I’ll make no bones about it, the sale of Matty Taylor to our noisy neighbours is a massive kick in the teeth for Rovers fans who haven’t been used to any bad news for the last year.
It’s not just because it takes our top scorer out of our team and gives him to THEM to help their relegation battle, but more importantly because if we have any aspiration to progress we have to stop our best players leaving. This has happened most of our existence and until our facilities are better and we can pay competitive wages it will continue to happen.
Whilst my heart is discontent that he hardly left “by the front door, with my head held high”, and gave us no time to find a replacement, my more sensible head cannot begrudge Taylor as he’s almost 27 and has hardly seen a decent pay cheque in his life, only breaking into League football a little over a year ago. In a perfect world he would leave to a different club in the summer, but our perfect world is obviously not his perfect world, and he would have been within his rights to have left for nothing last June.
Football contracts are a dance, and like most dances there is both synchronicity and selfishness between the two participants, with neither wanting to tread on each others’ feet but both seeking the greatest pleasure they can get. And like dancing salsa one person has to lead; sometimes it’s the club, sometimes the player. It seems fair to assume that in the summer of 2016 the dominate partner was Taylor and he could name the clause he wanted, just like John Joe O’Toole got a frankly absurd ‘If you’re relegated I’m off like a rat up a drainpipe’ clause added into his contract despite Rovers paying good money for him.
Myself and many Gasheads though would like to know what fee we got for him, if it was the fabled ‘£300k release clause‘, whether it will be invested in players, and if there is a sell-on clause. I realise these are not normally disclosed but this is a special case and Gasheads are concerned. The possible dirt price whiffs of Jamie Cureton and Rickie Lambert all over again, two players who went on the cheap when only one other club allegedly wanted them. I’ve always found that bizarre when kids who‘ve hardly scored a goal in their lives are bought for millions. Cureton scored 24 goals the season before leaving, Lambert scored 29 in his final season, and Taylor scored 47 in 83 games as a league player. It’s counter intuitive that none of these players could attract bids that matched their track record or their talent.
I’m not going to get angry at Bristol Rovers though, and I’m certainly not going to get irate at Matty Taylor either, because that would be like blaming Africa for global warming, but if it is still happening in five years time that’s the time I could get infuriated. Of course players leaving will still happen to a club with a decent academy / training facilities, and a nice new ground, but it should happen less and at least at a higher position along the chain.
Football is a food chain, and instead of getting fairer, the food chain is getting progressively longer and more inequitable. Football is so much more professional now with copious scouts, analysts and coaches spread far and wide, and the academy system explicitly weighted to make the rich richer and the poor into virtual feeder clubs. Players are being picked up from ever lower and lower levels, and statistics and computer modelling are now being used to aid recruitment. So a 6th Tier player from Hinckley United can be picked up by Luton Town for £30,000, then two years later moved on to Brentford for £600,000 (the Bees are a good example of how to succeed on the pitch whilst you get your facilities in order off the pitch), and after only a solitary season can find himself at Burnley for circa £9 million. Admittedly Luton did well out of the sell-on clauses (£1.1m) but that cannot always be guaranteed.
At the moment Rovers are the Luton of that Andre Grey chain, whereas we need to be the Brentford as soon as possible.
Players come and players go, and Taylor will be replaced in one way or another, so in the long term yesterday wasn’t about Taylor, it was about Bristol Rovers F.C. The elephant in the room has crashed out through the fire escape and we can now concentrate on the players who do want to be with us.
At least Matty left us in a good position away from any relegation danger, and whilst his goals and all round play will certainly be missed, there are only 17 games left to utilise what we’ve got and for DC to weigh up the important decisions for the summer, where for the first time in two seasons a lot of players will not be offered new contracts and more major reconstruction can occur.
I’m sure DC will be mindful of recruiting firepower as soon as he can though as I distinctly remember Rovers failing to replace a certain Rickie Lambert in 2009 and whilst goals from Darryl Duffy, Jo Kuffour and Andy Williams temporarily papered over the cracks none of them were up to the fight the following season amidst a slow motion fall from grace.