So let's agree to put aside any sentimentality anyway. Players are assets. They can be bought and sold, contracts mean little these days and anyone who has any success immediately becomes ripe for asset stripping as Hodgey always is only too keen to point out whenever it applies. That's no bad thing. You want successful players that other teams covert. It means you are having success, they are doing well and if nothing else, if it means they will be stolen away from you, they can leave you with an improved bank balance to reinvest. Their value, like interest rates, can go up and down and does with alarming regularity. Values are tending to go up across the board with the relentless influx of Sky money now more than ever though and it's a buyers market. Every player is available for a price and others will always have more money than you can resist because the player will be 'turned' even if you aren't - get used to it, it isn't going to change any time soon.
Whilst I do admit you have to be pragmatic and not get too emotionally weighed down with baggage you do have to remember that each player is unique and has to be 'fit-for-purpose' too. Look at Manchester United for example. Lukaku, Martial and Pogba are, for me, the reason they cannot win the League again until they can find a way to elegantly get rid of at least two of them. They are all fine players but not good enough for the job required. They'd be great for almost anyone but if they're not quite an Aguero, more surly than a 2 year old and put more effort into they haircut than what they do with the ball, so they become a problem rather than a solution. You need to actually get the right player, the actual player that will work for you. You can't buy them out of a catalogue. Every one is unique as are your requirements. Players will click or not for no apparent reason. So they are commodities but will always be people and therefore need very careful handling. They can appreciate or depreciate based on a huge number of factors. The prevailing market does come into it but unlike the Warhol hanging on your wall they can break a leg, lose confidence or just go off in a strop for no reason at all.
Aitor Karanka has to balance two things, well three actually. He wants success in the short run more than anything. That overrides everything else really and excuses anything else if delivered. He also wants to maintain and increase the value of his squad if at all possible as this helps give him the tools and ability to continue to bolster and improve his squad as players come and go. Finally though he has to curate his squad from within. He ideally brings players through so they can be assets in the future. If Brereton and Worrall can progress by one means or another and be future Premier League quality performers they could save the club 100 million they might otherwise need to spend to stay there. Young strikers and centre halves are hen's teeth, let them go at your peril. Given these various considerations he has to try and master a economic balancing act whilst getting results in parallel. The talk seems to be that Brereton is definitely gone, let's assume it's so and it's a loan with a 7 million option to buy as seems to be generally accepted. There's talk that we might be after the likes of Tammy Abraham or Jermaine Defoe as a replacement. Abraham has had some success, is basically a slightly more mature version of Brereton, would he score a lot of goals in this league again? Has Defoe still got petrol in his tank? Do we just want 10 goals off the bench to push us over the top and thank you very much? Would it have been much better if it was Brereton who had been selected against Birmingham this weekend and even if he had played no better than Murphy managed, if he was also able to exploit the neglected near post what might that one small act have achieved? Would it have secured his future rather than the morbid final acts of Murphy's career? Would it have put another million on his price tag, or two maybe? Playing and being successful are completely different things of course. But we've seen the values of players like McKay, Worrall, Clough, etc. go up and down like a whore's draws in the last twelve months. The club is a shop window and the value of using it to market your most valuable assets, or at least the ones that have any value, cannot be underestimated. Potential is a valuable asset. It's hard to value aside from the case of old codgers who have none at all, just the value in the here and now as sticking plasters. You need the right balance though.
A manager has to do what he has to do to get results, but it can be an expensive business. I do wonder if the very public and finite termination of the Forest careers of so many over the summer might not have been the best commercial option. I recall seeing a small ad for an old analogue synth after the launch of the new, all conquering digital DX7s and M1s in the late Eighties. It gained a lot of notoriety in the music business, went viral long before social media existed. The seller captured the mood of the market in a brutally honest, if potentially self-defeating way. 'For sale. Genuine reason for sale. It sounds shit.' It was quoted time and again and it wasn't for years that the Juno 106 he was selling once again became one of the most sought after instruments on the second hand market. People were buying them for several times more than the seller has so quickly dumped his synth in favour of the latest shiny new alternative. The simple fact is you don't want to ever look too desperate to sell if you want to recoup as much as possible, or too keen to buy if you want to get the best deals. I do wonder if perhaps Karanka was a bit too obviously keen to refresh his wardrobe this summer. The purchases do seem relatively astute and some of the sales have achieved decent returns too but I think he might have fallen into the Gerald Ratner trap when selling our, pardon the expression, 'crap'. If you or I were on a percentage of the fees we might command for the likes of Clough, Ward or Vellios I think we'd have had cause to kick a few cats over the summer.
But Brereton, I think we can agree, doesn't fall into that category by any measure. He had incredible pedigree as a goalscorer for the youth team, has played a lot for England and made an incredible initial impact when selected for the first team. There's no doubt he has found the going tough last season, same as Richarlison did at Watford... He lost his mojo along with virtually the whole of the team under the turgid Warburton regime and the moving deckchairs of the Karanka salvage job too. He was looking to retreat and dive for penalties rather than taking a shot at goal at some points. It was quite bizarre on occasion and that cannot be overlooked or avoided. His superb rendition of the target man holding role in the famous win over Arsenal maybe went to his head and made him think he was something he wasn't. I preferred the direct runner. He's not really ever had the team setup for his strengths and in truth maybe that would never happen but I'd loved to have seen him given a bit of a chance in this new team. You should never die not knowing, but this might be one of those cases where it proves out of your hands.
Assuming the die is cast. Brereton is to be sold and a mere mortal was given the job to do it yourself. Given the task of selling him on eBay for example! What are the basics you would follow? First of all you'd make sure you had lots of info, photos, videos, etc. and highlighted his best features right? You'd emphasise his value, potential, uniqueness, scarcity of alternatives and put a high reserve and 'Buy Him Now' figure on him or maybe start with a reasonable minimum bid in an auction. Before you do that though you might think about doing a few things to put him in his best light too, to show that you at least believe he has the same value as you're asking for him. You want to get the best price and you definitely want to say 'No returns' too right? What could be worse than him suffering the same fate as an iPod I sold and had to not only refund after it was damaged after being 'wisely' given to a three year old at Christmas but also pay for the shipping into the bargain! You don't want to get into any PayPal dispute as they always favour the buyer, you just want to get the best price and not leave the door open for any huge cock ups that leave you worse off than you are now above all else. The fact that this is often virtually unavoidable on eBay without a wing and a prayer is one reason why it's not a very good place to sell anything and definitely not a multi million pound footballer. These are basics though that anyone selling anything on eBay is only too aware of any worries about. Which is why I am a little uncomfortable that the same concerns don't seem to have been accounted for in Ben's case.
For me the obvious thing would be a simple loan deal and maybe that is actually what ends up happening, who knows? I have severe misgivings about the 'option to buy' thing. In reality it's really probably just a form of words to get around the fact you can't sell anyone after the transfer window is closed. If so why was it left until that happened? What has changed in the last couple of weeks? If not though, are we seriously giving them the option to publicly decide having tried before they bought that Ben isn't worth the figure in the contract? You can always go down but never up. In my very humble opinion any figure that was an option should have been the 'Buy it now' high price to indicate your belief in the value of the player. In Ben's case it should have been 15m+. If he goes and performs OK he's always going to command a reasonable fee as a young player. If Blackburn decided he wasn't worth what they were willing to pay only a few months earlier what would that say to the world? Our asset is virtually worthless, no premium over any half decent youngster, and the chances of ever 'cashing out' are long gone. Potential disaster. Obviously the same outcome would apply in the case of injury. I have to assume it's really a fake option and in reality a straight sale, although any open door is a Sword of Damocles hanging over the club and player like a PayPal dispute! Either way any price tag is unhelpful. Better high and later negotiated based on performance or even the classic 'undisclosed' so it not only reflects better on the player whoever ends up with him but also Forest in that we are not flashing a huge 'Everything Must Go! Buy Cheap!' Sign to the whole of the football world.
All in all I'm disappointed assuming there's any truth in what has been widely mooted in the press. Regardless of the outcome it's a bad precedent. There seems to be a little too much stock being put in the shiny alternatives than the known quantities already within our ranks. How much effort has been put into solving the Brereton problem? I have no idea but I'd like to think that a lot has been done because it could be a big deal. It could be we are cashing in our pension early for peanuts here. We should have consulted a financial advisor. Even in this harsh modern world you have to take into consideration the value of goodwill though - the current player, future potential ones, the club, it all counts. Whichever side you fall on this does the same apply for Joe Worrall too? Personally I hope not, but if there's a logic to it then why not? Personally I feel both have time and huge potential, the payoff on the pitch and the balance sheet is so large that we should have said 'go away and play, come back and let's see where we are then'. The one thing we do have is time. If nothing else their values would probably appreciate with simply the passage of time. Both are very young and want more than anything to play first, ideally for Forest. If we can't give them that assurance now why not try and buy time and keep everyone's options open?
Furthermore given the brutal selection policy what about the likes of Goncalves and Dawson too? OK, Daws has no transfer value but he has gone from the lynchpin of the defence to nowhere after a few slightly dodgy clearances when he was playing with tears no doubt still in his eyes during the opening minutes of his second debut for us. Goncalves is thought by many to be potentially the best of our three young Portuguese recruits but so far has been unable to make much significant impact. According to some leaked contracts we may be obliged to buy him over the next few years for around 15m but based on his current position he's virtually in the category as Zach and Jamie. I have no doubt in his ability, I firmly believe he is only struggling to adapt to the expectation, new culture and pressure on him and his mates. I just hope and pray that he is getting the support to keep the flame alive more than anything. Him playing the part he is capable of might well prove the key element in making this season a success rather than repeat of recent ones all over again. Equally Daws not only seeing his stock fall so quickly but also see an unexpected new signing being made might have cause to feel a little bit unsettled about his immediate future compared to only a few weeks earlier. Whether you're looking at Dawson for now or Goncalves for now and many years to come, their 'asset value' has been trashed very quickly and will take some time to recover. It will knock even an old campaigner like Daws and any younger player far harder.
There is a strange irony when you consider the cases of Jason Cummings and Jorge Grant too. After having basically been unable to give Cummings away his early success at Peterborough could possibly end with 20-30 goals and make him the annual 5-6m striker they roll off their production line. How weird might it be if we have another player do that other than Brereton? Then there's Grant, who unlike Yates doesn't seem to have any long term career path at Forest but is kept contracted despite his regular successes throughout the lower leagues. It seems a very strange state of affairs. Chelsea like to collect every prospect breathing in the hope that one might be 'the one' but it doesn't seem to compute in these three cases very well. For me you should sell any player you really can't see actually being given the chance to succeed at Forest. If they aren't realistically going to be picked then try to sell and failing that loan them out with the hope that they reduce your wage bill in the short run and the odd one succeeds after all and pays for the whole sad process.
Maybe unfortunately we have to put the personalities to one side. You have to be as pragmatic as possible. I sold a beautiful Bonzini B90 limited edition World Cup 2002 football table this week and it was hard to do, I had to be patient and I got a good price for it in the end. I'll be sad to see it go but it makes sense. Of course Forest need to also take care of business as well as the football side of things. In both arena though perception is everything. Whether it's the value of a player or their brittle confidence, you need to enhance both or risk losing everything. There's another adage in business that you must always focus on sanity, not vanity. Big gestures and claims count for nothing unless the bottom line adds up. I do think things are moving very much in the right direction and with the signings we have made. I'm fearing the sale of Ben Brereton might be something we regret for one reason or another in the fullness of time though. It's something we could have avoided completely. As far as the way transfers out have been managed I think there has been a bit too much vanity involved and we might have ended up cutting off our noses to spite our face in the final analysis. I just hope the final outcome of whatever happens with Ben Brereton doesn't come back to bite us on the arse - on or off the pitch.