Come in number 8

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1st November 2003, a sunny Saturday lunchtime, in the posh seats and a full day and night’s drinking ahead. It was one of those “second stag dos”, you know the sort of thing organised for those cheapskates and not quite friends who didn’t go away with you. A select few at the game, making our way over to Wigan Lane by tea time for the full set of festivities. Unfortunately for the voyeurs amongst you, our story for today begins and ends at the JJB stadium, but at least it was a game to remember, on a number of counts.

As it was a special occasion and we’d taken the posh seat option, we were suited and booted, fed and watered and sat on padded seats to watch Latics hand out a televised 5-0 drubbing. A game that saw Andy Liddell pick up a brace to surpass David Lowe’s position as all time top league goal scorer but nearly not get put forward for ‘Golden Moment’ by our stag (the other lounge had got man of the match). In the end it took physical threats to convince him that Sir Andrew’s achievement was probably a little more important that Geoff Horsfield scoring on his birthday.

Where am I going with this one? Well the opponents that day were Crystal Palace and the only player who looked anything like for them on the day was their young, yet balding number 8 who would end up with 31 goals that season, enough to see his side pip Latics to a play off position. A player who would then go on to be the top English scorer in the top flight the season after. If you’ve caught Sky Sports News or read anything football related on the net at all today, then you’ll have guessed by now that I’m talking about Andrew Johnson (not that the picture was a giveaway).

On that day I got the impression of him as a similar sort of player to the man taking the plaudits at the other end, not only in style of play but in the fact that despite his colleagues seeming lack of enthusiasm he obviously cared. I’ve seen nothing since to change that opinion, except to add that he seems a little bit more capable of scoring goals at the top level.

Is he worth £8.5 million that Whelan and Jewell seem prepared to pay? That’s not really for me to say, but if I’m allowed an opinion then I think it’s over his market value, especially as we’re paying cash. But clubs like Latics don’t hold all the card sin negotiations like these, and will have to go that little bit further to stake their claim. The real question is not whether he’s worth it now, but (should he sign) how quickly can he repay it, 15-20 goals and a third season in the Premier League would see the account levelled in as little as 12 months.

Will he sign? There’s only Johnson knows that, we’ll be breaking our wage structure to get him for sure, but we’ll be doing for a player who looks to earn his wages rather than a mercenary. Another bit of opinion for you, I think that talk of the player preferring Everton was designed purely to encourage us to up our bid and them to join the party. They (and probably Bolton) won’t be able to pay that amount in a lump sum and may if they’re going for a HP agreement would possibly need to go above 10 million. The main threat now might come from the rumoured interest that Portsmouth are showing, although it would present a test of their new owner’s commitment.

Apart from that he might decide to stay where he his, wait to see what else comes in, but the summer isn’t that long and I can see him wanting to get the whole thing over and done with. If we make him a realistic offer, there’s a fair chance that we’ll have another player in Germany this summer (broken feet pending of course)

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