Ian Hart: Albion or Cherries: Who would you choose?

Lewis Dunk (far right) celebrates after scoring against Norwich. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
Lewis Dunk (far right) celebrates after scoring against Norwich. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

So the first ‘shots’ have been fired in the summer transfer window with the news Jermain Defoe is close to joining Bournemouth on a free transfer.

For the uninitiated, to clarify ‘free’ doesn’t actually mean that. If Sunderland, Defoe’s club, had remained in the Premier League, the Cherries would have had to pay them a fee to sign the striker. However, because of a relegation-release clause, Bournemouth can sign Defoe for free and any transfer fee they would have paid is likely to go to the player in an undisclosed signing-on fee.

There has been much speculation over the last couple of days but it’s strongly rumoured that Defoe’s allegedly being paid £8m to sign on the dotted line, with a further £100,000 a week in wages.

Yes Albion fans, £13m for 52 weeks work, welcome to the promised land of the Premier League. In layman’s terms, 22 years ago Defoe would have equated to almost two Goldstone Grounds, that’s how far things have moved on.

Backed this week by the news that despite coming an extremely pitiful 20th place, with the sixth-worst ever Premier League points total, Sunderland received £99.9m in ‘prize/TV’ money.

It arguably puts a different angle on the Defoe deal and reiterates that now the Albion are there, they really have to play on a level-ish playing field with the big boys.

Conservative estimates already say that if the Albion survive next year, the £100m they have already pocketed will be dwarfed with a sum approaching double that. Therefore if Defoe, or a similar priced acquisition, keeps the Albion up, then £13m, while ostensibly a gamble, is not that bad an investment.

While he was a player who many fancied, the Albion were never actually in the mix for Defoe because, given the choice, most players would surely choose the Albion over Bournemouth? The Albion may not have Defoe in the squad come the big kick-off but I’m sure a couple of marquee signings will be forthcoming, along with a number of other acquisitions.

While there’s no action on the pitch, someone tells me the next ten weeks or so are going to be extremely entertaining.

There’s no doubt that Arsene Wenger is probably one of the greatest football managers the game has ever seen, but watching over the last few months has put me in mind of both Margaret Thatcher and Muhammad Ali.

Both superb in their field but ultimately at the end were remembered in part for hanging on far too long.

So Arsenal haven’t qualified for the Champions League for the first time in 20 years, it’s not exactly the news that will prompt Sir Bob Geldof to rally the troops and record a charity single. But ultimately has the failure had more to do with the uncertainty concerning the manager’s future?

Maybe this weekend’s FA Cup final will be the swansong for one of domestic football’s finest foreign imports. If not, however, it could see the start of a tailspin that could take years for the North London giants to reverse, because getting back in the top four is arguably going to be a lot harder than the 20 previous years of staying in it.

On a purely selfish level, the Europa League qualification of at the very least Arsenal and Everton potentially means two of the most eagerly awaited away days could yet end up on a Sunday.

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