I might as well have my tuppence worth on the Joleon Lescott saga. If your local has been like mine, then the world and his wife will have had their say already. And most of it seems to me to be valid - excluding, of course, the tiny gang of snivelling whiners that hang around the udders of every club looking for the slightest excuse to whinge their pathetic heads off to anyone foolish enough to give them breathing space.
Firstly, I am sorry to have lost a player of Joleon's class. He will be sorely missed. Nor do I blame him in the least for going for the money. Few of us would be much different if offered more earning power. It is typical of the modern game that our consolation is the amount of money paid out is seventy five percent higher than the original offer. If that gamble fails to pay off it is us who will be laughing all the way to the bank. What pisses me off is roughly the same as what pisses off most Evertonians I have spoken to. It's the way Hughes, the City manager, and he, went about matters. There's no question it was a thoroughly sickening event even by the cynical standards of contemporary football: Hughes and City determined to unsettle the player and the situation, and they succeeded. In the process they also caused some uncertainty in our squad at the start of the season, though that in no way excuses the team's lousy start.
Now, we all know loyalty is in short supply in professional football. There is reasonable doubt if it ever existed at all. There is a good argument that only the old retain-and-transfer system prevented the kind of freedom of movement we have now. In fact it took a change in European law to enforce it. Nobody in their right mind wants to see a return to the old days. But like most human activities there are areas of commonsense decency and mutual understanding, a place where we draw a line in the sand. Both Hughes and Lescott crossed the line, and there is cause to think they also broke some football regulations in doing so. Manchester City seem to have done the same thing in their approaches for Kaka and John Terry in previous months. Reports say Everton will make a formal complaint. If so - and it is upheld - I hope the responsible football authorities will have the courage this time to throw the rule book at Manchester City and Mark Hughes, fine them heavily, and deduct points into the bargain. But probably pork will take flight in squadrons first, though a pleasant surprise or two wouldn't go amiss.
Whatever the contractual position, this is one case where the player clearly DOES owe some loyalty to David Moyes and the club. This is nothing like the Wayne Rooney transfer where the player plainly detested the manager. In Lescott's case, David Moyes not only took a chance on him when he bought him while injured, he stood by him when he hit a couple of poor runs of form. He has never failed to encourage him in the right way. Lescott's career began to flourish because of it. Even when matters turned sour in the last week or so David Moyes expressed open admiration for him and wanted him to stay. Moyesy's behaviour throughout was exemplary. By comparison, Mark Hughes and Manchester City's owners stand exposed as a disgusting and thoroughly disreputable piece of football detritus, the very worst of what the game has become. Frankly, Hughes has looked like a cheap second hand version of Albert Steptoe throughout the whole affair. When some fans whinge about "investment" it would be appropriate for them to see what that can really mean and where it will inevitably take the game if it is allowed to continue.
The transfer provides Joleon Lescott with the prospect of playing alongside better players. In theory his game should improve. But football holds no guarantees for anyone, not even a player of his undoubted class. And while I don't wish him any ill will I really couldn't care less if he succeeds or not. Given his behaviour and its timing he has no right to expect anything more. Somehow it is appropriate that our last memory of him is the disgraceful Arsenal home game. He, Hughes and Manchester City all deserve each other. But I really hope our fans don't engage in another witch hunt a la Wayne Rooney because it will only rebound on us. The media would have a field day.
The incoming money will leave us with some room to manoeuvre in what remains of the so-called "transfer window" after Wolves take their share of the sell-on value. Some of it of course will be used to keep the wolf from the door. One hopes Moyesy will use his share as well as he has in the past, odd mistake excepted. He and the club can hold their heads up in the dignified way they have dealt with the matter. The same can't be said of Hughes and Manchester City - though I doubt, given their behaviour, that they have any sense of decent conscience. Organised crime and street thugs operate in much the same way.