Who managed the best sale?

Are release fees in contracts a good or bad thing? Here are two recent examples, one transfer from Norwich, the other from Southampton.

Are release fees in contracts a good or bad thing? Here are two recent examples, one transfer from Norwich, the other from Southampton.

Take Robert Earnshaw, which is what Derby did.

We got £3.5 million for Earnie, which is either a good price or a bad price depending how you view his form last season, or how you think he will perform in the Premiership. On current form, Derby have paid well over the odds, and it already appears that his time at Pride Park may well be drawing to a close. He joined Derby at the end of June; we had to let him go at a pre-agreed price, which gave us cash to line up replacements in good time for the start of the new season. We didn't have to panic buy, and if our first choice player was not within our price range, the chances were that other options were available.

Take Kenwyne Jones, which is what Sunderland did.

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He didn't have that magical release clause written into his contract. He scored a decent goal against Norwich, but saw his team lose their first three games of the season. Then Kenwyne got a nudge from his agent reminding him to look at the departures board at Southampton station. Two words and a date, displayed in bright flashing lights, caught his attention. They were “Gravy Train” and “31st August 23:59”.

Kenwyne's agent, who realised long before Kenwyne ever did that for every player on the Gravy Train, the agent is in on the buy one get one free deal, (the appropriately named acronym BOGOF springs to mind here), may well have been persuading his client that he's a bit better than he really is. More than likely, he also may have been trying to persuade the clubs at the Poundshop end of the Premiership that he was a decent player as well.

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I don't know why Southampton didn't let Kenwyne go when there were rumours of a £5 million price tag floating around. Perhaps they didn't want to sell him. Perhaps these stories were fed to the press to stir up interest in him. Perhaps the price tag was to put other clubs off. But with the transfer deadline only a few days away the behaviour of both parties involved in transfer deals often changes from rational to irrational.

The second to last scene in this farce was played out at St Mary's with Kenwyne, in theatrical terms, hiding in the wings, on strike. My initial reaction to the 3-2 result and the highlights of the Southampton victory was that Kenwyne had been humiliated, as Southampton had scored three and by all accounts played well. On further reflection it was exactly the right result for him; three goals without their star striker, who needs him anyway?

And five days later Kenwyne became a Sunderland player at a cost of around £6 million, with Stern John thrown in as well. But Stern John, a decent player and proven championship striker, may or may not want to be at Southampton to play for a manager that may or may not have wanted to sign him anyway. Did George Burley have a choice here, or did Stern John for that matter?

What induced Roy Keane to pay a wallet busting £6 million for Kenwyne? Was it in blind panic seeing the transfer deadline fast approaching? Is he a fool and easily parted from his money? Or is half of the transfer fee the “WAG Premium” that Keane was complaining about so vociferously last week? And why did Sunderland pay a million less for Michael Chopra?

In summary - which of the two clubs got the better deal for their star striker? Was it Southampton or Norwich? Looking at the deal purely in cash terms, Southampton did, no doubt. But if Jamie Cureton, James Beattie or Billy Sharp were currently available how much would George Burley have had to pay with all that cash burning a hole in his pocket? Plenty more than the fees Norwich or Sheffield United paid, I would wager. Now that Southampton have a fortune to spend and with most squads now settled, who is going to let a first choice, striker or otherwise, go for less than a substantial premium? Very few clubs would be my answer.

Yes - there was a big difference in the fees, but the £3.5 million for Earnie, in comparison to the grief, disruption and transfer deadline day purchasing power that £6 million Southampton received for Kenwyne Jones may not be such a huge difference after all.

Personally speaking I think that the real losers in the deal are Sunderland, but the league table will the final judge of that.

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