x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Behaviour of Peter Odemwingie serves a grim football reminder

West Brom's reward for their progress is to have been damaged and undermined by QPR in the Peter Odemwingie affair, writes Richard Jolly.

Peter Odemwingie has some bridges to build at West Bromwich Albion after his move to QPR fell through. AP Photo
Peter Odemwingie has some bridges to build at West Bromwich Albion after his move to QPR fell through. AP Photo

Why try to swap West Brom for West London? Money, of course, and the antics of the Nigerian forward and QPR may have destabilised one of the country's better run clubs, argues Richard Jolly

There was a time when it seemed everyone wanted to do a Charlton Athletic. Then Bolton Wanderers were the club to emulate. Now West Bromwich Albion have become the role models.

Doing a West Brom is the aim for perhaps 30 clubs, some in the lower half of the Premier League, plus almost all of the second-tier Championship and the odd fallen giant in League One, the third level.

It entails year-on-year incremental improvement, becoming a fixture in the top flight without breaking the bank and gaining a reputation for quiet competence.

There is a case to suggest West Brom are the best-run club in the country. No manager has failed at The Hawthorns since Brian Little was dismissed in 2000.

Intelligent, inventive recruitment has been a strength on and off the pitch. Last season, West Brom had the third cheapest pool of players in the Premier League, a squad that cost a combined total of £27 million (Dh155m), and finished in the top 10 for the first time since 1981.

And if anyone epitomised the club, it seemed to be Peter Odemwingie. The Nigerian was cheap – a mere £1.5m – and, coming from Lokomotiv Moscow, provided proof of West Brom's willingness to go off the beaten track in their search for players.

They have a proud tradition of entertainers at The Hawthorns and Odemwingie was a fine addition to a distinguished list. He is also a finisher, contributing 15 league goals in his first season and a further 15 over the past 18 months.

West Brom have a track record of bringing in players with good characters and, if more volatile than most, the articulate Odemwingie, the son of two doctors, seemed an addition to the brains trust.

Then along came Queens Park Rangers. Plenty has already been said and written about Odemwingie's rather bizarre behaviour on transfer deadline day, pitching up at Loftus Road and giving an interview as if he was a QPR player before a fee had been agreed. None of it should make enjoyable reading for the forward. His reputation is tarnished and, stuck at West Brom for the rest of the season, he has bridges to rebuild.

Yet the saga is still more depressing for his employers. The reality is that clubs can lose players for many reasons – to bigger or more ambitious clubs, in search of first-team football or a new challenge, to return to their homeland, experience a new country or be reunited with a former manager or teammates – but none apply to Odemwingie.

It is true, too, that astute buyers can soon find covetous glances cast in their direction. Mid-table teams are sometimes raided by the top six and there may come a time when one of the jewels in West Brom's crown – Claudio Yacob, Youssouf Mulumbu, James Morrison, Shane Long – is lured elsewhere.

But QPR are bottom of the Premier League. They are the anti-West Brom, spending too much and buying with too little thought. They had already targeted the centre-back Jonas Olsson, another example of West Brom's ability to unearth players, before switching their attentions to Odemwingie. But, quite simply, there are no footballing reasons to trade West Brom for West London.

West Brom's reward for running their club the right way was to be undermined and destabilised by a club going about things all wrong.

If QPR stopped to think about where their appeal lies, it ought to worry them. Money talks and greed is persuasive.

QPR are paying Christopher Samba a reported £100,000 (Dh577,487) a week, a sum perhaps only a dozen clubs in the world could rival, and Jose Bosingwa, a full-back who cannot get on their bench, £10m over a three-year deal.

Odemwingie's interest was a depressing reminder of the grimy realities of footballing life. It has also come at a cost to West Brom. They are winless in 2013, have only taken one point from six league games and have been without their most potent finisher for the last two.

He has been absent but not anonymous, contriving to supply a strange postscript to his week by tweeting Goran Popov's apologies after the left-back was sent off for spitting in Sunday's 1-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. It was reprehensible and, as with Odemwingie's antics on Thursday, unlike West Brom.

Until recently, The Hawthorns often reverberated to the sounds of their names – partly because of the Nigerian's goals and partly because the fans customised the words of Popeye The Sailorman to celebrate "Popov the Albion man" – but two crowd favourites now languish in the doghouse.

A commendably honest Steve Clarke branded Odemwingie's actions "total lunacy" and Popov's inexcusable. But Clarke is in the first difficult spell of his reign. The feel-good factor seems to have gone, dumped in a car park outside Loftus Road by Odemwingie.

In the bigger picture, the danger is that this proves the moment when West Brom's admirable rise ended and decline set in.

Their season could peter out, especially if one of their better players either does not return or does not display the required commitment.

Perhaps, if he is so desperate to go, Odemwingie can join QPR in the summer. But perhaps they will be a Championship club then. West Bromwich won't be.

And however much money QPR were offering, that is something Odemwingie should have remembered.

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