I’ll go with the benefits of a multi-lingual coaching staff and back Valencia to continue to build on his promise. If he carries on the way he’s been going, we’ve got a good un here that we’ll probably be moaning about having sold on the cheap in a few years time.

Eric Edman
He’s Swedish, he scored a 40 yard pearler at Anfield but he didn’t last very long at White Hart Lane. That’s about all I know about our new left back, oh, that and he got injured within minutes of turning up at Christopher Park.

Whilst there are no guarantees about such things, you have to assume that, once fit, Edman will take Kilbane’s place in the back four, freeing Killer up to challenge for a place in midfield. This proves, once and for all, that every silver lining has a cloud.

Marlon King
It’s nigh on essential that every mention of Marlon King, until he has settled in and started scoring goals, should include references to dodgy knees, prison sentences and the gap between the Championship and the Premier League. With that job over and done with, is signing him going to do us any good?

At the moment you’ll have to stick with the fact that Latics aren’t in a position to sin a striker that will guarantee us goals. Defoe and Bent may have both been (reportedly) available this January but I bet there’s only two clubs North of Watford that they’d consider. Lita may have been an option, but with a price tag to match his attitude (and still no guarantees) I’d say we’d be better off out of it.

With King we get a striker, at a reduced rate (Fulham were about to pay £5m) who has been keeping our prodigal son, Ellington, out of the Watford team. Ellington may have had his doubters when we were chasing him, but equally there were those gagging to get him back. I suppose what I’m saying is that Marlon deserves a chance, which knowing our lot, he’s not going to get.

Eric Hagen
This year’s David Unsworth or a genuine pressure on our current players to get their act together? Whichever it is, the Norway international allegedly ‘loves to defend’ and seems unlikely to be one to go off on a wander like, say, Mr Scharner. If he’s more mobile than Granqvist then he could give us the sort of partnership that both our managers tried to put together in the first half of the season.

Apparently comes with the nickname ‘Panzer’ and looking at him you can see where that comes from. Looks big and nasty and has European experience so it won’t be long before some wag tries to change Panzer into Hagen the Horrible, let’s hope it’s for the right reasons.

You take your left leg out

Fitz Hall
First out, and pretty much no surprise or complaints from anyone, with Scharner and Bramble providing the goldfish effect in the centre of defence, it was unlikely that we’d have seen one size any time soon. Has gone off to join the rich boys at QPR where no doubt his signing on fee will go towards a new ridiculously priced motor.

Denny Landzaat
I was never one for Landzaat baiting, but let’s face it he was never going to wind up being a star for a club like ours. It’s a pity though because his partnership with Brown was looking promising and his effect on games becoming more visible.

Overall, I’m not sure on this one. If Latics go down or struggle right until the last minute, then fingers will be pointed in the direction of this. If we canter over the finish line then the Dutchman before you can work out what the PSV stands for in his new club (especially when you add in the two days it takes you to realise that it was Feyenoord that he went to, not Eindhoven – Edit 07/02/08).

You do the hokey-cokey

It’s been a fairly quiet transfer window given our precarious league position and, amongst the usual mix of obscure strikers, Pompey rejects and African Nations stars, there’s been little to shout about. Whilst it would have been great to have a player called Kippi Kapo (or however you spell it) in the side, the only deal that I’m genuinely disappointed about not coming off (or being a complete fabrication) is the swap deal between Koumas and Stephen Reid.

Things have been a bit busier in the departure lounge, with Koumas, Scharner, Bent and Heskey all allegedly having boarding passes at one stage. Each would have left a fairly sizable hole in the squad and no matter how much I would love to think that we can do witho

ut Scharner, his ability to cover in both defence and midfield means that it could have taken two players to replace him (not that they would have had to be that good, mind).

In all it looks a fairly good window. We’ve added in all departments and, barring Landzaat, held onto all our first teamers. The obvious gap at left back has been plugged and whilst you might have wished for a more traditional left-sided option and more proven quality upfront, there’s now a fair bit of cover knocking about.

We’ve already dismissed the one-in-one-out theory, for this year at least, but how did we fair on the spending front? There was reported £15 million up for grabs, ignoring the surpluses from previous (not) spending ‘sprees’ and it must have been burning a hole in Bruce’s pocket.

The fact that every transfer fee Latics were involved in was officially ‘undisclosed’ makes things a little difficult to see just how the new boy compared to both Jewell and Hutchings. I’m estimating a £2m income from the Hall and Landzaat deals and with fees paid for Palacios, Edman, King and Valencia it appears that Bruce at least spent some money.

Through a mixture of guesswork and rumour I’m going for £1m, £500k, £3m and £2.5m respectively on those deals leaving us £5m down on the deals, but with still £10m left in the kitty. Enough for a fair old mix off the penny tray, give us a share, eh, Mr. Bruce?

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