MICHAEL PEARLMAN SAYS: Fans should be told fee for Lee Evans
11:30am Tuesday 5th February 2013 in Sport
FOR a club reporter it’s tough not to think like a fan when it comes to players departing the team you cover.
I’ll never feel the rush you feel when County score a goal, a defeat for the Exiles won’t necessarily always ruin my weekend (a bad journey will), but when it comes to fans’ favourites saying adios to the Transporter Bridge and Rodney Parade, my heart sinks as does yours.
I was more than weary of covering Conference South football and while I love many things about the Conference I would most definitely be happier in the Football League, like you. When the best players leave, that dream seems further away.
There is also a human aspect to it, certain players you build a better rapport with than others and some you come to enjoy a chatting to after several dozen phone interviews or training ground exchanges.
Craig Hughes, Ian Hillier, Jason Bowen, Sam Foley, Danny Rose and Gary Warren are just a few of the examples of players who I was disappointed to see depart personally as well as professionally and there have been numerous others.
But I don’t recall ever being so pleased and so certain that it was the right move for all involved (sad as it to see him depart) as I was with the deadline day sale of Lee Evans to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
And while there is one aspect of the move that troubles me greatly – I’ll get there – I think this is a real success for the Exiles.
Evans stands head and shoulders as the best youngster I’ve witnessed come through the ranks at County and people associated with the club a lot longer than me – Tim Harris for one – believe he’s the best Newport have ever produced.
Like many with a County interest I’d heard rave reviews from Glyn Jones and his team about this academy prospect but seeing is believing when it comes to the hurly burly of the non-league game and Evans’ performances against Wrexham and then at Wembley in the FA Trophy final last season were nothing short of amazing.
As a 17-year-old Evans was thriving in a world where skill and natural talent are less sought after attributes than ‘getting stuck in’ or being incredibly athletic. A slight kid who had never experienced the professional game just always had an absurd amount of time on the ball.
I genuinely wondered if Newport would keep him beyond the summer after his Wembley heroics and it will come as no surprise that he’s had a number of scouts (usually in double figures) checking his progress virtually every game this season.
And what of this season? Forgetting his utterly hideous final outing in a County shirt against Barrow, Evans has consistently been one of Newport’s top performers in a season where they’ve been in the promotion shake-up since day one. Evans had no right to be an automatic first choice in competition with Mike Flynn, Max Porter, Lee Minshull and Jake Thomson, but it was a battle he won easily and on merit.
What a thrill then, to see him join a huge Championship club where he’ll go straight into the under-21 development set-up, just days after getting his first Wales under-21 call. He’s a grounded, polite and bright young man who is a genuine credit to the County academy. Frankly, you wonder if other clubs higher in the pyramid will look at how well the Exiles are doing in terms of their junior ranks.
The only negative to this transfer is Newport County again hiding behind the bigger club and blaming them for the fact we are in the realms (again) of an undisclosed fee. The club have sold a player but we won’t tell you, the fans, for how much.
Apologists for this practice – and I can hear you now: “It’s standard these days, all clubs do it,” – don’t have a leg to stand on in this instance. It’s just wrong.
Currently 50% of the board room power at County lies with supporters’ trust members. Thousands of pounds are raised season-on-season by fans for the club, sometimes directly with the aim of contributing money to sign players. And those fans don’t have a right to know what’s been received for Evans, the best young player to come from this supporter run club since they reformed? Give me a break.
If Wolves really did ‘insist’ County agreed to keep the fee confidential, County should have said no. If that threatened the transfer then there were several other clubs interested who hopefully would’ve been a lot less precious. Wolves belong in a world of Premier League parachute payments worth £48 million over the next four years. This is small fry to them.
As far as I’m concerned the whole notion of an undisclosed fee at non-league level is nothing more or less than a big slap in the face for fans.
And, while many fans wanted Evans to remain at the club on loan, I’m not sure that would’ve worked.
Wouldn’t he be worried about getting injured? County need everyone 100 per cent focused.
The Evans money has allowed them to sign a replacement in Scott Donnelly and that’s the way to do it, move on and evolve.
As for Evans, his adventure is just beginning. He’ll need some luck with injuries, to never take a backward step and to strive to improve each day, but a talent like his could well end up on Match of the Day.
And that’ll be a proud time for everyone associated with the Exiles.