Striker James can be really Posh success
IN October 2009, Middlesbrough sacked Gareth Southgate when the club were fourth in the Championship and a point off the top.
Since then they’ve never even made the play-offs and have gone through three more managers. It’s been a tough time and I sometimes wonder if they regret that move.
It came to mind this week when manager Beppe Sannino left Watford with the Hornets second in the table.
You hear about unrest in the dressing room but his methods were clearly working. And when you see Troy Deeney signing a new contract, it can’t have been that unpleasant.
It’s a very strange one and I hope new manager Oscar Garcia doesn’t change too much.
It would be a shame if Watford went the same way as Boro.
PLAYERS often have dramatic tales of lastminute medicals and motorway dashes on deadline day. And speaking to players nowadays, you get the impression they’d love to be involved in the excitement – it’s become one of the biggest events in the calendar.
Well I was involved, but I’m afraid it was very mundane. Though I moved to Preston from Liverpool on the final day in August 2006, the whole thing had been rumbling on for days and weeks before.
There was no call out of the blue. I knew it was happening. And in the end, it was all very calm and civilised. I just drove down the M6, came off at the Tickled Trout junction and signed on the dotted line at Deepdale.
It’s amazing how the whole thing has exploded over the years, with cameras and reporters at every Premier League ground. But for me, the most interesting Football League transfer of this window started in League Two. After a summer of speculation, Luke James finally completed his move from Hartlepool to Peterborough.
As an ex-centre-forward myself, I love to see young English strikers coming through and Luke is a player with incredible potential.
I’ve seen him do so well at Hartlepool. Last year he scored 13 goals and was the club’s top scorer. He’s already made 100 League appearances by the age of 19.
I also watched him on his Peterborough debut where he got off the mark with a goal, and was no less impressive.
He’s a proper, out-and-out centre forward in that he puts himself in positions where he’ll get a chance. He’s always hovering about, trying to make space in the penalty area, confident that he’ll put the ball in the back of the net.
And he’s still such a young player so I’d expect his conversion rate to get even better the older he gets. It’s a shame he had to force the move by refusing to turn up for training. I don’t think any player should ever do that.
And it’s sad for Hartlepool fans – including my Sky colleague Jeff Stelling who is desperately disappointed.
But it’s hard to argue it isn’t the right move as a player. Darren Ferguson has a great touch with centre-forwards. He’s pulled it out of the bag with so many, from Aaron McLean in the past to Dwight Gayle in recent years.
The only person he didn’t do it with was me – at Preston, he stuck me out on the right wing! Mind you, I did score the winner against his old club Peterborough from there so maybe he had it right.
Hopefully James will be the next in line, and having worked with Ferguson, I think he’ll enjoy himself. I certainly did.
One transfer that didn’t get much fanfare was Jamal Blackman, a 20-year-old keeper who has joined Middlesbrough on loan from Chelsea. I’ve been really impressed with him at U21 level for Chelsea and he’s a big, imposing guy for someone so young.
Whether he’ll be No.1 for Boro boss Aitor Karanka I’m not sure, but I doubt Jose Mourinho would have sent him there to sit on the bench.
Ryan Tunnicliffe’s transfer to Blackburn also caught my eye. It didn’t work out for him at Fulham, where the man who signed him – Rene Meulensteen – was almost instantly sacked. But I really liked him as a young midfielder at Manchester United and I think he has a great future. It’s a shrewd signing by Gary Bowyer.
And I was quite surprised to see Cardiff let their captain Mark Hudson move to Huddersfield. He’s a character in the dressing room, a leader on the pitch.
He has such great experience of this division and won it with for the Bluebirds in 2013. He’s also a big threat from set pieces.
Off the pitch and on, it’s a great signing for Huddersfield.
HUGE POTENTIAL: Luke James scores for Hartlepool. Inset: James signs on at Peterborough