Sven-Goran Erikson freely admits that he had not seen a number of his many Summer signings play in the flesh, video evidence proving enough to convince him to part with some hard-earned Thai cash. Good job he hasn't seen footage of Silvio Spann then, or we'd have been drawn into the quickest bidding war of all time.
If you want a bit of instant gratification, just type "Spann Trinidad" into youtube and sit back (I've tried pasting the links in but blogger won't have it-sorry!). It'll treat you to the most stupendous strike you could imagine-and the guy who hit it's coming to play for Wrexham!
It's a free kick from so far back you almost expect to see his keeper step up and tap it to him, but he launches it with terrific power, it seems to pick up extra pace half way towards goal, soaring sweetly to thud into the top right corner, beating an acrobatically futile leap from El Salvador's keeper to the screaming delight of the Latin American commentator, who howls “Siiiii Siiiii Siiiiilviiiiiooooooo!”
And it's not a flash in the pan either! Look at the other results from your search and you'll a free kick he took two days later against the U.S.A. from a similar range. It's equally outrageous; it starts off looking like it's going to go about five yards wide of the left post, then swerves so extravagantly that it ends up curling a yard wide of the other side of the goal. The keeper's desperate scrambling from side-to-side is a sight to behold!
And further evidence is offered of his dead ball skills by a video of the Trinidad team taking on Soccer AM's crossbar challenge. Each member of the team has to have a go at hitting the bar from the halfway line, hardly an easy task as Wrexham showed when they did it! No-one managed it and Mike Ingham nearly smashed a window in Holt! Guess which Trinidadian did it?
Of course anyone who thinks a player's bound to be good just because he has hit a couple of remarkable free kicks is an idiot, although I'd also argue that anyone who sees his team buy a player who can do that and doesn't allow themselves to feel a frisson of excitement is a poor excuse for a football fan!
Still, judging a player on selected highlights is a mug's game. Anyone looks good if you cut out the bad bits. The famous example of this is Savo Milosevic, bought by Aston Villa on the strength of a highlights reel edited together by his agent. Of course, we all remember Milosevic as a striker who was capable of scoring spectacular strikes-just the thing to make a manager's jaw drop when he sees them. However, we will also remember that for every net buster there were twenty shots that went flying deep into the stand behind the goal, or more likely well over it and into the car park of the adjacent retail park!
Fortunately, Brian Carey isn't so daft. Spann was first sighted on a scouting mission to see Trinidad play a friendly at Q.P.R. and has been tracked ever since. Other promising signs include the fact that Roy Keane saw enough in him to offer him a trial with Premiership Sunderland, and the fact that he hasn't come from our usual Trinidadian source.
I'm not saying that using the same agent to bring in our previous Trinidadians was a mistake, although it could sound like it in theory. If we hadn't got good value from them one might suggest that in operating as a gateway for a succession of Trinidadians to establish themselves in the Football League we were acting more in the interests of the players than ourselves, but the facts don't bear that out. Admittedly we had to wait for some of them to acclimatise, particularly Dennis Lawrence, but we got good performances from the likes of Lawrence, Edwards and Sam and none of them left in haste to climb the ladder.
Also, unlike the others Spann has already played outside his home country. The well-travelled midfielder has played in such diverse cultures as Croatia and Japan, so getting to grips with North Wales shouldn't be too tricky. Throw in the role he can play in helping facilitate the continuing progress of Josh Johnson and he looks like a very intelligent acquisition.