Bennett Exit: This Year’s Model

ON NO, JOE! After the exit of Joe Bennett – £3m down, up to £4.25m if he gets a game plus a sell-on fee – there have been some squeals about lack of ambition and the folly of selling young talent but the harsh reality is that this is Boro’s new sustainable business model kicking-in. It is a move that brings the structure of Boro into sharp focus.


Since the realisation that the club were living beyond their means and the seismic financial dislocation of relegation and the real risk that it brings – see Leeds, Portsmouth, Charlton, Sheff Wed, Southampton, Leicester and many many more – Boro have been consciously working towards a formula that balances the books and perpetuates itself.
In short, for the foreseeable, there will be no big spending on over-priced older players on big wages over long contracts and with little resale value. Instead the club will be geared to spotting and nurturing young talent of our own – hence the significant £2m plus annual investment in the Academy, a position geared to protect the club from poachers as much as coaching the kids – and spotting bright young things lower down the leagues.
The flip side of that though is the implicit need to sell those youngsters in their prime, when they are most marketable and at the optimum moment to maximise the price. Inevitably that will mean when they are ‘hot’, when they are playing at their best. And that is when ideally you would want them to sign a new contract – which in turn will give them a pay rise and shift them closer to the fine line of being a liability rather than an asset.
It is a difficult balancing act to pull off. For instance, when Rhys Williams and Marvin Emnes were given new deals last term. That didn’t stop the speculation over them or fundamentally change the financially reality: if a big club comes in with the right offer they will still go – anything else flies in the face of the logic of the model – all that changes is the notional point along the fee//replaceability indices at which the club believe it is the “right offer.” As Mogga said it was always about the numbers getting to the right level.
Equally, making that difficult judgement that will inevitably mean public disquiet and occasionally a bit of a backlash. No supporter wants the club to lose their best players. But hey, guess what, we are a selling club now. It is part of the economic landscape. That may be hard to swallow but it is a reality.
Selling players as they peak will bring in money to help run the club, balance the books, prevent the wage bill rising, fund the purchase of other players and pay for the Academy, the engine that can keep the machine ticking over. It is the Arsenal model.
In recent years those sales – the likes of Downing, Johnson, Wheater, Morrison are the big hitters but a host of others too – have brought in £35m to keep the wolf from the door. And in the post-Premiership era that income becomes proportionally far more important. The alternative is more cuts, more borrowing or asking Gibbo to throw in even more money – and that latter is a possibility that will be squeezed dramatically over the next three years as Financial Fair Play clicks in.
More specifically, on Bennett himself, I’m relaxed about it.
On a personal note, he had to go. If you are a young and ambitious Championship player and a Premier League side come in you really HAVE to go. You may never get the chance again. Even if you are at a club that has a decent prospect of promotion and you are a fixture you never know. Football is a fragile and cruel industry and even if you are a fixture, the flavour of the month and flying anything can happen – a new manager with a new shape, new prejudices or preferred personnel, or more often, an injury. One break, tear or twist and you can lose a year and momentum and profile and the moment has gone and you are cast on the scrapheap of regret. Ask Batesy.
On a financial note, it makes sense for the club. They have had a decent offer for a player who cost nothing and realising a fee is the logic of the entire system. There is no point formulating a model then getting cold feet at the first moment of truth. And for Bennett too it makes economic sense. This move can secure his future, probably double his wages and open the door to the big time. He could wait and gamble on the prospects of getting there with Boro … or he could go route one and sign up now.
And on a footballing note, I’m relaxed about the move. Bennett had a sparkling year when he was taken off the naughty step and rehabilitated by Mogga. Especially when he was playing protected by Andrew Taylor, a shield for his own positional weaknesses and occasional moments of indiscipline. He had a bright spell and forced his way into the England Under 21 set-up amid a flurry of plaudits.
But injuries, illness and a reshuffle in the squad meant he stagnated last year. Some may say he even went backwards. Maybe the change to the team’s shape have asked more of him. Maybe he struggled with the weight of expectation. Maybe he took his eye off the ball. Certainly Mogga several times made pointed comments about his need to knuckle down and learn his trade. Once or twice he was dropped as a symbolic kick up the pants.
Since then Mogga has brought in George Friend who after a couple of storming displays has hinted at being more solid in defence than Bennett was and has also shown he can get forward just as effectively. And in pre-season Andy Halliday has impressed in that role too. Suddenly Bennett is not irreplaceable.
Whatever his relative potential in years to come, right now it would be hard to argue that Bennett he should be in the team ahead of the new boy – and if he is not in the team and someone wants to pay £3m it would be crazy to turn it down. And for Bennett, he may as well be on Villa’s bench with a payrise and a shot at the big time as on Boro’s.
He goes with good wishes. He has been OK at Boro without ever really hitting the heights we hoped he could. If he goes on to realise his potential elsewhere, good for him. It won’t be an indictment of Boro if he succeeds at another club (although it will gnaw a bit if it is at Villa, once for a brief spell our nursery club). Players come, players go; only the fans are a constant, the rest is in flux. That’s the football industry for you. It is just a job with a highly mobile workforce and limited windows of opportunity for players who have a sporting and financial imperitive to take them when they come. Don’t take it personally.
That’s why fans should never get anyone’s name but their own on the back of a shirt.
****
GILLINGHAM…. just a quickie. I was doing match report, writing up interviews and doing the stats etc for today’s paper and the wi-fi wouldn’t work so I had to effect hotel room running repairs didn’t get finish and get to bed until 2am. So no time for a blog. Then got up at sparrow’s fart, tweaked a few things and had breakfast then jumped on a train. Now I am making my way home bleary-eyed and jet-lagged – can you be jet-legged from Gillingham? – and looking life a refugee from a stag night so my batteries are no time for any serious writing about the game. It’s a glamourous life.
So in brief: a frantic finale but job done. A very polished first half with lots of passing and pace and lots of promise plus some real steel in the second as Boro dug in against a spirited and direct fightback to collect a first clean sheet of the season and a place in the next round. And two more pearlers. Does this team score ordinary goals? All the lads must be ribbing Seb Hines for his bundled tekkerless effort.

67 thoughts on “Bennett Exit: This Year’s Model

  1. I think we have done a good deal AV. We have secured a good fee for a decent player, but I am worried about young Joe. I really wish him all the best, but I just feel it is too early to make that leap in Joes case.
    However, I do agree with your assessment that when the opportunity comes along young ambitious players need to take that leap of faith into the Prem. So off he goes with all of Boro fans best wishes I believe.
    It is a sign of the times and no shame to be a selling club when the price is right. It’s how the wary need to survive in these grim financial times, and both Arsenal and Villa have spotted this. In Villa’s case though, I do feel they are in for a very tough season and that trap door is looming wide open for them in my opinion.
    With the transfer window creaking closed in a few hours, Mogga now needs to assess what he needs with the news that RW is out for an unholy amount of time. Feel really sorry for him, and for us supporters! We will really miss him, and Mogga needs to make the right decisions on the transfer front in a short space of time to get us to the next transfer window in January.

  2. What ‘o’ one and all!
    Priorities – Chin up Martin! Keep throwin those punches lad, you’ll be on yer feet in no time. All the best from Central Europe.
    richard evans –
    Do I know where you’re coming from? You bet yer life I do! Still the life of the professional football world is light years away from the time when I used to dig me hand and me arm down the back of the sofa to see if I could supplement the meagre financial resources I had in me trouser pocket with a hole in’t (I kid ye not!)Well above my league (ahem!)
    All the way back to the days when Ironopolis were strutting their stuff it was still a case of who you could buy and who you would sell. In addition, for eons the players were treated like today’s low wage slaves, tossed in and out of a job with two bob’s worth if you were lucky. Correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t that part of it that made Cloughie up sticks and take his tricks to a higher bidder?
    All in all, twas the Boro who sold Bennett, not Bennett selling himself. Yep, he’ll get a slice of the cake no doubt but in the balance of things I’d rather players were paid a generous portion of what they contribute to a club than have to go cap in hand to the manager for a rise so they can feed the babbies next day.
    Reminds me of the story of the Southampton dock workers before WWII, who if they wanted a days work next day they would have to leave the back door open for the foreman to visit the misses whilst he went to the pub for an hour. No visit – no work! (true story and they weren’t playing chess)
    Havin said all the above it would be a nice gesture if the players from each club got together and donated a collective 10% of their earnings towards employment generation schemes in their areas. What chance that eh AV in today’s meme world?
    Next point – For the life of me I don’t believe there are only ‘selling clubs and buying clubs’, all are an amalgamation of the two. Always have been. Still some buy and sell to better effect than others. I reckon Mogga’s got a bit of a ‘Arry Rednapp touch to him and given the environment that’s no bad thing. The signs are looking good early in the season so let’s sit back and enjoy the flow (of football that is).
    UTB

  3. BoroPhil –
    I think there is a difference between a first-teamer, and a guaranteed first-teamer.
    I agree with you that Bennett would most likely be first choice when fit and in form, but he isn’t the sort of loss that a guaranteed first-teamer like Rhys Williams would be.

  4. I see Blackburn have signed Jordan Rhodes for £8m. That’s umbrella payments for you and that’s what we’re up against. We’re offered £4m and bite their hands off; meanwhile, Blackburn can go out and spend double.
    We’ll still finish above them.

  5. AV going back to the Palace match I was surprised that you and our other local pundits didn’t give Grant Leadbetter a mention. I thought his display, especially in the first half was one of the best I have ever seen from a Boro midfielder for many a year. I thought he broke up attacks and passed the ball impeccably.
    **AV writes: There were a lot of candidates for the star men ratings in the first hour. For me it was George Friend closely followed by Justin Hoyte then after that there were three or four with a big shout for a mention. I’d have gone for Reach ahead of Leadbitter but they both did different jobs very well.

  6. AV
    Do we have a window blog? It may well be more interesting than the last few. Jim White is already consuming Phalls and going to saunas in preparation.
    **AV writes: Not sure yet. I may have a commitment tomorrow night. We’ll see.

  7. Firstly hope Martin is feeling better and picking up, come on Boro needs you!
    On the subject of Joe going I’m fairly comfortable with it. He clearly rubbed Stricken up the wrong way, Mogga turned him around and I suspect made a silk purse out of a pigs ear. Last season he appeared to stagnate or even go backwards so perhaps a new challenge is what the lad needs so good luck to him.
    To get a few million as well is a bonus and if nothing else if it just helps the Academy and looking at Reach, Williams (L), Smallwood, Park etc then I’m happy if Mogga doesn’t get to see a penny of it. Of course I would be far happier still if he was given the money to recruit but either way Friend has replaced Bennett and in my opinion is a better option and Boro a few million quid to the good, well done Mogga.
    Being completely honest I would have thought £1m was adequate for him and to think it’s £2.5m and could rise to £4m is damn good business.
    Regarding the salary debate, a contract is binding on both parties. If I sign a contract I expect to be bound by it and likewise the other party. We have seen a few “no shows” on big contracts in Boro’s recent past, Viduka, Boksic etc. the difference here is that Mick and Scott have always given 100% when selected in my opinion and have never feigned injury so good luck to them as they were courted here in the first place.
    Tommo is slightly different, genuinely injured and difficult to determine if he gives 100% due to his lack of appearances (as oppose to blatant “no shows”) but Mogga certainly believes in him and in Mogga I trust (although I occasionally admit to being baffled).
    To put things in perspective, contrast with the matty Bates situation, no contract, seriously injured, may never play again and no wages – should Boro be paying him £15K a week out of misplaced loyalty or do they abide by the contractual requirements which have now expired in Boro’s favour?
    If the window closes and we still have Scott and Mick then with the injury to Rhys (salaries apart) Mick’s services will be required and appreciated. With Scott, although not as prolific as hoped for, in fairness the team he joined at the time was dysfunctional and struggled, he hasn’t exactly had any decent service since either but has always battled and scrapped and his head never dropped on the pitch.
    With Reach, Friend, Carayol, McEachran, Hoyte aII potentially feeding him and playing off either Miller or Juke I think he could be a 20 plus goal a season striker for us. Its unlikely though that Mogga will be tempted to test that theory. To me it would be easier to sell in January with 12 goals under his belt but maybe the thought of Barca and the cash it affords the Bhoys may change things.
    With regards to selling, every club sells players. Didn’t RVP just depart the Emirates and didn’t Ronaldo leave OT a few seasons back? And isn’t Rooney being hinted at departing the same OT? And even Mr Liverpool himself is being told to leave to win something. Hasn’t Modric just left WHL?
    Its nothing new and in my opinion I’d rather we put our money into potential rather than washed up has beens coming for a final pay day with no commitment or ambition to fulfill (anyone remember Ray Parlour or have we forgotten so quickly).

  8. Listened to the draw for the League Cup and it took me back to a record brought in to the UK by my mate’s brother by Canned Heat, ‘On the road again’.
    For you younger pop pickers the key point is that Harvey Mandell and Larry Taylor joined John Mayall as he moved from Blues to a more jazz based band. Jazz Blues Fusion was one of his best albums.
    Sorry, music began with whenever you started following it but many will remember Redcar Jazz Club.

  9. Nikeboro –
    Thank you for your kind comments. Very pleased. Despite the differences of opinion among some on here, I think we’re mostly all coming from the same place.
    And yes, you are quite right, I was in the Scouts, Elm Ridge in Darlington in the late 70s, before becoming a beer drinking New Romantic… crikey

  10. Another away draw in the League cup – have we upset somebody at the Football League? II wouldn’t have minded so much if it was a southern team but I’ll struggle to make it up uo Preston on a Tuesday night!

  11. Redcar Red –
    absolutely a top post. I agree 100 % what you said. Worth reading a second time, too.
    Secondly – I start to suspect the draw for the League Cup is not neutral. An away tie for Boro AGAIN. This is a 1024-1 shot. Someone doesn’t want us to win the cup AGAIN!!!
    The first draw of the season tomorrow? A 2-2 draw with Emnes and Woody scoring for us at the New Den. Up the Boro!

  12. I think it’s being a bit generous to suggest that McDonald hasn’t had good service.
    I lost count of the number of times last season when Hoyte would plant a perfect cross on McDonald’s head, only for him to somehow head it wide, and he missed a good number of other chances as well.
    He misses far too many chances to be a prolific striker, yes there is the possibility that he could go on a run and score 20+ goals but you’d have to say it’s unlikely from the evidence we’ve seen in the last couple of years.
    Having said that, if he is still here tomorrow, there’s no point leaving him to rot in the reserves. Apart from not scoring as often as we’d like, McDonald hasn’t done anything wrong (as far as we know) and he is still a decent player. I just don’t think he is what we need to lead our attack and for £3.5m and £20k+/ week in the Championship that’s the least we would expect.
    On the subject of Leadbitter, I also thought he was excellent and for me it was him or Steele for man of the match v Palace. Between Leadbitter and McEachran, they barely misplaced a pass in the first 55mins, something we really lacked last season when attack after attack broke down with a poor pass. Like Friend, early days, but he looks a really good signing.

  13. Sky Sports understands Swansea City are closing in on the signing of Feyenoord winger Jerson Cabral.
    Swansea boss Michael Laudrup has moved for Cabral with Scott Sinclair poised to leave the Liberty Stadium for Manchester City.
    No need for our Dutch lad if Swansea have this one.
    If we arent using the £3m to buy players today – no point having an extra £6m and selling Emmnes.

  14. Martin – a big shout out, mate. Bests to you!!
    Good luck to Joe Bennett for his move – couldn’t turn it down. Looks like all the prep for young Halliday wasn’t just random experimentation!!
    Sad news about Rolls Rhys – Mogga said he’d been in two minds whether to take him to Priestfields. How’s your luck!! We’re better placed than we were to cover with Seb Hines alongside Woody, for preference and Big Mick (if he stays) and Friend to cover before we get to the kids.
    Amougou? As I’ve said before, that would be a mistake on so many levels.
    Time to buckle in and see what changes to the squad available for Millwall will be wrought by 11 tonight!!

  15. Did anyone make any money on the draw, was very good odds. Preston not too bad will give us relief from the Championship for one game.
    Agree AV i think when Swansea bought the other winger that was it with Emnes.
    Keeping some money in the kitty for January is a good thing as we will know what we need to push on.Hopefully for the better Rhys should be back by then and the Juke may be scoring goals and our keepers are doing well.
    Then Gibbo can go and have a beer with Bennett’s money.

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