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Friend or (De)foe?

Filed: Sunday, 1st July 2007
By: Alex Shilling

As the transfer market approaches fever pitch with clubs seemingly signing anyone who isn't screwed down (eg Wigan signing Titus Bramble), it is crucial that teams hang on to their best players whilst raiding other clubs for their best assets.

We seem to be doing the former successfully (Reo-Coker and Benayoun being the probable exceptions, but would you really call them our best players after last season?) and are also looking good on the latter front, with Craig Bellamy, Juan Riquelme and Darren Bent being but three of the players being linked with a move to Upton Park in recent weeks.

Of course, the Darren Bent rumour nearly turned from dream to reality, but the bubbles faded and died at the last second. After a £16million fee was agreed, the player, for reasons which I prefer not to go into, pulled the plug on the move and joined Tottenham instead.

Am I distraught? Does my face look distraught? Possibly not. The fee we would have ended up paying for Bent would have been around £20million after contract perks and wages and all that kerfuffle. Thanks to Eggy's millions, the transfer fee would not have been a problem, but is a player who has only played two seasons in the top flight really worth all that money?

When you glance at Bent's statistics, they look impressive ('but the game's not played on paper, Clive!' Circa FIFA 2006.) 18 goals in his first Premiership season - to top being the highest English scorer in the top flight - almost earned him a place in England's world cup squad. The following season, despite Charlton's relegation, Bent still managed to amass 12 goals.

He is clearly a class act, a genuine out-and-out striker who can fend for himself and got many of those goals through stunning individual efforts, that came off his own bat - goals that made you wonder what he was doing at the Valley, playing for a team doomed to relegation. Charlton often relied solely on Bent for goals, usually packing the midfield and leaving him up front on his own.

Perhaps if they had used him slightly more sparingly or in a different role, they might have stayed up. Regardless of this, Bent is a wonderful target man, a player who you can really rely on to pick up loose balls, turn the defender and get his shot in.

For this reason, I was surprised that Spurs took him on because like us, they like to pass the ball around, play it to feet, and Bent doesn't seem to fit this mould. He would have found life at Upton Park difficult as we only tend to play it long when we're on a losing run and confidence is low! At West Ham, the long ball is the mark of defeat.

In all the time I have been watching us, I have only ever seen us win 'ugly' once, in a shocking game played in torrential downpour at home to West Brom in which Sheringham scored the winner from a long Tomas Repka punt. We, like generations of creative, skilful teams before us, have not mastered the technique of playing terribly but still winning. I doubt we ever will. And that's just the way I like it.

The arrival of Bent at White Hart Lane flung another rumour into the mill - Jermain Defoe. He struggled to make a regular first-team spot his last season, falling behind Berbatov, Keane and Mido in the pecking order. Defoe had made his dissatisfaction clear and handed in a transfer request. Various northern clubs were reportedly interested, Everton and Newcastle among them. The striker, however, didn't fancy a move up north, and so the wheel of fortune landed on us.

Would Defoe return to Upton Park, despite being reviled by sections of the fans for handing in a transfer request the day after our 2003 relegation? He soon rubbished this rumour by saying he would never return to Upton Park, but the move looks increasingly likely now following Bent's arrival, and Defoe himself has admitted the switch could be possible.

Just think about it. England's future forward line PLUS Carlos Tevez, starting for us against Manchester City on 11th August. The history is in the future, my friends...

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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