MICHAEL PEARLMAN SAYS: County haven't overachieved and the season isn't over
10:11am Tuesday 28th January 2014 in Sport
ARE there honestly fans who believe Newport County AFC lack ambition for selling Conor Washington?
Is it truly a reality that some supporters feel the club have somehow betrayed them by selling a prized asset for the fourth time in four seasons?
If there are, they couldn’t be more wrong, nor could they be more naive as to the reality for a newly promoted Football League club. And I’m pretty sure they’d be in a tiny minority.
County have played an absolute blinder with the Washington deal, learning from past mistakes, doing right by the player and finally finding the courage in their conviction to play hardball.
Let’s deal with the brass first, the hard cash County will receive for Washington and how it leaves them in regards to the remainder of the campaign.
Firstly, we see some massive differences between this move and the proceeding three big January deals that saw Craig Reid, Danny Rose and Lee Evans depart in 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively.
No leaks. No negotiations largely debated and scrutinised in public, making the Exiles look amateurish, instead County kept their negotiations with Peterborough secret for an entire fortnight before Posh leaked the news to Sky Sports in sheer desperation at Newport refusing to budge from their valuation.
Tim Harris and Barry Fry spent two weeks locked in negotiations with Fry finally reaching the mark County wanted with a call to Harris early on Saturday. By the evening, the deal was concluded.
The Exiles have also finally realised it’s a slap in the face to fans to not reveal the details of the deal (a topic I’ve moved about yearly). While they wisely won’t announce how much they got up front (it’s a sellers’ market when you reveal your ‘war chest’) they have made clear that the best case scenario – with incentives based on the move being successful – will net them in excess of £500,000.
And that’s before we mention a sell-on clause. My understanding is that Newport have secured a clause that significantly exceeds the usual five or 10 per cent and that was their key objective.
That means if Peterborough sell Conor Washington for a fee similar to the one they received for Dwight Gayle, County will be quids in, bagging over £1 million.
That’s a game-changing figure for a League Two club, especially one with Conference financial figures dictating their wage budget under Football League jurisdiction, and is all the more staggering when you consider Washington is yet to even hit double figures this term.
We are not talking about a scoring sensation here. We are not talking about an irreplaceable goal record as we were with Craig Reid.
Washington’s total goal contribution this season is replaceable. Washington, as he is today, will be missed, but it’s not comparable to the huge loss created when Reid and Rose left Spytty Park.
Peterborough are buying potential and Newport have got a fantastic price for a player who is unproven and cost them just £5,000 15 months ago.
However, County, like me and like Peterborough, believe Washington is a future Premier League player. They were disappointed to hear from Posh in the first place and equally so when Washington made it clear that he wanted to head to the League One hopefuls.
They fought hard to ensure proper compensation and late in the day they even as Fry described it, “moved the goalposts,” by also landing Shaun Jeffers as part of the move.
The Exiles told Peterborough no move for Washington would be sanctioned without a replacement being found first and Jeffers was the only player from London Road Justin Edinburgh was keen to be used as a makeweight.
Already a minority of fans are unfairly making comparisons to when Yemi Odubade and Charlie Griffin came as part of the deal that took Reid to Stevenage.
That’s a nonsense. Odubade wasn’t wanted by Stevenage and Griffin was well past his best. In this instance Newport have received a player Posh wanted to keep and who at 21 is far from his peak.
On Friday, with the deal still being negotiated, a League One club and a League Two promotion chaser registered an interest in Jeffers and that also threatened to delay or scupper Washington’s big move as Newport by that stage insisted on the ex-Coventry man being included in negotiations.
Thankfully, the move was completed and all parties can now move on fully satisfied with their deals.
The Exiles receive a record fee, a replacement and can hope Washington fulfils the potential they see in him as they’ll again be financially compensated should he continue his rapid rise.
Peterborough acquire some firepower and a genuine hometown hero as they bid to get their campaign and Championship ambitions back on track and Washington can return home and attempt to shine at a higher level on a bigger stage.
Everyone is a winner in this instance and though it’s a real shame to see such a bright prospect moving on, County have done unbelievably well to make such a profit on Washington in such a short space of time, 15 months.
He leaves with best wishes from all and has grown not just as a player but as a person in his time with Newport. The shy former postman unsure of himself in a professional environment is now a proper player and a very nice guy.
For once, it’s impossible to be critical.
I'M equally firm in my view that Newport County's promotion aspirations are still alive and well despite their customary wobbly start to the New Year.
It seems postponements and irritating results against relegation fodder and/or local rivals is very much the usual for County in January, the only month of the year where Justin Edinburgh seems to become a mere mortal who is occasionally even fallible to mistakes and misjudgements.
Newport have lost touch with the top seven and are facing a backlog of games in the business months.
That doesn't worry me.
By the time the games come thick and fast, Newport's squad will include the likes of Byron Anthony, Max Porter, Chris Zebroski and Aaron O'Connor and the likes of Christian Jolley and Lenny Pidgeley, key players with great pedigree, will be in better form.
Whereas last year Newport's backlog meant more travelling than Judith Chalmers did in the 90s, this term they'll mainly be making the games up at fortress Rodney Parade with big crowds and thumping atmospheres and can continue to have one of the best home records in League Two.
I find it absolutely staggering that in a minority of fans' eyes, the players are now being found out, having overachieved, so far this season.
What a perverse logic. County have underachieved since their good win at Wycombe Wanderers on Boxing Day and have had a wobbly couple of weeks. But throughout the campaign they've been consistent and almost always competitive.
Their current arrears from the top seven in retrievable in a couple of games. If the Exiles fall 10 or more points off the pace, I think gloom might be somewhat justifiable.
But right now? The Exiles would almost certainly make the playoffs if they can merely match their form in 2013.
Other than being light a central defender in the absence of Ismail Yakubu and Anthony, neither of whom can be relied upon indisputably in terms of injuries, the squad is very strong.
With a brilliant manager and a more than competitive group of players, now is an absolutely insane time to be dismissing the County and thankfully, I think only a handful are.
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