Zat Knight’s new contract could cost us big time.
I think we can all agree that Zat Knight is not a Premier League class defender. Whatever it was that Sven-Göran Eriksson saw in 2005 that made him pick the then Fulham defender for the England squad has long been replaced by an inadequacy at the top level bettered only in a Bolton shirt by the unlamented Gérald Cid.
However, we find ourselves not in the Premier League but The Championship. And, with the serious injury suffered by David Wheater, we now have a player that we all thought would be released by the club umming and ahhing over a new contract and now appearing to be on the cusp of signing it, albeit on reduced terms.
It is fair to say that this has split the fan support down the middle, in much the same way that Knight sometimes appears to be able to split his own defence.
I think you can all guess which side of the fence I stand on. In fact, I am so far over the fence that I’m playing football in the far corner of the field with a few friends. I do not believe that re-signing Knight will do our club any favours, regardless of whether or not we are able to get Matt Mills on loan, rather than pay for him initially in what is known as a try before you buy scheme (for other situations like this, see Paul Robinson).
Granted, that may turn out to be a good bit of business by the manager, who has form when it comes to bringing in good loans (and bad loans). But the focus remains on Knight and what he can offer the team.
There are those that say that it is much cheaper for him to stay meaning that we only have to buy one more central defender, as we will effectively have to do with Mills as his wages will come to knocking on £1million, and that by the standards of the Championship he will be OK. And if you look at that theoretically, then you would be right. He has played at the highest level, albeit in friendly matches, and up to the point that Ream joined he was one of our first choice defenders.
Practically, however, that is wrong. Interestingly, despite the paper talk of going to West Ham, no one seems to have made a realistic bid for his talents, if they can be called as such. This is because people recognise the limitations of his game. Poor header for one of the tallest players in the country, slow on the ball, slow on the grass, bad passer and an ineffective communicator, he tends to get in the way more than out of it. It doesn’t take jumping in a time machine to relive his record of own goals in a white shirt. And this was when he was supposed to be a player of Premier League level.
The Championship is a hard division and many players who have played in the Premier League have struggled at this level. But Knight has already struggled in the Premier League and there is nothing in his play to suggest that he won’t do the same in a lower division. The play is more direct in The Championship and if he allows the ball to go over his head, as he is famous for doing, he does not have the necessary pace to catch whichever striker has taken the chance on his missing it. As many will do. His clumsy tackling in tight defensive situations in the penalty area may well lead to more penalty decisions against us than we are used to.
The club have signed him up to save money in the short term, but I will lay my cards on the table here and now. With Zat Knight in the first team, we will be hard pressed to be battling for promotion by the time David Wheater is fully recovered, if he ever is. He is a liability and will cost us promotion in the long term, before hoisting his flag to the MLS and joining the Portland Timbers, or whoever their feeder team is. As a result, our best chance of promotion will be lost.
This is not to say that I believe that Matt Mills is the future, I just see a player who has done it at Championship level and done it well. This is the kind of player that we need. He may end up being a collosal failure and if so, and Knight does well, then I will make good my promise of showing my backside in the front window of Bolton Woolies.
I think I’m safe. As are you.