• Seagulls swoop for Mackerel...

    Seagulls swoop for Mackerel (Smith)

    Excuse the tragic pun. My excuse is that my head is still spinning at the frankly incredible news, that the Albion have beaten Leicester and West Ham (and Norwich, QPR and Southampton, depending on who you believe) to the signing, of the much coveted Peterborough striker Craig Mackail-Smith.

    CMS. Looks good in stripes!

    The signing of the newly-capped (Watford-born) Scottish international, represents a massive statement of intent from Tony Bloom and the hugely ambitious Albion board. Leicester and the Hammers have themselves been busy this transfer window, bringing in players of the calibre of Casper Schmeicel and Kevin Nolan respectively. For a club previously used to feeding on scraps at the end of the summer feeding frenzy, winning this particular race is not only a spectacular coup, but also a very significant announcement to football in general, that the Albion are very much 'back'.

    What pleased me most of all, was the description of the player auction saga, from the forthright Peterborough owner Darragh McAnthony. He spelt out to the Posh fanbase, via twitter, and their official website, that he had ratified three acceptable bids from rival clubs, and that the decision on where to sign was entirely left to the player himself.

    Further tweets from a veritable army of sports broadcasters, from the Talksport, Sky and BBC stables, confirmed that following meetings with Sven Goran Eriksson, Sam Allardyce and Gus Poyet, there was only one place Mackail-Smith wanted to be. I'd heard through an inside contact two weeks ago, that CMS had been given a tour of the new stadium, and had been suitably impressed. The general feeling though, was that whilst he liked the idea of playing here, we simply wouldn't be able to compete financially, with Leicester in particular.

    Then Craig Mackail-Smith met Gustavo Poyet.

    It appears that Poyet's desire, enthusiasm, long-term vision and sheer personality, were the deciding factors, in the player's ultimate decision. No-one knows the exact nature of that discussion, but its safe to say that Poyet was able to convince him not only of what the Albion could offer him, but crucially of how much he himself was wanted by Gus and his staff. Ultimately, Poyet proved more persuasive than Eriksson, which given what the Swede's charm has achieved in his non-football activities, is quite something.

    Sven. Persuasive.

    What might also have helped, is that CMS didn't have to simply visualise the footballing principles that Poyet was describing to him. He'd seen them for himself, and suffered at their hands. Last season, Mackail-Smith was typically tireless and selfless, chasing the ball in vain, as thousands of Albion fans bounced around the soon-to-be much-lamented terrace at London Road, while Gus' team tore Peterborough apart in their self-declared 'Cup Final'.

    So what are the Albion getting for their rumoured 2.5 million? Mackail-Smith scored 35 goals last season, in a less than brilliant Peterborough side. Normally to attain anything close to such a tally, you'd expect a striker to be a predatory penalty-box dweller, hoovering up goals and accolades off the back of his team-mates' labours. Not this striker. In thirty years - 900 games - 11,000 opposition players, I've have not once seen a player work harder for his team, than Craig Mackail-Smith. As Poyet alluded to in welcoming his new recruit, such selfless endeavour inspires the same in team-mates.

    So Gus' powers of persuasion, generously backed by the ever-benevolent Tony Bloom, have succeeded in capturing the club's 'number one target'. The Albion fans, for their part, have a player who is certain to become an instant favourite. Welcome aboard, Craig. Enjoy the ride.
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