Since the inception of the transfer window six years ago, I doubt there has been a more crucial trading period for our local teams than this January.
So much is at stake for Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion, Birmingham City and Wolverhampton Wanderers as the business they do – or do not do as the case may be – can shape the destiny of their season.
For Villa, it is a question of whether they are prepared to spend the cash to bring in a top quality striker capable of firing them into the Champions League places. Gabriel Agbonlahor has stepped up a level this season and playing alongside John Carew has certainly benefitted the Erdington-born striker.
However, there is very little quality beyond those two and manager Martin O’Neill needs to splash the cash to bring in a top-notch striker. The likes of Roque Santa Cruz and Emile Heskey have been mentioned throughout this season but perhaps Villa, backed by Randy Lerner’s mega bucks, can be even more ambitious. Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Inter might fancy a stab at the Premiership!
Some might laugh but Villa have now moved to a level where bids for such players should not be fantasy and if they are to break into the top four that is the ambition they have to show.
The need for a clinical hot-shot is equally important to Tony Mowbray’s Albion but for very different reasons. With their Premier League status on the line after a run of ten games without a win, a poacher who can add a finishing touch to their often decent attacking play is imperative.
After Ishmael Miller was ruled out for the rest of the season, Albion have been left with few options in attack and Mowbray is scouring foreign shores and young, hungry players waiting in the wings at the Big Four in the hope of unearthing a gem.
Loans seem the more likely, although Albion fans will question where the cash has gone that was supposedly being made available for the ultimately doomed move for Rangers’ Kevin Thomson in the summer.
Their current lowly position in the league will certainly not help their cause but if Mowbray is unable to attract at least one striker who is able to hit the ground running, it could be a long, tough second half of the season for the Baggies.
Wolves and Blues sit on the cusp of promotion from the Championship and not only will it be key for them to bring in the players who can give their promotion campaigns a timely boost, it is also vital that they resist the attentions of potential suitors for their key men.
For Mick McCarthy’s Wolves, it will be even more vital that he is able to hold onto the likes of Michael Kightly, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Wayne Hennessey during January than actually bring in any additional players.
McCarthy has built a young, exciting, talented squad that does have some strength in depth, although he will hope to avoid a spate of injuries that crippled his side’s promotion push last time around.
If his star trio stay and McCarthy can add a couple of new faces then the Premier League will beckon for Wanderers.
Blues are also in a good position but they have a lot less breathing space than their local rivals.
Manager Alex McLeish has made it clear he is in the market for another central defender and a central midfield player, but don’t be surprised if one or two more come in and a couple of faces head out of St Andrew’s.
Injuries to James McFadden, Sebastian Larsson, Stephen Kelly, Gary McSheffrey, Damien Johnson and Garry O’Connor have exposed the squad and the Blues board may need to demonstrate their assertion that an instant return to the Premier League is their priority by making some funds available.
Promotion may just depend on it.