Whenever I read the sort of article which The Daily Record has put up today, on Todd Cantwell, the Norwich midfielder who is the Ibrox club’s number one transfer target in this window, the temptation is to treat it with thigh-slapping laughter and to subject it to withering contempt. Believe me, those impulses are hard to resist.
The article is definitely a piece of comedy gold, and over on Born Celtic they have already slaughtered it with biting sarcasm. I feel like doing the same, but I think this actually speaks to a bigger issue than just the player.
Clearly, the more you read about this player the more bizarre, the more desperate, this attempt to sign him looks. But I don’t think the Record podcaster which interviewed Gary Holt (remember him?) for his take on the guy got anything like what they expected.
Rather than a rousing endorsement, Holt did a hatchet job which was no less brutal for his trying to find an upside. Yet the paper went all-out in that effort, and that’s the story for me. We have a national newspaper here which is basically leaving objectivity at the side of the road as they try to sell this as a good deal to the Ibrox fans.
It opens badly. Let’s be honest. They got through the first question reasonably well, although the part about them struggling to find a good position for him doesn’t sound particularly great.
But the second question – about comparisons with James Maddison – is where it all really starts to collapse.
He’s described instantly as a “luxury player” (“but one Rangers can afford” is The Record’s incredible take on that) and then Holt lays out his dislike of heading. And of tackling.
It ends on this supposedly upbeat note. “He’d be outstanding at home … the big stage, the big crowd. That’s his element.”
Although how anyone can know that when he’s not really stunned anyone on the occasions he’s been “on the big stage” is hard to tell.
That answer automatically leads to the third question, about how he would cope at a cold, wet Dens Park on a Wednesday night. The answer is unintentionally hilarious!
“He probably could do. I’m maybe doing him a bit of an injustice. But if you left him out on a cold Wednesday night at Dens Park then you wouldn’t be surprised. I’m not saying you wouldn’t play him but why risk him if you have other boys? You know where you need to roll your sleeves up and dig in. You could bring him on for the last 20 minutes away at Dens Park and he’d win you the game but play him at places where you will dictate the game and he can certainly unlock doors, not a problem.”
As you can see, that’s not a ringing endorsement, yet The Record is trying to mine it for gems. They reckon the critical phrase is “you could bring him on for the last 20 minutes and he’d win you the game” – which is a preposterous comment – whereas I think “you where you need to roll your sleeves up and dig in …” is far more important.
Because anyone who comes to our league thinking it’s a holiday, or wanting an easy life, is going to get well and truly found out, and in very short order. If he’s no use in tricky away games, well that’s half your club’s season written off! That, apparently, isn’t important for the paper and it assumes that salient detail won’t dawn on its readers either.
This is the next segment. It’s also a beautiful construct.
“Todd is similar in terms of getting the ball in the final third and drifting away from his opponent. Michael will like him. You need those players because the hardest part of football is scoring. He probably doesn’t score as many goals as his play merits. But he also gets a buzz from creating goals.”
So the hardest part of football is scoring. Which he demonstrates in that he doesn’t score that often.
But this is a selling point now.
You could not make this up.
It’s nothing compared to the final section which is a killing with attempted kindness if ever I’ve seen one.
“In the last season in the Premier League when you’re fighting, batting and scrapping he’s a luxury player you don’t need … it went against him because he wasn’t a scrapper and fighter which people felt they needed. It’s hard to lose that tag …”
There’s then an oblique reference to “niggling injuries” which he doesn’t go into … but he should have!
Because Cantwell is, of course, injury prone. Which I’m sure we’ll be talking about on this blog again at some point. That’s going to be fun.
Having utterly demolished the idea that this is a good deal for the club, or the sort of player we would even consider signing, The Record podcast guy asks a hopeful question about whether the guy can eventually go for a £10 million fee and gets, from Holt, the following moon-howling observation, so brilliant that I have to record it in full.
“Easily £10m and above. Todd can light it up on the biggest stage. (Their) fans will love him because of what he can do. Give him the ball and he’ll create for you. Michael knows what he’d be getting. I’d say Todd’s technically better than Joe Aribo. Joe is more robust and more energy, box to box, but Todd’s a gifted footballer with a very good brain in him. He’s always been a clever footballer and deep thinker, a learner of the game. He was mentioned in the £35m mark a few years ago and you don’t lose that.”
Oh dear God … the £35 million mark.
And “you don’t lose that”?
Well how come the only interested party is a team from the SPL with a history of signing crocks. From a £10 million player they’d be getting a £35 million one? But one who you can only rely on in 50% of the games. Or anything that involves heading or tackling the ball. Which is about one third of football itself … astonishing stuff.
I would be embarrassed for any blog which published that, far less one that tried to make this guy sound like a good signing. If this was a Celtic target The Record would not run that with a positive spin, they’d destroy the player and lay waste to our scouting department for ever having identified him as a possible signing.
And you know what else? We would too, and we’d be right to.