The Postbag

Cod Almighty | Postbag

Should you go back to an old flame?

20 September 2022

Ron Counte debates the pros and cons of Town going after former centre half and current free agent, Ryan Bennett. Meanwhile the Everton Heritage Society would like to get in touch with Mike Brolly - can you help?

Baby come back

"Shame lesson was learned the hard way" is the headline of a full-page spread in the South Wales Evening Post. It was about Ryan Bennett, one of the best players to wear a Town shirt in the last 15 years, and recently linked with a return to the club, largely on the basis that his wife and children live in the area. The lesson, apparently, is that it is a mistake to sign older players on huge salaries and lengthy contracts.

The piece is described as a fan’s perspective, which could have explained some of the colourful language used, but the author, Guto Llewelyn, is in fact a journalist. The most generous thing Llewelyn can find to say about Bennett is that he "isn’t the dreadful player some keyboard players make him out to be". Talk about damning with faint praise.

Bennett, you'll recall, was part of the Peterborough side which won promotion from the third division in 2011. He represented England under-18s and under-21s. He played for Norwich, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City in the top flight.

In October 2020 he signed for Swansea City after they had just sold their prize asset, Welsh international defender Joe Rodon to Spurs. Llewelyn suggests it was something of a panic buy. However, Bennett became a mainstay of the team which reached the Championship play-off final under Steve Cooper in 2021. So far so good. But then Cooper left the Swans to be replaced by Russell Martin. It appears that Martin changed the style of play at Swansea adopting a system which clearly did not play to Bennett's strengths. Though he was still a regular in the first half of last season, after Christmas he played only two games and was very clearly surplus to requirements.

The problem is that players of Bennett's undoubted calibre don't come cheap. It is rumoured that he was on £23,000 a week, not particularly outrageous given his experience. He signed a three-year deal with Swansea when he was 30 which by modern standards was not particularly old. Llewelyn suggests that he lacked pace though, as we know from watching Paul Futcher and others, that is not necessarily a terminal handicap for a central defender who reads the game well.

However, he clearly did not feature in Martin's plans and he was released on the last day of the transfer window, making him a free agent. One imagines that Swansea would have had to pay up the not insubstantial sums owing to Bennett for the remaining period of his contract.

So could he sign for Town? Would he want to? Would Town want him to? He's likely to get better offers financially than we could afford - and from clubs higher up the divisions - but the fact his family is settled here could influence his decision. However, Town already have at least three decent centre halves on the books, so getting another is hardly likely to be top of our priorities, and his addition could be disruptive. On the other hand, clubs progress by signing the very best players they can afford. There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Bennett has a tremendous pedigree and is probably still very capable of performing at a level far in excess of that of your average fourth flight centre back.

from Ron Counte

Letters Ed responds: Ron, apologies for the late publishing of this letter. Our postman has been away recently. I am sure he and others would agree that Bennett would be a great addition although you are probably right about our chances of signing him.

Brolly the hero (not Wilko)

Hi CA,

I'm a member of the Everton heritage society and would like to speak to Mike Brolly about the game when he was the hero after knocking Everton out of the League Cup in 1979. I was there that night.

from Steve Zocek

Letters Ed responds: If anyone can help Steve please get in touch with us so we can pass on the details.

Have you seen a player you think we should sign? Do think a loyalty points system should be put in place for season ticket holders and 1878 members? What's your favourite stat? Tell us.