“At my house, I’ve got no Shackells
You can come and look, if you want to”
– (with apologies to the late, great Arthur Lee)
Nigel Clough has been quite open about the fact that he wanted to sell Jason Shackell for the past couple of weeks, despite outgoing CEO Tom Glick stating that Clough was under no pressure to do so.
I think it’s time to examine the PR practises that have been used to massage the truth about this particular transfer, which – with no meaningful indication of who the replacement will be at the time of writing – seems potentially disastrous for the team at this stage and has even prompted 14 season ticket holders to enquire about refunds.
The Numbers Game
Firstly, Thursday’s Derby Telegraph mentioned that Shackell was signed by Derby for £750,000. Which was interesting, because all previous reports I’ve seen about the Shackell deal mentioned a figure of around £1,000,000.
- The Barnsley Chronicle reported the fee to be in the region of £1m.
- BBC Derby were given to understand that the fee Derby paid to Barnsley for Shackell was ‘in excess of £1m’.
- When Shackell joined the Rams, the Derby Telegraph reported that he had completed a £1m move to Derby – an initial £750,000 fee topped up with add-ons to take the fee ‘into seven figures’.
Why, now that Shackell has been sold, is the price we paid suddenly being reported as £750,000?
Whether those £250,000 worth of add-ons were paid to Barnsley or not isn’t the issue. The point is, when they bought Shackell, Derby trumpeted him as a £1m signing. Unfortunately, that has now backfired on them, because it inflated fans’ perceptions of how much the player would be sold for and has stoked anger about the deal.
Glick recently said that Shackell would only be sold if enough money was offered not only to replace him, but also to strengthen the squad in another area. Even Colin Bloomfield took this to mean that we would be looking for at least £1,500,000, maybe even as much as £2,000,000. However, it seems that it won’t be as expensive as we thought for Derby to replace Shackell. He was only a £750,000 defender, after all…
And it has now emerged that the second player funded by the deal, far from being the decent striker we badly need, is in fact likely to be a 21-year old rookie defender from Crewe.
‘Young, hungry‘ and cheap
When the Derby Telegraph asked Glick for an interview to discuss the Shackell deal, all they got was a woefully inadequate statement, in which Glick was even unwise enough to say the club are looking at ‘young, hungry’ (i.e. cheap) players.
Glick’s statement read: –
“Working within our budget, our focus remains on building a stronger squad for the coming season and I want all Rams fans to know that we are working hard to invest in new players across the pitch.
“By selling Jason, it allows us to reinvest at centre-back and other positions.
“Nigel has already identified the kind of young, hungry player, like Michael Jacobs, that we wish to bring to Pride Park and we hope to have further positive news soon.”
At a time like this, we don’t need tired clichés, any more than we need a ‘young, hungry’ replacement for an ‘established, experienced, high-quality’ central defender. If Glick is so confident that we have done the right thing by selling Shackell, he should have accepted the Telegraph’s request and done the interview straight away.
Meanwhile, the club website quotes Clough as saying: –
“Although I am sad to see Jason leave, we have Jake Buxton, Tom Naylor and Mark O’Brien, who have all proved to be more than capable at (sic) performing in the npower Championship.”
No disrespect to those players, but none of them are anywhere near as good as Shackell. And everyone knows it, including Clough and the ‘young, hungry’ press officer who wrote the quote.
Back to the Glick line that Clough was not obliged to sell anyone. This was simultaneously true and untrue. While the manager wasn’t forced to sell, in that the club didn’t demand it, he was forced to sell, in the sense that he wasn’t going to be able to bring in new players unless he did so.
Cutting a few fringe players wasn’t going to fund anything meaningful and we were obviously short in attack last season anyway. The only way Clough could raise enough money to (presumably) pay a decent striker’s wages was to sell – and the only player worth enough to make any serious difference was Shackell.
It’s conceivable that the Shackell deal will help to fund the permanent signing of a new striker. But Clough has already raised the possibility of bringing in a surplus Premier League player on a standard loan, so there’s also every possibility that it won’t. Besides, as the club’s PR men have pointed out, Jamie Ward is a striker, so maybe we don’t need another one anyway.
The new centre back, whoever he is, will be under scrutiny from game one, because he will be the only replacement for our two key centre backs, who were also our first-choice captains and team leaders. If we have an iffy start to the season, rightly or wrongly, you can imagine a scenario in which a section of the fans will be straight onto the new man’s back.
I hate to mention Stern John, the palpably inferior replacement for Grzegorz Rasiak who was booed out of Pride Park by disgusted fans, but there is every possibility that this risky bout of horse-trading could go badly wrong.
As well as Shackell, we have already lost Paul Green, with Steve Davies and James Bailey also set to leave, along with three or four other players deemed surplus to requirements. Clough has already said that a maximum of four players will come in this summer, so we can only expect three more signings in addition to Jacobs.
It’s therefore fair to say that despite Glick’s statement of Thursday night, our squad will actually be smaller and – depending on the calibre of the new recruits – quite possibly weaker come August than it was at the start of last season. And last season, we finished 12th.
At some point soon, these year-on-year budget cuts have got to stop. Fans have put up with austerity measures season after season and have, by and large, accepted the fact that the club has to live within its means – particularly as Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations are about to be introduced, with transfer embargos set to be slapped on clubs who make excessive losses.
But FFP rules do allow club owners to invest a certain amount of capital each year. Having already parted with around £30m to keep the club afloat, are GSE just tired of spending money on Derby now? The club’s next set of accounts will make interesting reading.