THIRD time lucky.… Adam Clayton was due to have a medical this morning and then sign today to end a summer sage with more twists and turns than a snake in a spin-dryer.
With two missed medicals, Jacob Butterfield in limbo and eleventh hour hi-jack bid being fought off, the whole thing has been played out in public but that is more because the Gazette have had an inside track all along rather and so the two stumbles have been in the spotlight than it being a particularly tortuous transfer. And yes, the agent tried to pull a fast one and work Brighton into the equation after everything was agreed (that’s what agents do) and both clubs were seething and fans at two clubs were left frustrated and confused but as Steve Gibson pointed out, that happens all the time.
You have just had a glimpse of his normal working week. Imagine that same convoluted process but with two agents. And translators. And a father trying to get a cut. And another club or agent barging in at the last to demand a disputed sell on fee or percentage.
Some short-sighted fans will turn that frustration on the player (some have already made themselves look a bit silly all over his twitter) as he will be deemed not to have wanted to walk to Teesside barefoot, pausing only to get the Transporter tattooed on his bum, before pledging his first born to the PRT and dyeing his beard red with a white sash.
But that is the case with most players. Almost all of them have to be cajoled, haggled with and plied with cash. It is a mercenary affair. Even most of the fans heroes. Look at Juninho’s last time at Boro. The deal took three weeks to complete, his dad demanded Boro break their wage ceiling and twice almost collapsed the deal and at one point opened talks with Villa to force Boro’s hand. Yet he is perceived as a Teesside loyalist.
Meanwhile others were hailing Butterfield (a player struggling to find a real role in the Karanka system and shaping up to be an expensive benchwarmer) for really wanting to be at Boro – seemingly oblivious to the fact he had willingly been in discussions to join another club, a move he agreed very quickly. Do you think he is heart-broken at being forced out of his boyhood club? Don’t be daft. If he didn’t want to move he just wouldn’t have agreed to talks. He’s not been sold into slavery. He’s just moved to a new job.
Some have argued that Huddersfield are getting a better player. Maybe. Technically. But Boro are getting Town’s player of the season and they are getting a player who looked a fringe figure at best and one who never really nailed down a role in a 4231. He’s a nice lad, a tidy player, he never let Boro down and I hope he flourishes at Huddersfield. But Clayton is a better fit. Players can’t be measured by how many keepie-uppies they can do or what their score is on FIFA, only by what the manager thinks they bring to the team. It is a practical and functional judgement not an aesthetic one.
So it has been a scrappy signing but at the end of the day football is a dysfunctional industry with a deeply flawed recruitment model that forces clubs to jump through hopes to get the players they want. And the players, who see it as a job, often get buffeted by circumstances which can change very quickly. They grab their opportunities where and when they can. Sometimes they talk to three or four clubs in a week. They can’t publicly pledge their loyalty to all of them. Unless they are Robbie Keane.
So give the lad a chance. The important thing is this: Aitor Karanka wants him. He was identified back in May as a player who could strengthen the squad, a seasoned and athletic Championship battler who could add a bit of mobility and bite to midfield and who the club believe is good VFM with a potential resale. He ticks the boxes on the recruitment profile and the club have worked very hard to get him. Months. And it wasn’t easy.
The club deserve credit for digging in doggedly and getting their man. They could easily have said “sod it” and walked away and looked at other targets (they may well have been doing that anyway) no-one would have blamed them. But the policy this summer has been to get exactly the players the manager wants at a fair price and they stuck to that.
Huddersfield deserve credit too for acting honourably throughout and both chairman have been in regular contact and acted in concert to blow Brighton out of the water and bring the agent back into line. They salvaged the original deal. And Karanka did his bit too with a frank weekend phone call that laid it on the line and set a deadline. The episode was messy at times but Boro have shown ruthless determination in getting another one of their priority targets in. Which is a refreshing break from he hit-and-miss past.
What happens next us down to Clayton. Obviously first he needs to finally sign and draw a line under it all now. Please god, don’t let him fail his medical. Then what he needs, what the team needs, what Steve Gibson needs and what supporters need is for Clayton to very quickly justify the investment in time and money with some sterling displays.
When he scores the winner at Wembley and EIOs in front of the fans with a silly red and white jester’s hat on, we’ll look back at this and laugh.