Friday, 10 January 2014

It's Not You; It's Me

The Nahki Wells story in break-up clichés

Nahki Wells has now left the club

   The saga is finally over. After weeks of speculation, weeks of new names being added to a string of possible suitors and weeks of trying to construe the signs to plot his next move, Nahki Wells married Huddersfield Town. It’s galling, him leaving for them, isn’t it? The £1.5 million plus clauses transfer fee is an arm’s length away from the multi-million pounds price tag we had already mentally spent. And it hurts. A bit, anyway.
   My overriding memory of the January Transfer Window comes from my brother, a Liverpool fan. A few years ago, when Torres’ Anfield future was in doubt, my brother camped out on the couch on deadline day, a Liverpool scarf draped around his shoulder as Sky Sports flashed between links from reporters and stills of the Spanish forward. With no real affinity to Liverpool, I was bundled upstairs at bedtime, but my brother was allowed to stay up late that night to watch the climax of the whole thing as the ominous deadline crept into view.
   I woke up in the morning to find the word ‘legend’ scrawled across his Torres poster. Two weeks later, it had been torn to the floor and the word “traitor” scribbled over it.
   Thanks to a few weeks of mental preparation, I’ve managed to avoid such dramatic… pain. I was ready for Wells’ departure. And, yes, it’s sad to know he’s leapt that side of the border, but it doesn’t erase two years of incredible memories.
   Which means it’s now time to delve into my hastily compiled list of boyband break-up clichés (it somehow feels… apt?). Here we go…

Break-up cliché number one: it was fun while it lasted

And it was, wasn’t it? Remember that surge of excitement when Nahki was first introduced? When he confirmed his arrival with that spectacular blast from the halfway line against Rochdale? What about that goal against Aston Villa? Burton away? Wembley? The best tribute to Nahki is himself and what he’s achieved: only by looking back on what he did, when he did it and how, can we truly get an idea of what a player and what an asset he was for us. He sniffed out chances others had deemed futile, and fired home from the most obtuse and acute angles going. He was one of our own, plucked from obscurity by our scouts, someone’s progress for us to chart and revel in and applaud and chant about. What sets this transfer window apart from any other is that Bradford had something, someone, a commodity, that seemingly everybody wanted – it was refreshing to be in that position. Everyone at school knew the name of a Bradford City player. Before Wells, that had never happened to me.

Break-up cliché number two: you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone

Nahki Wells was the first ever protégée I saw at City. He was the first player that made my school friends sit up and take notice of the Bantams. Before last season, he was the first player I ever earmarked as capable of playing in a higher division. We’re all going to miss him. He was significant to the entire team, but we’ll never really know of his true significance until we see the team functioning properly without him.
   Will someone weave in and out of defences to latch onto Hanson’s knockdowns? Will we ditch the long-ball stuff? Or - perish the thought - will we look lost without Wells? Reassuringly, I strongly believe that, given the months of substantial forewarnings that have flashed about, Parkinson and co. will have had targets in mind, but there will undoubtedly be a period of carryover as the team adapt to incorporate this new player and a new strike partnership is forged. Whether it’s Connell, Gray, Clarkson, McBurnie or a loanee, we can’t expect them to hit such dizzying heights straight away. It’s going to take time.

Break-up cliché number three: did it have to end this way?

Why them? Leeds would have been bad enough, but you could have understood because they actually look like they’re going places every year. But Huddersfield? I think we’re a bigger club, actually. Our ground is far more imposing – the most enticing thing about the Galpharm is that it sports a lovely backdrop of green-veined foliage and tall fir trees that resemble something out of The Chronicles of Narnia. And the price was hardly the eye-watering figure we’d set our sights on. It’ll draw jeers from some corners because Huddersfield really have got themselves a bargain, but we have to move on now. What’s done is done.
   Our club calendar now holds a degree of notoriety among the Terriers faithful, a fact that hovers somewhere between humorous and humiliating. Still, it’s not as embarrassing as the time Bradford plastered a Hull player on the front.

Break-up cliché number four: there are plenty more fish in the sea

Sure, Nahki was a rare talent. I’d never seen anyone like him, and the sheer dichotomy between his gift and the direness of some other players was too far-fetched to contemplate. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other Nahkis, or youngsters in the Nahki mould. We’re great at unearthing talent and we’ll do it again. What’s worrying is that we seem to have an inability to function without Hanson and Wells, and our whole system appeared geared up towards the target man creating things for the Bermudan. Nonetheless, we should view this as an opportunity to rectify the long-ball element of our game. There are other young talents to integrate into our system. They’re rare, but it doesn’t mean they’re not out there.
   Nahki Wells is proof such gems do exist.

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