Jack Be Nimble, Jack Be Quick
The John Hartson Transfer
“Hartson to fire Dons into Europe”, screamed the headlines as I stared open mouthed at my PC screen in Boston. That was the one story that dominated my day. World War Three could have been starting elsewhere. But for me, Wimbledon had just joined the transfer “Big Boys”. I had wondered when we were going to start to close the gap that was opening between the “big boys” and us. Even the Americans around me sensed something sensational had happened in English football, as I replayed Eyal Berkovic flying through the air once more, on the Real Player.
Wimbledon were parting with Seven and a half Million Pounds to West Ham for the services of John Hartson. For the second time in the history of WFC we were breaking the bank to push the Dons into uncharted waters. Two days later, there I was in the Irish Embassy in Boston (just for a change!) [a fine establishment even if I do say so myself – SW19], to see his debut. Peering through the darkness there he was; John Hartson really was wearing a Wimbledon shirt!
So there we were the firebrand striker who started his career at Luton, before being taken to Arsenal by George Graham, was ours. His departure from West Ham was inevitable. Anybody seeing the Berkovic incident would know that West Ham would not put up with that kind of publicity, (provoked or not). His form after the Berkovic incident suffered. We ended up picking up a player who was off form and lacking fitness for 7.5 Million. So has he been worth the money? Not yet in my opinion. In fact I think we have had better value from players who have cost us only a one hundredth of that massive sum.
John struggled at first, his suspension from the Berkovic incident was handed on to us by the FA (has any other club ever been treated so badly by the FA since we became a top flight club?). As the 98/99 season dragged to a close John managed two goals. Overall the form of the team, and much was hoped of the next season. However his arrival is one of the turning points of our downfall. At that time I was inclined to wonder if his wages and contract as a “big time Charlie” would not stir up resentment amongst the rest of the squad. Indeed the drinking sessions and lack of interest at the end of that season, tells us that the seeds of unrest had been sown before a certain Egil Olsen flew in.
Whilst allowing John the grace of the tail end of that season, to settle in (tolerant aren’t I), the start of the next season was one that required the repayment of some large slices of that fee. Enter Egil Olsen. Well Egil never really waxed lyrical about John did he? I think he would have rather outed him, but the word from above, due to the large fee was “he stays”. We would have lost money if he had been sold. Perhaps John should have changed his name to Johan Hartsen. Still John turned out to be one of Olsen’s better performers. Slipping in 8 goals before the famous knee injury. One of the turning points of the season. Without John we began to tumble, not helped by Olsen’s handling of the situation for a replacement.
Then came the big one, dear old loveable Sammy trying to sell John to Spurtz behind our backs. I doubt he was going to object to the transfer. I think he is as mercenary as the best of ’em. No doubt our other great friend Mr Barnett was most encouraging in this area. As you know the transfer collapsed on a medical, and John went back to the treatment room.
3 games to go and dire straits (yeah! Money for Nothing, does come to mind). WFC need a hero. Step forward a half fit John Hartson for the Bradford game. I won’t repeat the story but John did do some damage that day, sent off, suspended for the Southampton game and the linesman’s eardrums. Things were more sensational than that. In his after match interview, he came out for the first time, publicly, against Olsen. Next morning Olsen is gone.
Now hold on a minute, Now, it looks like Hartson got Olsen sacked, speaking up for the others. How brave, the big star stands up to the man in charge of the sinking ship. How brave was he really. When that interview was made he must have known that Olsen had had it! Olsen was fired right after the game! [I think Drillo was given his marching cards before the Bradford game – SW19] Get the timeline! It was hardly a secret that he was in hot water for the whole of the preceding week when Terry Burton was made his “Assistant”. If he ever really was the assistant, more in name only. Nice (non) publicity stunt (Mr Barnett).
The Villa game, and the saviour does his bit at the last. I wish he hadn’t. Why? Simple, that goal made the laziest most complacent bunch for miles around think, “Well, Liverpool will beat Bradford, so nothing much to worry about”. I think, now, that it would have been better if he hadn’t scored “that goal”. Then we would have had to go to The Dell with a target.
So to Southampton, Big John traveled with the team. To keep up what morale was still there. Little more can be said.
So since then rumour after rumour has come out (thanks Mr. Barnett). Does any Premier club want him right now? Few if any until that knee is proven, and they see a good few goals going in. We need a fit John Hartson for that Premier push, he is after all the most expensive striker (player) in the First Division, so why can’t he be top scorer. If John wants to make a career again in the Premier, I think we are his only chance. Fail with us and it’s a slow decline and we will be stuck with him, he has the class to hit 30 goals, but another injury torn season with a few goals that’s it. A new season beckons, one to eradicate the pain of the last. So John its up to youâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦..