For the first time ever, it looks like we’re in for a nervy transfer window with players that other teams might actually want to pay money for. That’s the price of success, I guess. You can see my initial verdict on our six most likely flight risks here, but to try and keep up with the possible comings and goings, I’m going to keep a rolling blog post here throughout January here.
25 January: Baldock returns to MK Dons
George Baldock being recalled by MK Dons strikes me as a pointlessly cynical move by Karl Robinson. Yes, they’re in a relegation fight and having access to good players is important, but apparently they have two good right backs already. Where does Baldock fit into that equation? It appears he is so crucial to Robinson’s plans, he’s so desperate to have him fit and available, that he’s allowed him to play for us against Blackburn on Saturday.
Perhaps Baldock will sail into their starting line-up igniting a breathtaking revival of their fortunes; in which case it was all worth it. Perhaps Baldock will sit on the bench where his form and fitness will ebb away and he’ll become the player that Robinson wanted shoved out of his plans in the first place. Can Baldock’s qualities even benefit MK Dons’ way of playing? It’ll take more than just a flying right-back to replicate our form. Maybe, just maybe, they’re planning to sell him or one of those currently in front of him. That would, at least, make some sense.
I don’t know, and care even less; it just seems a pointless thing to do. Is it just a sign that Robinson has lost his way and is just desperate to appear to be doing something because he’s under pressure? What a tool.
For Baldock he gains almost nothing from the move; he loses out on the opportunity of a crack at Wembley and promotion, of developing a profile that could take him into a Championship first team or even higher, of the high quality coaching he’s clearly had under Michael Appleton.
The hysteria around Baldock has grown in recent weeks. There’s been an odd cult of people expressing a homoerotic love for him. It’s one of those things that started as a joke and went viral, even though it wasn’t that funny in the first place; like most of Michael McIntyre’s career. As a result this morning’s announcement has been greeted with confirmation that the empire is on the verge of collapse.
But, in reality; while quality full-backs can certainly make you better, their absence doesn’t make you a bad team. Their primary role is to defend, the better players, like Baldock, can also act as an attacking threat. If you don’t have full-backs with an attacking threat, then you already have wingers to play that role.
13th January: George Baldock back to MK Dones?
We woke up to the news that George Baldock is not for sale and may even be heading back to MK Dons. Really? I haven’t heard the whole interview with the Dons manager Karl Robinson, but what I have heard of it appears to suggest that he was asked about Baldock by a local MK Dons journalist, probably off the back of our win over Swansea. Robinson said he wasn’t for sale and also implied he wasn’t wholly out of the picture despite good coverage in Baldock’s right-back position.
This is the equivalent of someone knocking on your door asking whether your house is for sale. You say no because a) it isn’t and b) by showing that it isn’t you maintain its value. That’s not quite the same as saying never, regardless of the price.
In terms of a possible recall, Robinson’s response seemed to be more ‘never say never’ than ‘it’s possible’. There are lots of scenarios by which Baldock might be recalled of which his form is only one. It could be that they have an injury crisis or receive a bid for one of their preferred right-backs. I still think the more likely scenario is that they will receive a bid from another team that they can’t refuse.
It’s called the media because they ‘mediate’ messages, it’s a filter which can change the meaning of a story. To me it looks like this is nothing more than a slight twist on an interview to make it more newsworthy.
4th January: Callum O’Dowda to Derby County
The Daily Mail have reported that Derby County are looking at Callum O’Dowda, for whom we’re apparently asking £1m. In terms of the rumour, I think it has credibility. As Michael Appleton has suggested, O’Dowda has potential to get into a Championship level squad and Derby are the right kind of club for a player like him.
The Mail suggests that Oxford ‘risk’ pricing themselves out of the deal. I’m not sure what the risk is. The club don’t seem to need to sell at the moment, so either we keep the player or we get someone to pay silly money, I can’t see what we’d be losing.
Who has set this valuation of O’Dowda? Is it just a lazy journalist assuming that a League 2 club will sell to anyone offering a cheque? Is it Derby? But why encourage others into the market? Is it Oxford? Darryl Eales has already said that he’d turn down a million pound bid if it damaged promotion (a possible source of that valuation, although Eales was talking about Kemar Roofe), or is it the O’Dowda ‘camp’?
I don’t doubt O’Dowda’s commitment to the club, but it would be wrong to ignore his ambition. He’s very media friendly, he markets himself well (see his professionally produced promotional video), and you don’t become subject to million pound speculation without hard work and focus. If it is him and people around him, it should be viewed as him being professional rather than mercenary. O’Dowda wants to be successful, when opportunity knocks, he’d be wrong not to investigate.