In the cold light of day it could be said that getting between £2-3m up front for a 19 year-old with less than 30 appearances at League One level is a very good deal. As much as those of us who have seen the natural talent that James Maddison has would argue that his value is only going to rise, in terms of achievements and the end result on the pitch, there is a limited amount to go by at the moment to justify a bigger fee.
Yet that’s the problem with selling Maddison right now in a nutshell. He was sold before he could really prove just what a special talent he is. That it’s Norwich that he’s going to rather than a Spurs, Arsenal or Liverpool shows how little objective evidence of his ability there was to go by and thus why the truly big clubs may have chosen to hold fire.
The timing of the sale itself cannot be dressed up as anything other than unhelpful from a footballing and business perspective. The money might well be around or above his current market value but it cannot now be used on anything other than unwanted free agents or loan players who’ll need time to get up to integrate into the team. The loan back arrangement, rather than allowing us to have our cake and eat it, detracts further from our ability to use that money productively to boost our promotion bid.
It’s hard to argue that we couldn’t have got a similar, if not better, value deal in the summer. Already, it would have been a better deal in the summer because it wouldn’t have taken up a vital loan spot for Tony Mowbray to use in our promotion bid. Were we to go on to win promotion this season, then we’ve lost out on a couple of extra million as well as the chance to he might have stuck around for another 12 months, helping us stay up and increasing his value even further.
This is all hypothetical, this might really have been the most we could have got for James Maddison, he might have gone on to have injury problems or have found it hard to deliver against teams trying to mark him out of the game and seen his game regress. Sometimes players fail to deliver on the promise they show at a young age, the progression of a player’s career is rarely linear. But if you have seen James Maddison play for us, it would only be down to a natural sense of pessimism and lack of self-esteem associated with being a Cov fan that would justify thinking he wouldn’t fulfill his potential.
We always knew that James Maddison was never realistically going to stay here for the long-term, that one day he would be sold. To sell him before he’s gone on to demonstrate with assists, goals and achievements for the team is the disappointment here. Selling him now was taking the safe option, that perhaps x, y or z factor would have happened and this might have been the most we could ever have got for him.
We can grudgingly accept that this club has to be run as a sustainable business and that part of that will entail occasionally selling our best players. For a sustainable selling club to progress, they make damned sure that they get as much as they can out of a player before the pressure to sell becomes too great. The other thing they do is use that money to not only bring in adequate replacements but also to improve other areas of the team and the operation of the football club as a whole.
For the first part, less than 30 appearances from a player is not enough to say that we got a lot out of him, this is also the first transfer window where it felt like there was serious interest in him. The club has been keen to stress that they are making damned certain that they will get the second part right, we’ll wait and see on that one. Although troublingly, there’s already been a communications misfire between what Tony Mowbray and Chris Anderson have briefed the press regarding the using some of that Maddison money on loan players.
The message from the club this season has been to forget past grudges and simply enjoy watching an exciting Coventry City team fight for promotion. The gradual rise in attendances has shown that that although this message was sinking in, it hadn’t fully quite penetrated into the minds of the wider fan-base, losing our past three games has already put that in jeopardy.
The success of the team this season has been the beginning of a process of letting past grudges seep away. Relegation to the Championship and our exile in Sixfields were big things to forgive but this season has demonstrated that a successful side will go a long way to healing those wounds.
Selling James Maddison at this time in both our season and this rebuilding process undoes a lot of the good work that has been done by the club. It once again sends the message that those in charge care more about the short-term balance sheet than the success of the team, to the detriment of future footballing and even success.
Things might be different this time, the problem is that this is once again an action to convince fans that things aren’t. It makes our aims more difficult to achieve, attendances will be even slower to grow, fans more cynical of the team itself, players and managers less attracted to this club.
If the club want to prove that things are different this time, they are going to have to prove it and over a sustained period of time.