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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Carlisle Utd are right to be tough over Tom Taiwo

You know the old saying. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. And so, obviously, to Tom Taiwo.

Tom Taiwo photo
Tom Taiwo

Here it pays to ask the question a little differently, and fish for a different answer. Carlisle United’s former midfielder, whose contract position has so far priced him out of a summer transfer, is nobody’s idea of a mercenary.

He doesn’t look like one. He has never sounded like one. Look and listen to Taiwo and only the most creative-minded would think they are dealing with a spiv in boots, a tricker of the system, a worker of a situation, a chaser of an advantage.

Yet United, unless they are fools, must regard him as one or any of the above. Not because he is – he plainly isn’t – but because he could be. Anyone in his position could be. This is the crucial difference.

Anyone taking off on the route Taiwo has chosen this summer could, however noble the stated reasons (the player’s wish is to be closer to his young family; an admirable desire), be engaged in a less worthy bid to capitalise on a club’s generosity, should any be forthcoming.

This might sound like industrial-level suspicion. That’s not the point, even though it would be forgivable in an environment – football transfers – which is rarely troubled by too much fresh air.

Asking United to be hard-headed, and reluctant to take a few obstacles out of a player’s way as he hunts for new employment, is nothing to apologise for. The good news is that we do not have to ask. Carlisle’s default position so far has been to regard this as a basic business matter, rather than something on which they could easily soften in order to help the 22-year-old Taiwo on his way.

This says the Blues are nobody’s fools, and their stance, which has come under challenge across the negotiating table from Bradford City, has to be right, certainly for the moment. The other way, chaos lies.

If Carlisle are asking for a certain amount in compensation for the out-of-contract Taiwo then they are freely entitled to do so. Instinct says it will probably have to be subject to revision, somewhere down the line, but it is not the Blues who have restricted the market for the midfielder, who was regarded as an important player at Brunton Park, a competent professional nurtured from 19 who Greg Abbott had no wish to lose.

This is why it is important United dig their principles into the ground first, before the haggling goes much further. If Bradford, in League Two, or anyone else, would like the Blues to give a little in order to liberate Taiwo, they must not achieve this simply.

Observing the saga of Taiwo’s exit to pastures somewhere since the end of May, a couple of conflicting fears have risen. One is the humane wish for the player not to be left in professional limbo, caught in a vacuum while the season gallops off without him.

The other is the fervent hope that United at least fight for what they believe they are due, on account of their role in Taiwo’s development, their high regard for his potential and the market rate for a young player of good ability.

Bradford, understandably, tried to test this out earlier in the summer and found the Blues unwilling to budge. Good. This says the Cumbrians will not allow word to spread that they are patsies the moment a little pressure is applied.

Get real, cry those looking from the other side. Not many lower-league clubs have a spare 200k sloshing around, even less so those only inside the narrow geographical boundary Taiwo has set himself (Yorkshire and its environs).

But some do. One or two do, and United are perfectly entitled to hold, and see if any of them fancy a piece of Taiwo, given his asset status, which this branch of the Bosman law was designed to protect.

If Carlisle were challenged to sell James Berrett, say, within contract, they would (presumably) never free him for buttons. Taiwo was held in broadly similar regard, judging by United’s starting point in the brief talks held with suitors this summer.

With the league campaign yet to begin, it still feels too early for the Blues to be slackening. A few weeks more waiting won’t kill Taiwo’s career, though it will make it a little harder for him to remain on certain radars.

If it gets to the end of August, it might then be time for a collective holding of noses whilst United sign up to something which gives Taiwo more manoeuvre room; offering fewer guarantees of benefiting Carlisle immediately but safeguarding something, in the longer term.

Sure, United, who are continuing to pay Taiwo, could snip him free from his moorings now. They could accept that the predicament is simply not worth the trauma and negotiate an easier passage. They would then observe the rapid circling of Taiwo by clubs who noticed they could suddenly access a good player without much difficulty. Then they would surely stand back and take a kicking from fans who hoped they had been more stringent, and feistier in the face of a quandary which is of Taiwo’s own making.

Inside Brunton Park you will find plenty who think the young man has made a potty decision in restricting his own movements so tightly, at this early stage in his football life. The truth is that none of us know all the nuances of his family life and the emotional forces that led him to make the call he did.

There remains something deeply refreshing in someone of Taiwo’s age who seeks to put his family first, especially when he is engaged in a profession which is often liberal with its temptations and strains. But the solution, when it is found, has to benefit all parties, not just one.

Common sense says there will have to be a compromise, somewhere in the distance, and there has to be a place for realism in all scenarios.

Carlisle, though, would set a disappointing standard were they not so firm in the challenge, first up. The Tom Taiwo they have just lost may be no mercenary. But, who knows, their next one might be.

Have your say

I have to disagree completely on this one. Tom's reasons are clear. He is happy to go to a lower league club for admirable reasons and we have said he could go with our blessings. To then stand in his way will simply serve to prevent CUFC attracting young talent for fear that the club willl ruin their careers too.

Posted by ian on 20 August 2012 at 20:52

Good article. I seem to remember a popular young player leaving the club a few years ago to move south to be nearer his family. The next time I heard his name mentioned he was playing for St. Johnstone.

Posted by Dave on 20 August 2012 at 19:33

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