So they got there in the end!
Months after beginning their pursuit of Ben Davies, and after a brief escalation of their courting in the media, Derby County have sealed the services of a player who’s assists have been one of Notts‘ biggest assets for the past season and a half.
For as ever, an undisclosed fee.
The writing has essentially been on the wall for the past week or so, despite assurances from club Chairman Ray Trew to the opposite right up until yesterday lunch time.
The mixed messages have come thick and fast though. From the club saying Davies wasn’t for sale (yet with a disclaimer that every player has his price), to Paul Ince then inviting Derby County back to the bidding table with improved offers?
Obviously something made a massive difference along the way though. Ray quickly went from a confident man, to one holding out for matters out of his hands on Saturday.
Derby (as the bigger club in the grand scheme here) have played dirty from the offset by continually doing the indecent thing and talking about players that they had no right to, telling anyone who will listen that Ben wanted to join them.
This was followed with a personal shot at Paul Ince for his anger at the Rams’ incessant nature. Is is really so hard to understand why a manager would be angry at another club talking about his players? Of course not…but then we are the club that recently broke news of Lee Miller staying with us a bit longer than expected!
Calls will follow for Derby to be held accountable for their perceived tapping up, but in truth clubs get away with this every week. Not that this makes their actions acceptable, it’s just how football is run.
The question could be asked if Notts themselves did enough to make Ben stay, but this could be argued forever since in all likeliness very little will ever make it into the public domain about the discussions that took place. It is known Davies was the one to finally break and hand in a transfer request though, so what use would it have been to ignore the Derby advances anyway?
And then there’s Davies himself. The same man who himself declared only in the last week of 2010 that he would honour his Notts County contract?
Is he the first player to say one thing and walk away a few weeks later? Of course not, but that doesn’t make matters sting any less.
“I absolutely love it here, I’m the happiest I have ever been in my career!” His own words. When you read them, it’s no wonder the move has been met with so much bitterness.
So much so, that some quarters have even offered Nottingham Forest their support in time for this Saturday’s clash with Derby…but let’s let the dust settle on today before reading too much into that!
But when you look at the situation from Notts’, and Ben’s own personal perspective, it’s hard to argue with how things have turned out.
From the club’s point of view, we’ve sold an asset who came to the club on a free transfer for nearly half a million pound. This after he’s been a key ingredient to a title winning season and when he’s struggled to put in the performances in a higher division that we’d come to expect? Fair enough.
And then Davies, who gets the opportunity to test himself at a higher level, and for more money. Who in their right mind would ever deny themselves that opportunity?
Both Notts and Davies have come out of this pretty well to be fair.
I could never wish ill of the player. He did fantastic things for the club, and this season alone has been key on the many occasions that Lee Hughes has been injured. See the 3-3 draw away at Bournemouth, last Saturday’s hard earned point at Southampton, or the stunning 3-2 victory over Peterborough at London Road.
Great memories this term, that’s not even taking into account his heroics with a dead ball last season that led to so many goals. Fantastic times.
All sentimentality aside though, it does leave a big hole in the middle of the field for Notts. Since his move to Meadow Lane, Ben hadn’t missed a game since November 2009 in all competitions. Not only do you look for how County cope with this gap, but we’re also without a deadball specialist.
Someone needs to step up.
It then of course stands to reason that likes of Lee Hughes, Craig Westcarr and Neal Bishop might now begin to question the club’s wider ambitions this year and might seek assurances of where the club goes from here.
Is it that big a deal though? In the cold light of day, Davies was at least replaceable. Natural born goalscorers like Hughes, less so.
So the questions will follow about where the transfer fee will go, whether Paul Ince has it at his disposal for a replacement. Could Thomas Ince once more come into the equation? After all, you have to figure with TV money on the way and this transfer fee, you could be looking at around £700,000 to play with on top of the existing transfer budget set aside.
But then how does Paul Ince feel behind the scenes? He’s already stated his discontent with how Derby and Davies have treated our club, would he hold any contempt with his employers for Ben’s departure?
Regardless, as i often find myself saying, when has Ray Trew let us down yet? Even through his and the board’s most questionable moments, Notts have come out at the other end smelling of roses. Now certainly isn’t the time to believe it’s all gone wrong for us!