THE Albion said farewell last week to one of its ‘Marmite’ men as striker Ashley Barnes headed north for an undisclosed fee – rumoured to be around £750,000 – to fellow Championship side Burnley.
I can’t remember a transfer prompting such a mixed reaction from supporters. Last Friday, I spoke to two friends of mine within 15 minutes of each other, both season ticket holders, whose views on the matter were almost poles apart.
One, and it’s fair to say he’s never been Barnes’ biggest fan, said it was excellent business for the club, commenting that they’d probably added on an extra zero to the price tag without the Clarets realising, while the other questioned the sense in selling one of your top strikers to a promotion rival.
It clearly is a game of opinions.
For my part, Barnes clearly had his strengths and his weaknesses, appearing to trip up the ref last season and getting a long ban in the process wasn’t one of his greatest moments.
Then again, he was merely the width of the crossbar from being an Albion legend when coming on as a substitute in the play-off semi-final at home last May.
With the score at 0-0, he hit the crossbar, if that had gone in, Albion history might have taken another turn, then again as Liam Brady once said, ‘If your granny had wheels she’d be a bus’, or words to that effect...
Three quarters of a million pounds does represent good business for the Seagulls, when effectively the player, once out of contract, could have walked away for nothing in the summer.
However, I am somewhat surprised by Barnes’ choice of club. Granted Burnley are riding high in the Championship, but long-term, I can’t see the same opportunities for the player that he would have got had he signed the new deal offered at the Amex.
With all due respect to the good burghers of Lancashire, and specifically Burnley itself, Barnes is a West Country lad who married a local girl and he has a young family, it’s somewhat puzzling therefore with his choice of destination.
This probably points to the ever-growing theory that he jumped before he was pushed. Rightly so, contract offers remain confidential, maybe the Albion’s offer didn’t match the expectations of Barnes or his agent?
The key now is that the Albion replace him, with like for like or, hopefully, something better.
Some fans may be reading too much into Jonathan Obika’s arrival on loan from Spurs, this was on the agenda some time before the Barnes transfer was even talked about.
At the time of going to press, there is speculation that Bournemouth’s Lewis Grabban and Cardiff’s Joe Mason could be transfer targets, and, who knows, something might develop in time for the Albion’s vital trip to Derby County this weekend.
The following week is FA Cup fourth round action with an intriguing trip to Port Vale, which sees the Albion lock horns with former boss Micky Adams.
Barnes might have been an Albion legend if he’d scored and we’d beaten Palace and gone on to reach the Premier League, but Micky Adams is an Albion legend and always will be.
With the club at almost its lowest ebb when he arrived in April, 1999, he, along with others, transformed the club and built the foundations for what in excess of 25,000 supporters enjoy week in, week out, at the Amex.
Albion fans, both new and old, should never forget that...