If you filled a room with football people and asked them about the January transfer window, you’d be hardpressed to find too many supporters. I saw Niall Quinn on Sky yesterday morning wondering aloud as to which other business would impose such restrictions on hiring and firing practices during the year. The complaint from managers is similarly practical: the best players aren’t available and you often pay over the odds for what you can get in January.
Love it or loathe it, the window’s with us and probably will be for a while yet. The messageboards tend to go through several mood swings on transfer deadline day: extreme optimism, followed by euphoria as we announce a signing, and then bouts of pessimism. It still seems a little early to analyse Fulham’s transfer activity as the dust settles, but for the most part I’m happy with the direction that Roy’s taking the team.
His three signings yesterday seem to have addressed three of the key areas where we were light. Nicky Shorey is an England international left back and left full-back is one of the places where we’ve been struggling of late. Bringing somebody in suggests that we might be without Paul Konchesky for a little while – and the manner in which both Aston Villa’s goals came down the right on Saturday suggests that we badly miss Konch. Shorey’s got a point to prove, too. His career’s rather gone off the rails since he left Reading and, even if talk of an England recall seems a little far-fetched, Shorey’s in need of first-team football.
Stefano Okaka has come in on loan, putting an end to a protracted transfer saga that has run and run throughout January. There seems to be some confusion over whether Fulham have an option to sign the Italian on a permanent basis. Sky reported his agent suggesting that was the case, although over sources talk about clauses to extend the loan. Okaka’s raw, for sure, but he’s got pace and a lively quality that could make our front line a little less predictable, especially in light of the rather disappointing departure of Diomansy Kamara to Celtic.
Hodgson’s final deadline day signing was certainly one for the future. Christopher Buchtmann has been highlighted regarded as a promising German youth international and his versatility means he can play in several positions, either in defence or on the wing. His departure from Liverpool had their forums spewing with anger and contributors suggesting that it is another sign of a club in decline. You can sense the hand of Malcolm Elias in this deal – and we can only hope that young Buchtmann can justify the buzz around his signing by the end of his 18-month deal.
I’m still a little ambivalent on the Smalling deal, which we’ve addressed before. There’s still something nagging away at me that selling our brightest young prospect in years to the first serious offer strikes me as distinctly unambitious. Whilst £12m seems like a good deal for someone with few first-team games under his belt, imagine what he could have been worth with another season in the side? The fact that Hodgson’s had to deal in loans and youth prospects suggests that the Smalling money wasn’t likely to be reinvested in the side and, whilst I remain fully behind Roy, releasing some funds might have helped to halt our recent winless run.
Hodgson has at least managed to trim the squad further. Seol, who had drifted away from the first-team picture, whilst Adam Watts and Joe Anderson have also moved on. Matthew Briggs has certainly made an impression on loan at Leyton Orient and Wayne Brown will be hoping to do so with Bristol Rovers. The latter might be a little disappointed not to have forced his way in the first-team picture, but a loan offers him a chance of something a little more competitive than matches with the stiffs. As David Stockdale has proven, it could be a great opportunity to build confidence before coming into the team.