I have a bit of a theory with regards to football.
If it is a generalised cliché then it is not worth taking seriously.
What kind of thing am I talking about? Here are a couple of examples:-
"Decisions even themselves out over the season." They may, they may not. Has anybody got any proof that is true? What about for Man Utd, do they really get as many against them as they do for them? Further evidence is the alternative table that you will see doing the rounds during the season where the point totals are adjusted based on what would likely have happened had the referee got all of the decisions correct. Ok, it is not an exact science but there are always big anomalies and the table is often very different.
"2-0 is the most dangerous score." Eh? I would suggest 1-0 up with 10 minutes to go is a bit more dangerous than being 2-0 up with 2 minutes to go. Maybe I just like living on the edge.
A slightly different one that we are expected to swallow is, "he’s not that kind of player." This is usually uttered after a knee-high two-footed tackle or after a deliberate elbow straight into an opponent’s face. If he’s not that kind of a player then why did he do it? Has there ever been a player that is ‘that kind of player’? Callum McManaman had them lining up to tell us that he wasn’t one of them after he tried to amputate Massadio Haidara. Strange that he had done an almost identical thing in a game not too long before.
You will hear them and read them daily and you will know what they mean. They are so ingrained into football terminology that most will accept them without any question.
How can a game as complex as football, a game that has so many variables be conducive to a host of definitive statements used by people who cannot be bothered to think of anything else?
"You do not improve by selling your best players."
On the face of it this seems a fair enough, right? When you break it down, think about it and analyse it then does it stand up to scrutiny? We are about to find out. For my sake I hope it turns out to be at least questionable otherwise I am going to have to delete all of this and write something else. I would also like to point out that I take issue when this is used to criticise SAFC and as a slight towards Ellis Short. This is what has prompted me to write this piece.
For my analysis I am going to look back over the last few seasons in the Premier League and pick out the occasions where a team has sold one (or more) of their best players and then have a look at how they got on afterwards.
Arsenal – last summer they sold Robin Van Persie to Man Utd and Alex Song to Barcelona. They ended up with 3 more points (73) during the 12/13 season without Van Persie and Song. In 10/11 they sold Fabregas and Nasri but finished with 2 more points (70) in 11/12. No trophies but points wise Arsenal have improved.
Aston Villa – probably the best example (along with us) of making a mess of things when selling your best players. They trusted Big ‘Eck with most of the rebuilding and, again like us with Bruce, it almost proved disastrous to entrust such a job to a manager with a cauliflower for a brain. After selling Milner, Young and Downing their point totals reduced quite dramatically and it was not until the latter part of last season that things started to improve for them. Incidentally and off on a tangent, Villa signed a load of cheap, young unknowns and foreigners last summer (sound familiar?) and once they started to gel they have genuine cause for optimism for the future.
Everton – they are a club that has performed really well after selling their better players for very good fees. It has had little bearing on their league position. They have sold Andy Johnson (£10.5m), Joleon Lescott (£22m), Mikel Arteta (£10m) and Jack Rodwell (£15m) during the previous close seasons and these have coincided with finishes of 8th, 7th, 7th and 6th.
Fulham – had a disappointing season last time out after the sales of Mousa Dembele and Clint Dempsey. They dropped 9 points from season 11/12 to 12/13. A cynic may suggest that replacing them with the likes of Richardson was not a particularly good idea...
Newcastle – after selling Ba to Chelsea in January of this year they had an initial burst after they signed France and then reverted back to type afterwards. However, having sold Andy Carroll is January 2011 and Enrique in the summer of 2011 they then went onto a 5th place finish in the 11/12 season.
Swansea – having finished their first season in the Premier League in an admirable 11th place with 47 points, they sold Joe Allen and Scott Sinclair to Liverpool and Man City respectively. Last season they followed that up with a 9th place finish although with 1 less point.
Tottenham – in the summer of 2012 Spurs sold Luka Modric for £33m, Rafael van der Vaart for £10.3m as well as other players like Pienaar and Corluka. Despite this they managed an extra 3 points last season compared to 11/12 although they slipped one league place.
West Ham – after winning promotion they sold Scott Parker to Spurs but still managed a 10th place finish in their first season big in the top flight.
So, what can we conclude? Things definitely are not clear cut. Some teams, of which we are one, have made a complete pig’s ear of selling the bigger players and others like Arsenal, Spurs and Everton have been able to continue to finish in the upper echelons of the league. Admittedly it is hard to form a case that teams make dramatic improvements but we can definitely see that you can continue to prosper if you let your big guns go. What is the key? For me it is all about good replacements, good managers and good scouting. This is where things are different for us now, this is the step into the unknown. None of us have seen the current regime and new recruitment policy in our lifetimes, none of us can predict what will happen next season. But....
Next time somebody tries to tell me that we will not improve and that the club has no ambition due to the possible outgoings I am certain I have the evidence to continue my quest of trying to cheer up the doom-mongers and hand them back their towels after they have thrown them into the ring before a ball has even been kicked. If that still does not convince them then I may have to up the ante and detail how well clubs like Porto, Benfica and Udinese have done after selling their best players.
Keep the faith lads, we are in for a hell of a ride.