We recently saw the end of the latest Premier League football transfer window, where UK clubs spent a staggering £1.9bn on new players, the vast majority of which went to overseas. The biggest spender, Chelsea, spent over £250m having lost key players to free transfers (mostly overseas), then sacked their manager a week later and have since appointed Graham Potter from Brighton. Trying to apply any logic to how football clubs (and to that matter football club owners) think is a tough gig as the normal rules of commerce simply don’t apply, but it’s no wonder when the big clubs are owned by sovereign wealth funds and billionaires, and clubs are a demonstration of extreme wealth and can provide access and contact that can be procured by other means.
My own club, Crystal Palace, have recently started their 10th consecutive year as a Premier League club, despite being linked to a number of players, we spent no money in the window, however, we did keep our talisman, more of that later. The league itself was formed 30 years ago and has been an outstanding success. We can debate the winners and losers, but it’s by far the most exciting and competitive domestic league in the world. Prior to 2013, Palace had been promoted to the Premier League three times and were relegated in their first season each time. I have been going to matches with my 22 year old son for 15 years or so and he has enjoyed 10 years of comparatively major success, as we’ve also reached an FA Cup Final and semi-Final during that period. Much like trying to describe what life was like before streaming services and smartphones, describing what it was like watching Palace through the late 90s and early 00s simply falls on deaf ears.
Palace’s first game of this season was a home game against Arsenal and despite putting in a more than decent performance, we lost 2-0. The game has recently been referred to as the ‘Ian Wright Derby’ and on my way home I happened to bump into him at a local petrol station, I’d jumped on my motorbike from the train and he’s been doing TV commentary in a studio nearby we had a great chat for 10 minutes. I knew (but didn’t tell him) we have a lot in common, he’s 6 days older than me, was born a mile from where I was born in South East London and his parents similarly hail from Jamaica. We’re also both strikers, however I’ll leave that there. If you were to ask Palace fans of my generation who their favourite two players were of all time ‘Wrighty’ would feature very heavily as would Wilfried Zaha.
‘Wilf’ is a mercurial gifted talent and one of the most skilful players ever to have graced the Premier League. He has spent most of his career at Palace, having had a very brief unsuccessful spell at Man Utd and a loan at Cardiff City. During every transfer window for the past 3 years, there has been speculation about whether Wilf will be sold and he’s been linked to Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal & Roma to name but a few. My club faces a real crunch at the end of this season, as he will be out of contract, will be hugely attractive as a free agent to bigger clubs and we won’t be able to command a fee for him!
A few weeks ago, I met an old colleague and a besotted Palace fan in town for a coffee and ALL the discussion centered on music (we worked together in the industry) and Palace, and the subject of Wilf’s potential departure came up. My mate Hugh responded with a rather imaginative idea. Wilf is already a very wealthy man, (I daresay Wright would have earned 10 times what he made from the game had he been playing now) and like many footballers, has an extensive property portfolio. Palace could try to match whatever package is offered by another club, however what Hugh suggested is that we try to appeal to his heart (rather than his wallet), by offering to cement his legacy as a (mostly) one club legend by building a statue of him which could be unveiled when the current ground completes a much needed redevelopment in around 3 years time. The thing I love about it is that a great example of exchanging something of low cost (the statue of course) for something of high value (increasing our chances of Premier League survival), which despite our tenure, I still don’t take for granted.
Now, where are my boots and does anyone know a decent sculpturer?