Welcome to a land of fudge and duck

PUBLISHED: 13:53 25 January 2006 | UPDATED: 09:09 14 September 2010

There are a hundred and one different points that can be made on the back of Dean Ashton's exit this week. The fact that he might, just, have had a part to play in his own exit is made below.

There are a hundred and one different points that can be made on the back of Dean Ashton's exit this week. The fact that he might, just, have had a part to play in his own exit is made below.

Even then it is hard to blame him.

He's just 22-years-old. And single. Or rather not married.

Irrespective of whether Norwich City Football Club were first, second, eighth or 19th in the Championship, if someone is offering you the prospect of earning, say, £30,000 a week for the next four-and-a-half years of your life - and for those struggling to find a calculator that's the small matter of £6,480,000 give or take the odd goal bonus and signing-on fee - it would take the most die-hard on Canary hearts to actually turn round and say: 'Oooh, no, I'll stay in Norfolk thanks...'

And likewise if anyone truly thinks that the first time those sort of numbers crossed Dean's hearing was the first time he rolled up at Upton Park sometime last Sunday, well, they need to get out a bit more.

While opposition managers are, indeed, barred from approaching players, there's absolutely no law against them 'tapping' up a player's agent to let him know what, exactly, might be on the table once the transfer window opens come January.

Equally, it would be an extremely bold and brave manager-stroke-football club who turned round to Dean this month and said: 'Er, no, you're staying here; you only signed a new contract with us last summer; no, you're not having a £7 million jolly in the East End of London...'

Would you go into your shell and sulk? Er, yes. Burnley away on a Friday night. Great. Let me at 'em, gaffer...

The other sense of outrage that appears to have accompanied Dean's exit is this feeling that Norwich City Football Club was somehow, shall we say, less than wholly transparent over the whole transfer saga.

Football clubs being economical with the truth?

No? You're joking.

You mean you didn't get the SMS text message alert to say that West Ham United had just upped their offer to £6.25 million plus £500,000 in add-ons on Thursday night - what shall we do? Vote now...

Look at it another way. So the Canaries might not have been wholly open every step of the way; that, on occasion, they might have used one or two loopholes of language to cover their tracks.

“We haven't received any offers for any of our players that are of any interest to Norwich City Football Club...” could be one example. Within that tortuous phraseology it doesn't mean that Norwich haven't actually received any offers; they may have had plenty that were of no interest to them.

In traditional football speak, one man's “inquiry” can be another man's “offer”. When a manager “puts a call in” it is unlikely that they were talking about the weather. But was it an offer?

And there is another point, too. Because - as ever - at the very heart of this deal lies the player and his agent.

Given the kind of numbers we're talking - and Dean's uncle will not have walked away empty-handed out of this weekend's events - are they going to have been straight-down-the-line, up front and honest with Norwich City Football Club every step of the way?“On my heart, gaffer, I love it here; I'll give you my all; I'm not looking at anything till the summer...”

As has been said before, Dean's one of the good guys. He's nice lad; a decent lad. But he's human. And he's no saint.

And somewhere along the way, the odd, little white lie might have popped up into conversation.

After all, that's what his uncle is in the mix for; that as his agent, he is there to look after Dean's best interests. Not Norwich City's. And if that means playing completely dumb when anyone asks whether he's had Alan Pardew on the phone, he'll do it. That's the very nature of the beast. People might not outright lie, but boy will they fudge, duck, weave, bob and dance about the subject, in the hope that in amidst all such smokes and mirrors, what is actually going on is - until the time is right - hidden from immediate view.

And, in many respects, that is true of every business in the land.

The difference being, of course, that as supporters of a football club you are in a sense “emotional shareholders” in that particular enterprise and, therefore, have a need - if not a divine right - to know what's going on. More so than, say, if you owned 100 shares in Marks & Spencers.

Are Norwich City any better or worse than anyone else in a game, an industry, overloaded with pimps, chancers, fly-by-nights and general ne'er-do-wells? Better, I'd suggest.

When was the last time Freddy Shepherd hosted a supporters' consultative group meeting up at St James'?

t SAINT DEANO MUST CARRY SOME OF THE BLAME

Before the dust finally settles on Dean Ashton's £7.25 million move to West Ham United, it might be worth pointing out one or two things before the now-departed England Under-21 striker joins Malky Mackay in the gallery of Carrow Road saints.

For example, when Ashton says: “I spoke to Nigel Worthington and the board and told them I wanted to pursue this opportunity” it ought to be taken as meaning exactly that.

He wanted to go, as his agent had been making abundantly clear to the people who matter for virtually as long as Alan Pardew had been making his interest in Ashton's signature public.

Funnily enough, the two work hand in hand. If Ashton's man - his uncle, rather oddly - had said from day one that: 'Sorry, Alan, Dean wants to back to the North-West…' I doubt Pardew would have been quite so eager in his pursuit. The reason that West Ham came in time and again was because there, somewhere in the background, Dean's uncle was giving it the big 'Come and get us!' plea as all of the Ashton family Christmas' came at once. All, presumably, with his nephew's quiet blessing.

Nice, decent lad that he is, to suggest that Dean is entirely without sin in this whole affair is not quite right. Indeed, unless you honestly believe that Ashton woke up last Saturday morning and said: 'You know what, I think I really do fancy that move to West Ham after all . . . I might just give the gaffer a bell…' the thought of getting out of here and leaving the rest of the boys in the dressing room to it might have crossed his mind for a little while now.

And if I was being wholly cynical, I would suggest that the thought clearly crossed his mind sometime after the Queen's Park Rangers defeat when he was, head and shoulders, the best player on view. Thereafter, groins, hamstrings and everything else permitting, the 100 per cent, firing-on-all-cylinders, put-my-head-where-it-hurts, wow-what-a-player Dean turned up just once more. At home to Southampton.

Difficult as it may be not to get all too misty-eyed and sentimental over Ashton's exit, he isn't exactly blameless.

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