Ian Hart: Another South American nightmare averted?

Football stock
Football stock

As disappointing as it was at the weekend, in the cold light of day the news that potential Albion record signing, Brazilian midfielder Renato Neto, failed a club medical on a damaged knee will be looked upon in a positive way in years to come.

To clarify the use of the word ‘positive’, there’s no doubt a fully-fit Neto would have been an asset to the Albion in the top flight. But he wasn’t and it would have been a huge gamble for Albion to sign him.

Thankfully with Tony Bloom in charge –and the kind of money being talked about –any kind of punt was not on the agenda.

The news of Neto’s ‘non-arrival’ at the Amex put me in mind of when the Albion got their fingers well and truly burnt with an acquisition from South America.

In the summer of 2004, the Albion had been promoted to what is now the Championship, courtesy of a Cardiff play-off final win, and then manager Mark McGhee set about strengthening the squad.

Scottish international striker Chris Iwelumo had moved on after a brief spell and Albion looked at suitable replacements

Two strikers arrived on trial, Hungarian-born Zsombor Kerekes, courtesy of the European scouting network, and Argentian Federico Turienzo, who it’s believed had only been watched on a ‘grainy’ VHS video tape which turned up from Buenos Aries.

Kerekes’ initial pre-season form promised much. He reportedly scored a hat-trick in a practice match, impressing club captain Danny Cullip who was marking him in the process, while Turienzo wasn’t exactly pulling up any trees at the same time.

As has been said before, it truly is a game of opinions. McGhee and then chairman Dick Knight went for Turienzo and Kerekes returned to his homeland, to play both for his country and in the Champions League for his new club, Debreceni VSC.

Turienzo went on to be one of the biggest and most expensive flops in the club’s history, playing only once, at Luton in the December of that year, and not even lasting 90 minutes.

By way of almost gallows humour, I recall a conversation with Charlie Oatway in the weeks leading up to Turi’s bow at Kenilworth Road.

When he was first on trial that summer I was introduced to his agent in the car park at Withdean, he was driving a bashed-up Nissan Sunny. The next time I saw him was when I was sat on top of the horse hearse at the Durrington Cemetery roundabout and, apparently not familiar with British courtesies, he cut across us in his brand-new top-of-the-range Merc.

That Saturday I saw Chas after the game and said “Turi’s agent must have got himself a good deal judging by what he’s driving around in now”. “Good deal!” replied Chas laughing his head off. “I wish he was my agent”.

In a perverse way, although it was money wasted, it’s an episode that still invokes a degree of affection when looking back.

The Albion are now one of the elite 20 clubs in this country, but I hope we never forget where we came from.

Congratulations to Findon CC, who are celebrating their 150th anniversary with a special lunch and commemorative game this Sunday.

I hope the sun shines and a great time is had by all.

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