What’s it like to be a big-money flop? Five players who've been there tell FourFourTwo...
Steve Daley (Wolves to Manchester City, 1979)
Fee: £1.4m (in today’s money: £68.2m)
“Before the deal was agreed, a number of bids had been turned down by Wolves. I kept all the newspaper cuttings from around the time, which reflect how quickly my fee went up.
“Wolves started to negotiate with Manchester City around the £1 million mark. Then a bid of £1.2 million came in and was accepted. All the add-ons took the deal up to a very specific value of £1,437,500. The £500 was my fee as part of the deal!
“On my way back down the M6, having signed for City, me and my wife stopped at a motorway services and this guy spotted me. He said: ‘I’ve just seen you on the telly. I don’t envy you one bit.’ He was referring to the transfer fee and the pressure that came with it. Looking back, it was a prophetic moment.
“I joined City at a transitional time for the club, when many experienced pros had left. Malcolm Allison was looking to me to help bring on the younger lads, but that was difficult when I hadn’t even settled in myself. As the games went on, the fundamentals of my game started to go because the pressure of being a big-money signing started to affect me. When I was receiving a pass I was always thinking: ‘I hope this doesn’t bobble or go under my foot.’
“I can remember a game against Tottenham at Maine Road. Kevin Reeves whipped in the most perfect cross. I’m between the penalty spot and the six-yard box and all I need to do is make sure I head the ball firmly. Instead, I got only the slightest of touches on it and it went wide. The stick I got was unbelievable.
“The worst moment of all was at Brighton. We were losing 1-0 and I got sent off with about 15 minutes to go. We ended up winning 2-1. The referee came to me after the game and said he felt bad for sending me off. He had seen the look of dejection on my face. He added that the best thing I could do was go and play in the North American Soccer League, and that’s what I did.
“I’m working harder now than I have done in my life. I do after-dinner speaking, and whenever I go back to Manchester City the reception I get from the fans there is incredible – in stark contrast with my football career!”
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