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Hartson off to Rangers?

And just when you thought that TB was done with the WFC Culling, along comes this bombshell….. subject to medical, John Hartson to Glasgow Rangers for £7m. And I have to admit, I was taken aback by it somewhat. Gobsmacked almost. But I’ve regained my composure, and here’s my $0.02 on the whole thing.

Contary to what the paranoid Womble wishes to believe, the man who is letting JH go is Tezza. I suppose that we should really have seen a sign or two when we read that TB reckons that “within the last two years we’ve made some poor signings”. And yes, that does include JH in that. You should know by now that TB doesn’t have much time for last year’s squad. You should all know by now he’s in rebuilding mode. And I suppose you all should know that we’re still in need of a wage culling.

But why JH? Why now? Why? Why? Simple – I think TB thinks that JH is an expensive liability. There were stories going around that TB has tried everything to get JH’s weight and fitness to an acceptable level, but is now just cutting his losses. Against Sutton, he was painful to watch. Against Kingstonian, he didn’t play but some people who saw him commented on how unfit he looked. Against Watford he wasn’t really much cop. Against PNE he got into some good positions but he definitely needed much more match fitness. And he wasn’t coming off a nasty injury either – he was coming off a ban. An offer of £7m was never likely to be rejected.

The fallout from this, as you can probably imagine, is going to be horrendous. Many Wombles may consider this to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. So to save mass wrist-slitting exercises, I’ll disect the major aspects bit by bit : what message does it send out? That we’ve just sold John Hartson, that’s all. The departure of him is symbolic to WFC fans but nobody else in football. To “us” (I use that term generically), it symbolised that we were no longer a “small” club and that we could buy name players ready to hit the big time.

To everyone else, we wasted £7m on somebody with a proven record, and not a goalscoring one either. Remember the reaction we got? It wasn’t so much “bloody hell, Wimbledon have signed a major player for lots of money” but “Wimbledon have just wasted £7m on John Hartson”. It may have been mocking but there were very few opinions of support for the move. Doesn’t that sound like warning bells? West Ham fans weren’t too upset, though I suppose we thought we could have made something of it.

Guess TB is giving up on him, just like Arsenal and West Ham did. Perhaps “our” dismay at his going says more about “us” than it does anything else – a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes perhaps? A tad cruel maybe, but why are Celtic fans using this possible transfer as ammo against the Huns?

On a more logistical level, what message does it send out to the team? Well, team spirit wasn’t exactly in abundance when JH arrived, did it? I doubt if smashing the wage structure did much for team unity. Was he popular? Dunno. Remember the allegation at Bradford when Dean Blackwell reportedly smacked him? Another popular gripe – Why are we selling our best striker? He could have got 30 goals this season you know? The key word here is “could have”. He could have played 45 games last year but couldn’t. He could have stayed on the pitch against Bradford, but didn’t. He could have got 30 goals IF he got fit.

Yeah, here’s the rub – ***IF***. Not when. When did you see him 100% for us? Whenever a player comes off pre-season training looking worse than before, the alarm bells have got to start ringing. This despite new and improved training facilites, at least two differing training regimes under two different managers. Of course JH could score 30 goals if he got fit. But how much longer are we going to wait until he does get fully fit? Forever? Are “we” going to constantly make excuses like “OK, so he didn’t score today, but wait until he’s fully fit”? I doubt if TB will, it appears that he’s finally lost patience with him. But he improved our attacking options against Watford and PNE? For the first half against Watford, we were anonymous up front, and it was only when [deeeeeeep breath] Mr 110% came on that we looked anything. We may well keep Euell now, may not be 110% (sorry) popular but if that’s what TB feels…….

The other golden phrase going about is that old favourite, asset stripping. You know, R&G are trying to get their £30m back via transfers then bugger off back to Oslo. So here’s my answer : don’t think so. Even if they wanted to, they can’t. Why? Because WFC don’t “own” the players – the FA do. They own their registration, all a football club owns is their contract. You don’t count a contract as an asset because it could go belly-up at any minute (ie injury), and the value of your company would fluctuate quicker than Graham Rix’s arsehole did in jail. Money from transfers I presume goes back into stuff like wages and such like, remember the Deloitte and Touche thing. Asset stripping doesn’t really go on that much in football, simply because of the FA thing, and as I remember saying last year (under “Norsemen of the Apocolyse”, under Articles”), if R&G wanted to asset strip a football club, they wouldn’t have picked WFC anyway. Where does the main value of a football club lie? The land that it owns. Do we have any land? Only the PGPF bought by, erm, R&G. The rest of it got sold off by the previous owner, remember him? But he did it because he cared about WFC, I forgot. And he never sold players either.

One other thing to think about, and it eminates from Brussels. You know the EU are trying to scrap transfers altogether because of EU Employment Law, well that’s due up next month, and this could well be us doing the proverbial “rainy day” saving. There will be loads of clubs fucked by this, it could well be that we’re trying hard not to be one. If so, it’s a damn clever piece of business. I guess Rangers will make up the £7m anyway through being in the Champions League, so that’s their perogative.

Of course, the whole thing above could be deemed irrelevant by this time tomorrow – JH is going for a “rigourous” medical and we all know what happened last time…. if he fails it, he will effectively become unsellable, which makes me think that a “retirement” could be due soon at WFC. And will also make me wonder how competent (or how easy to bribe) our club doctors are.

Just one more thing on a hectic day – Grimsby is off. TA got the sympathy vote from Norway and got called up. So that makes JH, Mark Williams and Trond our three (soon to be two) renegades. I’m glad it’s been called off – one, because it gives us time to heal injuries, two, because it gives TB an extra week to scout round, and three it will delay TB’s imminent public lynching by a suitable period….