Well, the transfer window has truly started to move. Clubs have been busy trying to tie up players for the season ahead. I start my week having to touch on something that has been eating away at me for a few seasons now. UEFA have decided to take a qualifying slot away from the league. Is it fair? In my opinion yes, it is. That is my opinion, and my reason is pretty simple. The clubs that have been competing for the last few seasons have been using it as a cash injection.
The league teams have shown no desire to push on but just collect the cheque to cover their overheads. Questioning my thinking of this? Well, players and even managers showing they would rather go on holiday over this time of such importance says it all. The clubs are happy to let it happen, as they know by just entering the qualifying round they get a cheque that sorts their season and a holiday to a European city with the oversized board rooms.
My own club, the Crues, have tried to implement what Dundalk did a few seasons back by going into a sort of professional set up. Dundalk have done this with the help of a summer league which the top clubs in Northern Ireland are going to vote for. Why are they all wanting it? Dundalk made a tidy profit, reported to be a few million Euros. That’s where the thinking comes from, pound signs and new suits in the board rooms. Will it even make any difference? I am not sure.
The whole process has been an easy way of bringing money into certain clubs. And in all fairness, the money that has come into some of the top clubs should have them sitting with top-heavy bank balances. The clubs should be thinking of profit and not throwing money down the drain on part-time players wages. Certain clubs, if they didn’t qualify for Europe, would be in a world of hurt!
Onto the transfers and I will start with Larne. The man that is throwing money after the club from East Antrim has been getting himself into the twitter confrontation world this week. Trying to justify what he is doing on the wages front. “Fair market salary being paid for top players,” – his own words. I have been around this league over 30 years and never heard anything like it. For one, not every club will pay an over-rated signing on fee for players. I do not listen to the rumours that are being touted about wages, but if it’s true I hope it all pays off. Then we have the accommodation for the players that have left the lower leagues of England for a career in Larne. But Mr Bruce is a property developer so no need to take the rent into consideration.
Larne started the week by signing on Johnny McMurray. No surprise that was going to happen. He’s known since Christmas that Larne were interested and asked for a transfer. They also took Albert Watson to Inver Park from Ballymena United. The pull of full-time football was too much to turn down for Watson. It is a big squad at Larne and probably more to come. It will be hard to keep everyone happy and get them game time throughout the year.
Ballymena United have only around four weeks to go before they start their European adventure, and they moved quickly this week to sign 20-year-old centre midfielder Joshua Kelly from Ards, a talented player that will be looking to push on in his career under David Jeffery.
Looking like he’s heading out of the door is Matthew Shevlin. Linfield are looking to sign him on an amateur contract to mitigate having to pay a development fee. This will be an interesting development.
The big transfer of the week for me was the move of Sam Johnstone to Dungannon Swifts. I for one got it wrong and was sure Johnstone would have been snapped up by Glentoran. But fair play to Kris Lindsey and his team for getting Johnstone on the books at the Swifts.
Over at the Oval, Glentoran put to bed the rumours of Darren Murray going anywhere near Larne by offering him a new contract. Without hesitation Murray signed and why not. He has had a troubled few seasons and the big man is a finisher and seems to have found happiness at the Oval. He will score goals and always give 100% when he is happy.
No big news on the managerial front at Coleraine. It has been a few weeks now since the departure of Rodney McAree and still no manager in place. Maybe Jimmy Nesbitt should take up the roll. Leaving the Bannsiders this week is Mark Edgar who has signed for lower league outfit Portstewart.
All talk about Cliftonville this week has been about the signing of right-back Ronan Doherty who left Institute for an undisclosed fee. A talented player that will prosper playing for Paddy McLaughlin again.
Carrick Rangers have really started to push on with their rebuilding project. Not on the same par as their East Antrim neighbours, but within the realistic wage boundaries of the league. Lloyd Anderson has agreed a two-year contract with the team he spent last season on loan with after being released by Crusaders. Also, this week Rangers snapped up left back Adam Gray from Ballyclare Comrades. Two players committing to the club for another season are Lee Chapman and Danny Magill. Leaving Rangers this week was Jake McNeill who has moved to Ballyclare.
After getting the Sam Johnstone transfer wrong I will keep this short and sweet. Aaron Jarvis should follow Ronan Doherty to Cliftonville. Another rumour circulating is the movement of a certain Jay Donnelly. Should be interesting to see where he ends up. Keep your eyes peeled this week for more movement at Larne. Seems they are not finished with transfers.
A busy week on the transfer front but not really much in transfer fees being paid which, for a league that has investors wanting to pump money into it says it all. Hopefully, next week will produce some surprises and a few interesting transfers as the European games are coming fast.