Barry Fry. Talk about a man who over-played his hand.
To understand what’s happening at Peterborough right now, you have to understand the state that lower-league football in England is in.
To put it bluntly, it’s facing disaster. Fry’s club is in dire straits as most of the clubs in League One are.
Toney is their most prized possession, and so I understand exactly what Fry is trying to do, but this guy has done it badly. His hand wasn’t great, so a little bluff was required, but he has overplayed it to a fare-thee-well. I wonder if he hasn’t blown it.
His strategy has been wrong since the start. Putting a value of over £12 million on a player in the third tier of English football, at a club in financial peril and who has one year left on his current deal is rank madness. Fry persisted with it long after it proved to be a bust.
The auction he hoped for never materialised. Two clubs are allegedly still in the running, two who haven’t already been scared off by his ridiculous demands; Celtic and Brentford. Brentford narrowly failed to get promoted last night, and that has hurt them.
Toney has his heart set on Celtic Park, if you believe what you’re hearing. I think I do in this case, as it makes sense he’d prefer Champions League football and the opportunity, at some point, to play in front of 60,000 fans. He wants to win things as well.
To do nothing here is a risk for us. The player probably doesn’t fancy waiting until January to agree terms with us and then move for a nominal fee.
If Brentford is the only offer on the table, and it means a significant step up from where he is right now – which it does – then he’ll take it, of course he will.
We ought to have learned from the John McGinn fiasco that players aren’t going to hang about for us when they have other options, whether we’re their first choice or not.
But Fry’s hopes of dragging us into an auction with Brentford and dead and done.
Whatever they’ve offered we only have to match. Lawwell clearly counts on the player having his say and us being able to go in with a lesser bid and hope Peterborough folds, but that is crazy stuff to attempt right now and we should stop with the games.
Toney is a decent footballer. If Brentford’s bid is in the sensible range, and we think this guy can play a bit, then we should make an offer in the same ballpark and get this deal done. If we don’t think he’s worth it we should publicly walk away and pursue other options.
None of those options should include Steven Fletcher either.
Fry is not a great negotiator as has been proved here. Lawwell has never been as good as he thinks he is. There’s a risk that yet another good player could get away from us over what amounts to pocket change just because these two men want to go eye-ball to eye-ball.
Toney will move for far less than what Fry wants, but it might still be more than what Lawwell and the bean-counters at Celtic Park are willing to pay.
The important thing is that this is not going to drag on.
We have a decision to make, and we need to make it very soon.
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