28 February 2013

Cardiff City RIP?

This was what Cardiff City looked like before their soul was sold off.

If I was a Cardiff City supporter, I'd be thinking long and hard about whether owner Vincent Tan has the interests of the club at heart.

Last May, the Malaysian businessman suggested that Cardiff change their home colours from blue to red. The chairman Dato Chan Tien Ghee then intervened, saying that the Bluebirds would remain as they were - blue. But a month later, Tan defied his chairman and went ahead with the change.

Now, nearly three quarters of a year after using his Asian magic to somehow turn Bluebirds into Dragons, he is considering making an even more dramatic change. As of next season, Cardiff City could be no more - their new name could be Cardiff Dragons.

You couldn't make it up.

Tan has already alienated a number of hardcore Cardiff fans, and split the Cardiff City Stadium into three sections - one for the away fans, one for the diehard Bluebirds who won't give up their old jerseys, and one for the Cardiff supporters who have bought into their red-coloured rebranding.

His main reason for changing the colour of the shirts was that red was considered lucky in his part of the world - south-east Asia. Erm, Vincent, what about the part of the world that contains the most Cardiff City fans, namely, Cardiff? Do the locals have less say about their own club than thousands of Malaysians who are obsessed with Premier League giants such as Manchester United or Liverpool, but couldn't name their national team's star centre-forward?

There was already a team in Wales that had the nickname of 'The Dragons', but perhaps Tan was more interested in lining Peter Ridsdale's pockets than investing in Wrexham, a club that had fallen on hard times and really needed the money.

Tan threatened to withdraw his investment if the switch from blue to red didn't go through, but it did, and Cardiff as a result have been richly rewarded both financially and on the pitch. They lead the Championship by eight points, and have a game in hand on nearest rivals Watford and Hull City. The chance of there being two Welsh sides in next season's Premier League is looking very strong.

His next move, should the team from the Welsh capital make it to English football's promised land, is to turn Cardiff City into Cardiff Dragons, even though there is already a club of that name in existence (albeit in the gay-friendly football leagues).

Worryingly for some Cardiff supporters, he talks about this next step in business terms, saying, "We will think about it [the name change] when we know the final result of this season. Then we will think what's the best way to brand it.

"A few were upset but like in any business if we get 80% or 75% of the customers happy, with 20-25% not happy, that's fine. If they don't want to come to support our business, that's fine. We need the majority."

He added, "Have Cardiff achieved any success under this Bluebirds brand? So why do we hold onto something that hasn't achieved much success?"

Because it's history. Newcastle United haven't won anything for over 40 years, but they'll always be the Magpies, even if Mike Ashley changes their name to Sports Direct FC, their colours to red and blue with yellow polka-dots, and their nickname to 'The Cockney Massive'.

Tan comes across as a brand-obsessed businessman who could make Mike Ashley look conservative. Merely changing the colours, nickname and name might not be enough if he and his Malaysian 'customers' get their way.

By the time they break into the PL top ten, he could have dropped the Cardiff part of their name. If they qualify for the Champions League, he could move them to a brand new 120,000-capacity stadium about 7,000 miles away in Kuala Lumpur. And, by 2030, when they could have at least one Club World Cup in their trophy cabinet, the closest thing they will have to a Welshman in their squad is an American left-back who saw Tom Jones on his farewell tour.

Supporting a super-rich and successful club is one thing. But what would Cardiff fans rather have - a soulless and traditionless club that has bought its way into the Premier League, or a team with history that is bravely battling it out in the Championship?

27 February 2013

Football's lost talents

Billy Kenny: One player whose career was disappointingly short.

There was an interesting mini-article in the middle pages of The Sun last Saturday.

The story surrounds a nine-year-old player, signed up to Stoke City's youth academy, who has scored more goals for his Under-10s team this season than Stoke's first-team have in the Premier League. Connor Sargeant has been tipped for a bright future by Potters boss Tony Pulis after finding the net 47 times for his club Porthill Rangers.

Connor, who bases his skills on Cristiano Ronaldo, obviously looks like one for the future. But of course, we can't afford to get ahead of ourselves. We most certainly won't see Connor make his senior debut until the next decade, if at all, because there are so many footballers who look absolutely amazing when they're at primary school and are barely good enough for the Isthmian League when they become adults. Only the very best succeed in the cut-throat business that is professional football.

For every Lionel Messi who breaks through, there are countless players that don't. Some of those could have been the next big thing if something hadn't happened, or their attitude had been that little bit better.

I'm talking about football's lost talents. When we think of wasted talents, we think of players like Paul Gascoigne and Nii Lamptey - but they had full, if unfulfilled, careers. What about those who seemed to be on the one-way road to stardom, only for their careers to be cut short at such a young age?

Today, I'll look at a selection of those who could, and perhaps should, have been among football's elite:

Dani
Dani was a promising teenager at Sporting Lisbon in 1996 when West Ham United loaned him in for a while. However, the Portuguese striker - who was very much a hit with the ladies - frequented nightclubs too often for Harry Redknapp's liking, and the wheeler-dealer wheeled him back after two goals in nine Premier League games. Spells at Ajax, Benfica and Atletico Madrid followed, as well as nine senior caps for Portugal. Dani was released by Atletico in 2003, when he was 26, and having failed to find a new club, he retired several months later.

Duncan Edwards
We can't talk about lost talents without mentioning THE great lost talent - Duncan Edwards. The Dudley-born wing-half had established himself as a key player for Manchester United and England by the time he was 21 years old. Then, on the way home from a European Cup tie on 6 February 1958, the plane carrying the United team crashed on takeoff after a refuelling stop in Munich. Seven of the Busby Babes were killed instantly, but Edwards was in hospital for 15 days before he too succumbed to his injuries. Had he lived, and resumed his playing career, we would probably be talking about Edwards being England's World Cup-winning captain, and perhaps also the greatest ever footballer, rather than Pelé or Diego Maradona.

Niccolo Galli
The son of a former Italian international goalkeeper, Galli was destined for great things as a defender. He started out with papa Giovanni's old club Fiorentina before being signed by Arsenal in 1999. The Gunners' academy boss Liam Brady called him a "an intelligent and skillful defender", and the Italian national youth coaches felt the same way, capping him at Under-17s and Under-18s level. But on 10 February 2001, while continuing his development on loan at Serie A side Bologna, Galli was killed in a motorbike accident. He was only 17 years old.

Wayne Harrison
In March 1985, Liverpool signed a 17-year-old Oldham Athletic starlet called Wayne Harrison for £250,000. Five years later, he was worthless. A series of unfortunate events, ranging from him crashing through a greenhouse to suffering a double hernia, resulted in him having no fewer than 23 operations. The fatal blow for his career came in 1990, when he tore his cruciate ligaments in a reserve game. He was just 22 years old, and hadn't played a single senior game for Liverpool.

Kane Jackson
At six years old, Manchester boy Kane Jackson was tipped for the top by none other than United legend George Best. That was in the mid-1990s. Jackson got too much too young - he had an agent, a lawyer, a sponsorship deal, and was the subject of a six-figure transfer bid before he was anywhere near leaving primary school. Kane eventually cracked under the pressure, giving up the game when he was 16. As of 2011, he was working as a driver for a pharmaceutical firm.

Michael Johnson
At 24 years old, it's a bit early to call Johnson a lost talent, but at the moment, he is just that. He broke into the Manchester City first-team in 2006 and was soon regarded as an England captain in the making. Alas, a string of unfortunately-timed injuries stalled his development, and a change of attitude for the worse didn't help matters. Last month, after a photograph surfaced of Johnson looking far from athletic, City revealed that they had released him some time ago after just 37 league games. You can read more about Johnson's demise here.

Billy Kenny
As a 19-year-old in 1993, Kenny as regarded as so talented that his Everton team-mate Peter Beardsley called him "The Goodison Gazza". Sadly, comparisons with Paul Gascoigne on the pitch would soon be made off it. While recovering from a lengthy injury lay-off, the midfielder started taking cocaine, and his drug problem got so bad that the Toffees sacked him a year later after less than 20 appearances. Kenny tried to rebuild his career at Oldham Athletic, but his cocaine addiction got out of control, and it brought an end to his professional playing days at the age of just 21.

Gigi Meroni
Imagine if Nicola Cortese accidentally ran over Gareth Bale while on a business trip to Southampton in 2006. Well, that's basically what happened to Italy's answer to George Best. Meroni was an elegant right-winger for Como and then Geona before he signed for Torino in 1964, aged 21. He was a nightmare for opposition defenders, and won six caps for Italy - one of those in the Azzurri's ill-fated FIFA World Cup campaign of 1966. In October 1967, he was celebrating with a team-mate following a 4-2 win over Sampdoria when the pair were knocked down by a car. The team-mate survived, but Meroni died aged just 24, having suffered horrific injuries. The driver of the car was a teenage Torino fan called Attilio Romero, who would, some 33 years later, become president of Il Toro. Insert your own punchline.

Kaz Patafta
Some readers may be asking, "Who?", but to Aussies, he was their Michael Johnson. A technically-gifted attacking midfielder, Patafta shone for Australia at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 2005, and a year later signed for Benfica. He played just three league games for the Portuguese giants before being loaned back to Australia by Melbourne Victory. Three more years in the A-League, this time at Newcastle Jets, followed before he was released in 2011, aged just 23. He hasn't found another club since.

Sonny Pike
Luke 'Sonny' Pike was English football's ultimate unfulfilled talent - his career ended before it even got started. Signed up at the tender age of seven by Ajax's world-famous youth academy, he attracted an unprecedented amount of press coverage before anyone outside Croxteth had heard of Wayne Rooney. Sadly, it all went pear-shaped for Pike in 2000, when he suffered a nervous breakdown, his parents' marriage collapsed, and he was axed by his Dutch club. After a few years in semi-pro football, Pike moved away from the game.

Kiyan Prince
Another English youngster whose professional career never got going, but in this case, it was for tragic reasons. Kiyan was a prolific goalscorer on the books of Queens Park Rangers when he was stabbed to death on 18 May 2006, at the age of only 15. A player who had been tipped for future international recognition with England was gone in one horrific attack. A Somali refugee, Hannad Hasan, was convicted of Kiyan's murder in 2007.

Antonio Puerta
Puerta made his debut for Sevilla in March 2004, and the wing-back would soon establish himself in his hometown club's senior side. He was a double UEFA Cup winner with Los Rojiblancos in 2006 and 2007, and also picked up a Spain cap in between. But on the first game of the 2007/2008 La Liga season, against Getafe, Puerta collapsed in the 35th minute. He regained consciousness, and walked off the pitch into the dressing room, where he collapsed again. Puerta had suffered a heart attack, and died three days later at the tragically young age of 22.

James Will
Will was an anomoly - a talented Scottish goalkeeper. In 1989, he was the dependable custodian for the FIFA Under-16 World Cup hosts as they reached the Final, where they lost to Saudi Arabia on penalties having led 2-0 at half-time. Will was at Arsenal at the time, but he couldn't break into the first-team, and left the Gunners in 1994. A season back in Scotland with Dunfermline followed before the disillusioned keeper called time on his professional career while just about in his mid-20s.

This was Sonny Pike when he was English football's hottest starlet.

24 February 2013

2013 League Cup Final preview

Bradford City striker James Hanson is a big threat up front.

This season's League Cup has ensured that today will see one set of long-suffering fans having the time of their lives, as Swansea City and Bradford City go head-to-head in the competition's most hotly-anticipated final for years.

The last time these two sides met was in 2007, when they drew 2-2 in a League One game at Valley Parade, where 7,347 fans were in attendance. Six years on, Wembley Stadium is the scene, and the attendance is likely to be more than ten times that - possibly over 80,000, in fact.

Both teams have had to overcome difficult obstacles in the years building up to their day out at Wembley. As Swans boss Michael Laudrup put it, "It's not the underdog against one of the big teams, it's the under-under-underdog versus the underdog."

The under-under-underdog in this clash is Bradford City, the first fourth-tier team to get to the League Cup Final since Rochdale in 1962. They were 2000/1 outsiders at the start of the tournament and are still long odds against to lift the trophy, but a team that has already put Wigan Athletic, Arsenal and Aston Villa to bed  may not necessarily fear Swansea.

After relegation from the Premier League in 2001, Bradford were soon on the very verge of going out of existence. After surviving two administrations, they fell into League Two in 2007 and haven't been back in the top three divisions since. As things stand, it's unlikely but not impossible that they'll change that last statistic this season, as they are currently 11th in English football's fourth division.

As for the starting XI, Yorkshire native Rory McArdle - who plays internationally for Northern Ireland - is battling for fitness after an ankle injury. He could be a threat from set-pieces alongside fellow defender Carl McHugh, who has brought over 100 or so family and friends from his tiny Irish village of Lettermacaward.

Striker Andy Gray is cup-tied, so the Bantams' in-demand manager Phil Parkinson will turn once again to Nahki Wells and James Hanson up front. It could be a Roy of the Rovers fairytale for Hanson, as four years ago, 'Big Jim' was stacking shelves at his local Co-op supermarket.

Captain Gary Jones, who had a very brief spell at Swansea early in his career, will lead out the Bradford team with nine-year-old cancer survivor Jake Turton, whose story has inspired the 35-year-old and his team-mates.

Gerhard Tremmel is Swansea's number 1 when it comes to the League Cup.

Swansea City, meanwhile, find themselves in the unusual position of being the hot favourites to win in their first ever major cup final. Winning the League Cup would certainly boost the reputation of Michael Laudrup - the Welsh team's Danish manager, who has been linked with almost every big job going in recent weeks.

Ten years ago, Swansea were on the verge of dropping from the old Division 3 into the Conference - a league from which some teams have never returned. Only a final-day victory over Hull City saved them from potential oblivion. Leon Britton was in that very team, and the midfielder has been with them almost every step of their way up the leagues.

Garry Monk, like Britton, played for the Swans when they were in League Two. He is hoping to feature for them today, and his chances of making the team have been boosted by the absence of Chico due to an ankle injury.

Swansea's second-choice goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel has proven to be more than an understudy to Michel Vorm when he has played in the League Cup this season. The German's impressive form has been rewarded with a starting place for the Final, and while Tremmel tries to keep the ball out of his net, star forward Michu will hope to put the ball into the other, like he has done with great regularity this term.

Save for Chelsea forward Eden Hazard's confrontation with a local ball-boy in the Semi Final second leg, Swansea's run to the Final has not attracted as many column inches as Bradford's. Nevertheless, it takes a fine team to knock out the holders Liverpool and the aforementioned Chelsea in the same competition.

Because it's such a big occasion, and because Swansea have done so well this season (they are 9th in the Premier League, putting them 70 places above today's opponents), it's difficult to predict Bradford having the dream ending to their fairytale. But should the Bantams hold firm and take the game to penalties, put your money on them - they've won an English-record nine consecutive shoot-outs.

If that happened again, it would be the stuff Hollywood films are made of.

TDTR PREDICTS: Bradford City 1-3 Swansea City

18 February 2013

Wenger's time is running out

Arsene Wenger sees the Arsenal exit door - he'll probably go through it soon.

Arsenal's FA Cup exit at home to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday is the strongest indication yet that Arsene Wenger's reign as manager is entering its final months.

Wenger fielded a second-string team against the chaotically-run Championship club, but with 10 full internationals present in the starting line-up (the 11th, Francis Coquelin, has been capped by France Under-21s), the Gunners should have had too much class for Blackburn.

In the end, they were undone by the performances of two goalkeepers. Blackburn's young custodian Jake Kean was brilliant, performing save after save to somehow shut out Arsenal. At the other end, Arsenal's own shotstopper Wojciech Szczesny made an unconvincing save from Martin Olsson on 72 minutes, and gifted the ball to Colin Kazim-Richards, who squirmed it in off the post.

Wenger criticised his team afterwards for being "immature", but when asked about whether he regretted naming a weakened team, he said, "Regrets over what? My selection? No. We had 11 internationals at the start and, when we made the changes, it was 0-0.

"I can understand the fans' reaction. You don’t want your fans to be happy when you lose at home to Blackburn in the Cup after they’ve had one shot at goal."

Unfortunately, the man who infamously failed to see lots of unsavoury incidents involving his players in the past is now failing to see the point.

He can't keep trotting out the same excuses anymore, or trying to defend himself after an embarrassing defeat. This season, Arsenal have gone out of both domestic clubs to lower-league opposition (Bradford City ended their League Cup hopes) for the first time in the Wenger era, and they are 21 points adrift of Premier League leaders Manchester United with just 12 games to go.

Their only hope of silverware is something they have no realistic chance of winning - they've got German giants Bayern Munich in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League.

For Arsenal to go eight seasons without a trophy is astonishing, considering that they added 11 pieces of silverware to their cabinet in Wenger's first eight seasons as manager. The Professor's managerial brain has gone to mush.

In recent years, the Gunners have consistently finished 3rd or 4th in the Premier League. They've seldom come anywhere near winning their first title since the 'Unbeatables' season of 2003/2004, but they've always done enough to ensure that their impeccable Champions League attendance record since 1998 has remained intact.

This season, even that is under threat. They currently trailed 4th-placed Tottenham Hotspur by four points, and considering the form that Gareth Bale has been in during recent weeks, it'll take more than lasagne to stop Spurs from stealing their rivals' place at European football's top table.

In 2006, when Arsenal reached the Champions League Final, their squad was full of world-class players. A mass exodus of top talents from the Emirates Stadium over recent seasons has left them with just two players who could be put in that category - Santi Cazorla and Thomas Vermaelen. When you consider Arsenal's recent track record when it comes to keeping their captains, I wouldn't be too surprised if, by this time next year, Vermaelen was playing alongside two of his old team-mates at Manchester City.

The absence of any Champions League fixtures next season would only make the Gunners' leading players more anxious to leave. This is where Wenger's steadfast refusal to spend massive money on elite stars, preferring instead to invest in 'rough diamond' youngsters, lets him down.

Szczesny's error against Blackburn has highlighted the fact that Wenger has still not found the dependable goalkeeper that Arsenal have needed since Jens Lehmann's exit five years ago. Szczesny is only 22 and will get better, but like Manchester United's own young keeper David de Gea, he is too inconsistent to be a surefire starter.

The goalkeepers that Wenger is said to be targeting are Asmir Begovic, Simon Mignolet and Michel Vorm, all of whom are at best a marginal improvement on the current number 1. If he really wanted another 'Safe Hands' like David Seaman in his pomp, he should have raided the bank for Manuel Neuer before tomorrow's opponents Bayern got him in 2011.

Wenger should have also found a replacement for Alex Song by now. He is currently looking at Borussia Dortmund's midfield duo Mario Gotze and Marco Reus. When he raided Borussia last year, he didn't have the courage to sign either of them. Instead, he got... Thomas Eisfeld. That's like turning down a Rolls Royce (pardon the pun) and buying a Vauxhall Vectra instead.

Wenger's losing his touch both in the tactical department and also in the transfer market department. Nowadays, more Gooners can be found chanting "Wenger out" instead of holding up banners that say "In Arsene We Trust". It all points to the Frenchman's near 17-season reign coming to an end this summer.

Who will replace him? David Moyes has emerged as the new favourite. As an Arsenal fan myself, I'm surprised - even though Moyes has done a tremendous job at Everton over the last decade, I've never before imagined him moving to the Emirates.

Jose Mourinho would be the journalists' favourite, but a lot of Gooners would be repulsed by the sight of the Special One's ego at Ashburton Grove. Laurent Blanc, Remi Garde and very surprisingly Dragan Stojkovic are also leading contenders.

When the next most successful Arsenal manager ever after Wenger, the great Herbert Chapman, died in 1934, he was replaced from within by George Allison. If the Gunners board do the same post-Wenger, then the current assistant manager Steve Bould - a former defender at Highbury - would be a popular choice for the top job.

If you were to put a gun to my head and demand an answer to the question, "Who do you want to replace Arsene?", I'd most likely say Bould.

It will be a sad day for everyone at Arsenal FC when Arsene Wenger leaves, but even though he has brought unprecedented success to the club, it is probably for the best that this season be his last.

16 February 2013

Robbie Rogers comes out

Robbie Rogers has announced that he is gay after retiring from football.

Homosexuality is, sadly, one of the last taboos in professional football, and it takes a brave man to come out.

That is why Robbie Rogers deserves a lot of credit. The former United States international midfielder has become the first British-based footballer since the tragic Justin Fashanu to disclose that he is gay.

The 25-year-old, who was released by Leeds United last month following a short loan spell at Stevenage, made the revelation in his personal blog, in which he also announced that he'd decided to "step away" from football.

Rogers wrote, "My whole life I have felt different, different from my peers, even different from my family. In today’s society being different makes you brave. To overcome your fears you must be strong and have faith in your purpose.

"For the past 25 years, I have been afraid, afraid to show whom I really was because of fear. Fear that judgment and rejection would hold me back from my dreams and aspirations. Fear that my loved ones would be farthest from me if they knew my secret. Fear that my secret would get in the way of my dreams.

"Secrets can cause so much internal damage. People love to preach about honesty, how honesty is so plain and simple. Try explaining to your loved ones after 25 years you are gay. Try convincing yourself that your creator has the most wonderful purpose for you even though you were taught differently.

"Football hid my secret, gave me more joy than I could have ever imagined... I will always be thankful for my career. Now is my time to step away. It’s time to discover myself away from football."

If Rogers has decided to retire from playing simply because of his sexuality, then it is very sad. The fear of being abused by spectators wherever they play might be too much for some, but judging by the reaction on Twitter from team-mates, fans and administrators alike, Robbie would be given a better reception than what Fashanu received in the years after his coming out.

The Los Angeles-born winger clearly has a lot of talent, otherwise he wouldn't have played over 100 Major League Soccer games for Columbus Crew or won 18 caps for his country. But if he feels that he needs to move away from football, that, of course, is up to him.

Other sports have their own gay role models. I'm talking about people like John Amaechi, Steven Davies, Martina Navratilova and Gareth Thomas - people who have earned nothing but praise from their peers since coming out. Sadly, football's relationship with homosexuality is not as amicable, or at least it hasn't been in the past.

Justin Fashanu was the first footballer to come out in 1990. The prejudice that Justin encountered afterwards was sickening. He was subjected to abuse from team-mates and spectators, his brother John disowned him, and he was all but driven out of English football four years later. In 1998, things came to a head when - shortly after being charged with sexually assaulting a teenage boy in the US - Fashanu hanged himself. He was 37.

The first American soccer player to come out before Rogers announced that he was gay round about this time last year. Since then, David Testo - formerly of Columbus, Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact - has not played professionally.

However, football in some areas is slowly beginning to accept homosexuality. The only other openly gay player, as far as I'm aware, is Swedish defender Anton Hysen - the son of former Liverpool star Glenn. Hysen says his life has changed for the better since coming out in 2011.

Hope Powell, manager of the England women's team, is gay, as is her Sweden and former United States counterpart Pia Sundhage. That hasn't stopped them from being regarded as being among the best coaches in women's football.

Now that his secret has come out, Robbie Rogers can be a role model off the football pitch, even if he feels he can no longer play on it. He can serve as an inspiration for other gay footballers, of which there are many, who are quite simply too afraid to reveal the truth.

13 February 2013

Hello, goodbye

Firstly, I would like to apologise for not posting anything here for near enough the last two weeks. I am coming up to the end of an IT course at college, so I've spent much of the last fortnight focussing on that, but I can reassure you that The Daily Transfer Request is not dead. As soon as the course is finished, TDTR will be back in full swing, and will be updated with more regularity.

Bury's new signing Jeanvion Yulu-Matondo has left the club after one day.

The 13-day break that The Daily Transfer Request went on was 12 days longer than Jeanvion Yulu-Matondo's stay at Bury.

It was only on Monday that Bury announced that they had signed Yulu-Matondo, a Congolese-born Belgian striker, on non-contract terms.

This was a player who had represented his adopted country Belgium at Under-21s level and scored in the UEFA Champions League during his time at his first professional team, Club Brugge. He then went on to join Dutch top-division outfit Roda, where the winger became a cult icon between 2007 and 2010.

You can understand, then, why I was intrigued when I came across this news. Bury were struggling in the League One relegation zone, and surely someone of Yulu-Matondo's class would help them keep their place in the top-tier. Er, maybe not...

Manager Kevin Blackwell saw Yulu-Matondo play in a reserve game against Bolton Wanderers on Monday, and was so impressed with the 27-year-old that he said, "If he had shown something in that game, I might have been able to throw him on the bench [against Sheffield United on Tuesday], so he's on the next flight to Brussels."

Today, Bury announced their candidacy for the Guinness World Record for the shortest amount of time a footballer has spent at a club.

Jeanvion Yulu-Matondo is far from the first professional footballer in England to arrive at a club, only to leave in double-quick time. I've compiled a list of some other players (a non-starting eleven, if you like) who were shown the door before the chairman could say, "Welcome to Southampton, Ali Dia!"

JOEY BEAUCHAMP (West Ham United)
Beauchamp is an Oxford United legend, but at West Ham United, he is remembered for more infamous reasons. The Hammers signed the young midfielder for £1.2million in 1994, but 58 days later, Beauchamp had grown tired of the long car journeys from Oxford to London and back each day. Having not played a single competitive fixture for West Ham, Beauchamp signed for Swindon Town before returning to Oxford a year later.

MARCO BOOGERS (West Ham United)
In 1995, Harry Redknapp still hadn't learned from the Beauchamp saga. The West Ham United manager signed Dutch forward Boogers from Sparta Rotterdam, despite having never seen him play. After being sent off against Manchester United in just his second game as a Hammer, Boogers buggered off back to Holland. The myth goes that he was discovered several weeks later living in a caravan.

DAVID UNSWORTH (Aston Villa)
Northerner Unsworth was homesick at West Ham United, so in 1998, he signed for Aston Villa to be closer to his Merseyside home. A month on, though, his family still couldn't settle in Birmingham, so he returned to his original club Everton for the £3million fee that Villa had just paid West Ham. He made a grand total of zero appearances for the Villans.

ROBERT JARNI (Coventry City)
Coventry City fans couldn't contain their excitement in summer 1998 when Jarni, a FIFA World Cup 'bronze medallist' with Croatia, signed for them in a £2.6million deal from Real Betis. Barely a month later, Jarni had not so much pulled on a sky blue shirt when European champions Real Madrid came calling. Rob had a tough decision to make - no, not really! Coventry made an £800,000 profit on someone who had never played for them, but Betis in contrast were far from pleased.

MAURICIO TARICCO (West Ham United)
Argentine defender Taricco signed for West Ham United in November 2004, only to tear his hamstring 27 minutes into his debut against rivals Millwall. Mauricio then asked for his contract to be terminated after just one week, and manager Alan Pardew swiftly praised the former Tottenham Hotspur man for his honesty. Although the injury was originally thought to be career-ending, the now assistant manager of Brighton & Hove Albion is still registered as a player at the age of 39.

JOHN OBI MIKEL (Manchester United)
In April 2005, Manchester United proudly announced that they had agreed to sign 18-year-old Nigerian midfielder Mikel, with the transfer from Norwegian club Lyn Oslo due to go ahead in January 2006. Chelsea disputed this, claiming that THEY had reached an agreement for Mikel, but Lyn denied their claim. The youngster later went missing from Lyn for three months, claiming that he had been pressured into signing a contract with United.
Eventually, after much legal wrangling, Chelsea won the battle to sign Mikel in July 2006. United agreed to terminate their agreement with Mikel in return for £12million compensation, while Lyn received £4million. Morgan Andersen, a Lyn executive who claimed that Chelsea had kidnapped Mikel, was convicted of fraud over the transfer saga, along with making false accusations, and received a suspended jail sentence.

DIETMAR HAMANN (Bolton Wanderers)
In the summer of 2006, Hamann verbally agreed to leave Liverpool for Bolton Wanderers. However, the Trotters were left incensed when the German midfielder went back on his promise and signed for Manchester City instead. He was a Bolton player for less than 24 hours.

DAVID LIVERMORE (Leeds United)
Another transfer before the start of the 2006/2007 season saw Livermore swap recently-relegated Millwall for Championship giants Leeds United. He said at the time, "This is a huge club, this is where you want to be playing - at the right end of the division." Ten days afterwards, Leeds thought that he wasn't a huge enough player for them, and sent him to Hull City instead.

SOL CAMPBELL (Notts County)
In 2009, the year when Notts County went nuts and became a mini Manchester City, Campbell signed for Sven Goran Eriksson's Magpies on a five-year contract. He lasted 29 days, during which he played one game, before walking out over their lack of high-profile signings.

RICHARD WRIGHT (Preston North End)
This is a corker - last July, former Ipswich Town goalkeeper Wright signed for Preston North End, only to leave them a week later. The reason for his departure was not their crackpot manager Graham Westley (who left Deepdale today, I might add), but homesickness. But if he wanted to be closer to his family in East Anglia, why did he sign for Manchester City a month later when Eastlands is only 30 minutes closer to Ipswich than Deepdale?

ROGVI BALDVINSSON (Bristol Rovers)
Bristol Rovers agreed a deal to sign Faroe Islands international defender Baldvinsson in late July 2012. Two weeks later, he tweeted, "To all the Rovers fans: you've been brilliant so far and I wish the Gas all the best, but this is sadly not the place for me. Going back to Norway." He quickly returned to his old club Algard in the Norwegian second division, having made not a single appearance in the English fourth tier.

"What the hell have I let myself in for?" asks Sol Campbell.