The “summer” transfer window was finally closed at 5pm on Friday evening with Luke Dowling and his team having made nine signings, albeit four of them were to re-assemble the squad that won Albion promotion in July.
Given the meagre transfer budget that Dowling had to work with, it is hard to criticise the signings at this stage – only time will tell if it will be enough to give the Baggies a fighting chance of staying in the Premier League.
Matheus Pereira was always going to happen given the terms of the deal that brought the Brazilian to the Hawthorns on loan from Sporting. It took a while for it to be confirmed but I can’t believe there are any Albion fans unhappy with an estimated £9m overall fee, including the loan fee for last season.
It seemed a vain hope that Grady Diangana would be returning to the Hawthorns. He seemed to be very much in David Moyes’ plans at West Ham, but with the Hammers’ board needing to sell players to fund additions, they agreed to let Grady return to the Hawthorns for a guaranteed £12m with a further £6m in possible additions. It was a great deal but it did leave Dowling short on funds to invest elsewhere.
The Instagram pictures of Callum Robinson still in his Albion shirt for a few days after promotion was confirmed suggested that the Northampton-born forward had taken a liking to life at the Hawthorns, but it wasn’t until Chris Wilder expressed an interest in Oliver Burke that there was any hope that he could be returning for this season. Burke’s time at Albion has not been a happy one and, to be able to swap him for a player of Robinson’s quality was a no brainer from Dowling’s point of view and the third part of last season’s puzzle was in place.
It look a while for the final part to be secured, however. Slaven Bilić was adamant that he wanted Filip Krovinović back at the Hawthorns but Benfica seemed unwilling to do a deal that Albion agree to. The Portuguese giants wanted a guaranteed transfer fee at the end of any loan, but it was something that Albion couldn’t commit to given their financial constraints. Ultimately, a new loan deal was done, and the Croat was back to continue his bromance with Pereira.
Turning to the new faces, you will find a summary of the careers of each of the five brand new signings below.
First to arrive was centre back Cédric Kipré from Wigan Athletic. French-born of Ivorian dissent, Kipré is highly rated following impressive spells with Motherwell and Wigan. Early signs suggest he is very much a squad player but, at 23, he has time on his side and he could prove to be a useful signing.
Next through the door was experienced goalkeeper, David Button. There are plenty of Albion “fans” on social media who do not rate Sam Johnstone and Button was brought in to provide some real competition for the Albion number one. It was no secret that Bilić wanted to bring in his compatriot, Ivo Grbić, but it was always likely to be beyond Albion’s budget and the fact that he went on to join Atlético Madrid only reinforces that view. Button has plenty of experience, albeit limited at the top level, but he should be a decent backup.
It was a surprise when Branislav Ivanović was linked with Albion and there is no doubt that Bilić was instrumental in persuading him to come to the Hawthorns. The Serb was a legend at Stamford Bridge in his ten season there winning a host of trophies, and he followed that up with an impressive couple of seasons at Zenit St Petersburg where he won three more trophies. However, at 36, there has to be a question as to whether he can still do it in the Premier League. If nothing else, his experience could have a huge impact in the dressing room and, if he can produce anything like the form he has been capable of, he could be a great influence on the field.
Conor Gallagher was a player that Albion were interested in taking on loan back in January, but he went to Swansea City instead. He was in demand this summer and Dowling did well to secure his loan for the season at the Hawthorns. Very much a box-to-box midfield player, he has been used in both defensive and attacking midfield roles. The combination of Sawyers and Livermore has been found wanting at this level so far this season, and Gallagher could be just what is needed.
The number one priority for most fans at the start of the window was a striker, and it was fairly clear early on that Huddersfield Town’s Karlan Grant was the number one target. However, the unexpected opportunity to sign Diangana left the coffers very light and Huddersfield stood firm on their valuation. Other targets were mooted but many of those were lost as the international window closed earlier this month and it became clear that Albion were determined to get Grant. With no other clubs apparently interested in signing him, the Terriers eventually relented and the deal was done. It was thought that it might be an initial loan but the deal negotiated is a permanent transfer for a fee that is believed to be £15m spread over his six year contract – the up front down payment is reportedly as low as £2.5m. It is definitely a good deal but there is now a lot of pressure on Grant’s shoulders.
On the outgoing front, in addition to Oliver Burke, Kenneth Zohore has gone on loan to Millwall and Kamil Grosicki may have gone on loan to Nottingham Forest, although the FA is yet to rule on whether that deal was done on time. Meanwhile, Charlie Austin turned down a move to Derby County.
One frustration is that the tribunal to set the fee for Nathan Ferguson’s move to Crystal Palace is yet to be held. The suggestion is that it could be as much as £6m, funds that would have made Dowling’s life a little bit easier during the window.
Given the budget, I think Dowling and team have done remarkably well to do the business they have done. There is the obvious argument that the owner could or should have sanctioned additional spending, but it’s no surprise that he has not. He bought the club to be self-sufficient, and he seems unlikely to change his mind.
The early weeks of the campaign suggest that Albion will struggle defensively but none of the five new faces have been involved so far. The coming weeks will give us all a better idea of whether the squad has a chance of avoiding the drop.
Born: 9th December 1997 (age 23), Paris, France
Signed: 4th September 2020, undisclosed fee (believed to be in the region of £1.5m)
From: Wigan Athletic
Born in Paris, Cédric Kipré was at the Paris Saint-Germain academy as a schoolboy but signed his first professional contract with Leicester City in July 2014. He played for the Foxes’ youth teams, and spent a brief spell on loan at non-league Corby Town, but never made a first team appearance and was signed on a free transfer by Motherwell after three years.
Joining initially on trial, he impressed enough in pre-season to earn a year’s contract. He made his debut against Queen’s Park in the League Cup and claimed an assist as Motherwell won 5-1. He ended up featuring in 34 of the Well’s 38 league games that season scoring his first senior goal against Dundee in a 2-1 win in April 2018.
Despite extending his contract at Fir Park until 2020, Kipré joined Wigan Athletic on 3rd August 2018 on a three-year contract for a fee of around £1m. He made his debut at the DW Stadium the following day as the Latics beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-2, and remained a first choice centre back for much of the season making 40 appearances that season including all three games against Albion.
Last season, he was also a regular starter and finally opened his goalscoring account for Paul Cook’s team at QPR in August last year. He scored his second goal at Birmingham on New Year’s Day and made 37 appearances in total.
|Corby Town (loan)||16-Sep-2015||16-Oct-2015||2||0||0|
Born: 27th February 1989 (age 31), Stevenage
Signed: 5th September 2020, undisclosed fee (believed to be in the region of £1m)
From: Brighton and Hove Albion
David Button was born in Stevenage and joined the Tottenham Hotspur academy in 2003 signing professional terms in 2007. He made just one senior appearance at Spurs coming on as a late substitute for Carlo Cudicini in a 5-1 League Cup win at Doncaster Rovers in August 2009. He made the bench for three Premier League games that season but would have to wait almost another decade to take to the field in a top flight match.
His time at White Hart Lane was characterised by not being there as he was loaned out on no fewer than twelve occasions. After playing for Conference side, Grays Athletic, his first taste of Football League action was for Bournemouth, then in League Two, in January 2009.
It was at Plymouth Argyle that he first played in the third tier, making 30 appearances for the Pilgrims in 2010/11 but it was ultimately unsuccessful as they were relegated at the end of the season.
He finally left Spurs permanently in the summer of 2012, moving initially to Charlton Athletic, before moving across London to join Brentford the following summer. It was at Griffin Park that he rose to prominence becoming the undisputed number one choice for the 2014/15 and 2015/16 seasons.
Talks on extending his contract broke down in the summer of 2016 and he moved to west London rivals Fulham. He was initially the first choice ‘keeper before Marcus Bettinelli gained favour towards the end of the 2016/17 season. He was back between the sticks at the start of the next season but Bettinelli was once again preferred from December 2017 onwards.
In the summer of 2018, Button moved to Brighton and Hove Albion making his debut in the EFL Cup against Southampton when Charlie Austin had the honour of scoring the first goal against him in a Brighton shirt. He finally made his Premier League debut in December 2018, keeping a clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Everton. He played in four successive league matches until Mathew Ryan returned to the side at the end of January.
|Grays Athletic (loan)||10-Jan-2008||10-Feb-2008||3||0||0|
|Grays Athletic (loan)||19-Sep-2008||21-Dec-2008||17||0||0|
|Luton Town (loan)||6-Apr-2009||17-Apr-2009||0||0||0|
|Dagenham and Redbridge (loan)||17-Apr-2009||30-Jun-2009||3||0||0|
|Crewe Alexandra (loan)||22-Jul-2009||1-Nov-2009||10||0||0|
|Shrewsbury Town (loan)||20-Nov-2009||1-Jun-2010||26||0||0|
|Plymouth Argyle (loan)||3-Aug-2010||31-May-2011||29+1||0||0|
|Leyton Orient (loan)||26-Aug-2011||31-Dec-2011||2||0||0|
|Doncaster Rovers (loan)||1-Jan-2012||2-Mar-2012||8||0||0|
|Brighton and Hove Albion||16-Jul-2018||5-Sep-2020||11||0||0|
Born: 22nd February 1984 (age 36), Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia
Signed: 15th September 2020, free transter
From: Zenit St Petersburg
With more than 650 appearances, Branislav Ivanović is a vastly experienced defender who was born in the city of Sremska Mitrovica in Serbia near the Croatian and Bosnian borders.
He signed for his local club, FK Srem, at the age of 18 before moving to OFK in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, two years later. He began to attract the attention of some of Europe’s top clubs and was snapped up by Lokomotiv Moscow in 2006 and helped the Russian giants to the Russian Cup in 2007.
In the January transfer window in 2008, he made the move to the Premier League joining Chelsea for a fee believed to be in the region of £9.7m, the largest in Russian transfer history at the time. Because the Russian season had finished some weeks previously, Ivanović was not match fit and failed to make a first team appearance in the 07/08 season under Avram Grant.
He was apparently very close to leaving Stamford Bridge that summer, but was persuaded to stay by Andriy Shevchenko and finally made his debut in a 2-0 win over Aston Villa in October 2008. By that time, Chelsea’s new manager was Luiz Felipe Scolari and he used the Serb sparingly during that season as the Blues’ form suffered. Scolari was sacked but new boss, Guus Hiddink, also failed to make Ivanović a regular part of his team.
After more than three months out of the side, he finally made his first appearance under Hiddink at Newcastle in April 2009 a few days after scoring for Serbia in a World Cup qualifier in Romania. He impressed and was a regular for Chelsea for the remainder of the season scoring his first goals for the club in a 3-1 win over Liverpool in the Champions League, although he was on the bench as Chelsea won the FA Cup at Wembley.
Ivanović started his second full season at Stamford Bridge under his fourth Chelsea manager, Carlo Ancelotti, but the Italian took to the Serb straight away as he started in the Community Shield victory on penalties over Manchester United. By October, he was a first choice for the Premier League and scored his first league goal for Chelsea in a 4-0 win at Bolton that month. He made 28 Premier League appearances that season and bettered that tally for the next six seasons at Stamford Bridge, and he also got to play in his first FA Cup final as Chelsea retained the trophy in 2010 to complete the league and cup double.
From that season on, Ivanović was a key member of Chelsea’s successful team and he won three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, one League Cup, the Europa League and, of course, the Champions League in 2012, although he was suspended for the final as Chelsea beat Bayern Munich on penalties at their own stadium.
In April 2013, he was famously the victim of an unconventional assault by Luis Suárez as the Uruguayan bit Ivanović on the shoulder, ultimately receiving a ten game ban from the FA.
He is regarded as one of Chelsea’s best players of the decade and was named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year for the 2009/10 and 2014/15 seasons.
John Terry described Ivanović as a Chelsea legend when he finally left the club in 2017 making the move to Zenit St Petersburg. He immediately became a regular for the Russian giants and won two league titles and his second Russian Cup in his three-and-a-half seasons at Zenit.
He made his full international debut for Serbia and Montenegro in June 2005 and has gone on to win 105 caps for his national side scoring 13 goals, most recently at the World Cup finals in Russia in 2018. He was also in Serbia’s 2010 World Cup squad and was named Serbian Player of the Year in 2012 and 2013.
|Zenit St Petersburg||1-Feb-2017||15-Sep-2020||123+2||12||4|
Born: 6th February 2000 (age 20), Epsom
Signed: 17th September 2020, loan
Parent Club: Chelsea
Born within a few miles of the Chelsea training ground, Conor Gallagher has been with the Blues since the age of 8 signing professional terms in 2018. To date, his only involvement with the first team is a solitary appearance on the substitutes bench, although that was for the Europa League Final against Arsenal in 2019.
He has had just one season of senior football consisting of two loan spells, both of which were impressive. For the first half of last season, he was at the Valley and contributed to the Addicks good early season form scoring three goals in the first five games of the season. He scored six goals in all for Charlton, despite playing in a largely defensive midfield role, but was recalled by Chelsea in January with his last appearance coming against Albion in the 2-2 draw at the Valley.
He went straight back out on loan, this time to Swansea City. At the Liberty Stadium, he was played in a more attacking role and contributed seven assists, two of which came in the remarkable 4-4 draw at Hull City in February.
He has represented England at youth level and was a member of the team that won the U17 World Cup in 2017. He has five U21 caps and scored in the 3-0 win in Albania in November 2019.
|Charlton Athletic (loan)||2-Aug-2019||14-Jan-2020||25+1||6||4|
|Swansea City (loan)||15-Jan-2020||31-Jul-2020||21||0||7|
Born: 18th September 1997 (age 23), Greenwich
Signed: 15th October 2020, undisclosed fee (believed to be in the region of £15m)
From: Huddersfield Town
It was clear from the end of last season that Albion would need a striker this window and, while Ollie Watkins was mooted earlier in the summer, once it became clear that he would not be affordable given their meagre budget, Karlan Grant soon became the number one striker target for Luke Dowling and Slaven Bilić.
With Dowling trying to juggle the finances and Huddersfield standing firm over their valuation, it took until the day before the closure of the transfer window to get the deal done. With expectations that a loan-to-perm deal would be the ultimate agreement, it seems that a permanent deal spread over the six years of Grant’s contract ultimately suited all parties. The fee, believed to be in the region of £15m, seems like a pretty good deal when compared to the £33m that Villa paid for Ollie Watkins.
Obviously, it remains to be seen whether Grant will hit the ground running in the way that Watkins has, but his 19 goals for a struggling side last season is comparable to Watkins’ 26 for a Brentford side that were creating chances for fun. Grant was responsible for more than a third of the Terriers’ goals last season and, according to infogol.net, his 19 goals compared to an expected goals tally of 18.19 which means he is, by and large, putting the chances away that he should.
Grant was born in Greenwich and started his career with his local club, Charlton Athletic. After impressing in the youth teams, he signed a professional contract shortly after his 17th birthday and made his debut for the Addicks a week later. It wasn’t until the following season that he began to appear regularly in the Charlton first team and he scored his first senior goal in a league cup tie against Dagenham and Redbridge in August 2015 before netting at Peterborough in the following round. He first found the net in the league in a 2-1 defeat at Cardiff City the following month.
Those proved to be his only goals of the season and he didn’t play for Charlton that season after the re-appointment of José Riga in January 2016 and had a brief loan spell at Cambridge United.
2016/17 proved to be frustrating for the 19-year-old Grant as he made just 12 appearances, mostly as a substitute, but the following campaign proved to be pivotal. After spending the first half of the season at the Valley making regular appearances from the bench, he was loaned to League Two, Crawley Town, at the end of January 2018 for the remainder of the season. He was an instant hit scoring on his debut at Chesterfield and banging in eight goals in his first nine games for the Reds.
Back at Charlton, he soon became a first choice striker and a regular scorer scoring 14 goals in 28 appearances before Premier League, Huddersfield Town, came knocking. Grant wasn’t phased by the jump from League One to the top flight and scored on his second substitute appearance, a late consolation goal against Arsenal. He was soon a starter for the Terriers and scored a further three goals including a brace against West Ham United. A total of four goals in thirteen appearances may not sound prolific, but it is more impressive when you realise that Huddersfield scored a total of nine goals in those games, so Grant scored almost half of them!
With relegation, Grant was back in the Championship but with a lot more games under his belt and he took to it well scoring in his first three games. With 12 goals in the bag by Christmas, including one at the Hawthorns, he was already on the Baggies’ radar in January but Huddersfield were unwilling to sell given he was their main source of goals. He ended the season with 19 goals in 43 games with an average ratio of one goal every 195 minutes.
And now he gets another chance at the Premier League – his stats are impressive and, at just 23 years of age, he has plenty of time to improve even more.
|Cambridge United (loan)||16-Jan-2016||16-Feb-2016||1+2||0||0|
|Crawley Town (loan)||30-Jan-2018||31-May-2018||15||9||0|