Blackburn Rovers CEO opens up on bid failure for Josh Maja
Steve Waggott felt the Rovers had been unlucky, rather than unsuccessful, in their attempt to sign a striker during the summer transfer window.
Rovers missed a loan deal for Bordeaux striker Josh Maja on deadline day as the striker traveled to Brockhall to complete the move but he collapsed due to a back problem set prominently in his medical examination.
That, along with Michael Obafemi’s move to Swansea City, saw the Rovers fail to increase their ranks despite the window being three weeks after star man Adam Armstrong left.
He left for Southampton on an initial £ 15million deal, though Waggott revealed the ‘pretty incredible’ deal he was offered.
Waggott says there is the possibility of revisiting the deal with Maja in January if possible, but says Tony Mowbray has ruled out the prospect of a free agent addition given the current schedule.
“I think we were unlucky, I wouldn’t use the word fail, I think we had a goal in mind and had been working on this player for a few weeks,” Waggott said of the pursuit. of the Rovers striker.
“We brought this player in, brought him to France, most fans knew as much as I did about who he was and why he wasn’t signed, he was the number one target for Tony to replace Adam. .
“As things progressed we couldn’t close the deal and he had to go back to Bordeaux.
“Tony knows there is a budget available to go get a player out of contract now, but it’s a pretty tough decision, or when the window opens on January 1, we took a look at what’s available and if that matches the invoice.
“We’ve had a lot of non-contract players thrown at us, some pretty famous names, but they haven’t played for 18 months, so by the time they level up, a few months to get them back into shape. full, you’re almost at the january window, so Tony’s view is to hold our stand and see how we’re doing.
“We have Gallagher and Brereton that we brought in and they can step up a gear and continue with what we have and watch it in the January window?”
Maja is currently injured from a back stress fracture, an injury that Rovers recently experienced with Dan Butterworth who has struggled with it for the past two seasons.
Maja, 22, finished last season with Fulham, scoring three goals in 15 Premier League appearances, after joining Bordeaux in January 2019 from Sunderland.
Waggott said he expected Rovers’ things to arrive later in the window, and said it wasn’t because of the embargo they were placed under, denying that restrictions that were imposed on them by the EFL, lifted in the first week of July, were prohibitive for their business.
On the unwinding of the window, he said: “With the Covid, then the euros, it pushed everything away. The discussions we had with the Premier League clubs regarding the availability of the players, they were suspended, they said they were not releasing anyone until the end of the Euro and everyone is back to the coaching.
“So that delayed things. The market was also pretty flat, as there wasn’t a lot of money on the way to transfer players.
“Even with our valuable asset, Adam Armstrong, which we eventually sold to Southampton, there was very little activity for a while. Everyone was waiting to see how the market would evolve.
“It was one of the more unusual transfer windows I’ve been involved in, we all thought it would be a late fill in terms of recruiting players when Premier League clubs decided who they were bringing and who would be. available on loan, and then also who was available at the level of what we had the funds to sign.
“Even then, the clubs were reluctant to get rid of the players too soon.
“It was really a delayed window and ultimately ended with getting the loan players we were able to get as well as acquiring Tayo Edun as a permanent transfer.
“A very unusual situation for everyone, not just the Blackburn Rovers, which everyone has found themselves in.”
Armstrong scored 29 goals last season and his form caught the attention of Premier League clubs, but it wasn’t until Southampton lost Danny Ings to Aston Villa that a club made a substantial offer for his services.
It reached a level Rovers were happy to accept, although the £ 15million fee was lower than what the club could have incurred had Armstrong had more time to fulfill his contract.
He had moved in the past 12 months with the situation also complicated by a 40% sell clause owed to Newcastle on any profit on the £ 1.75million fee Rovers paid for him in 2018.
“We gave him a pretty incredible contract to keep him as our best player, top scorer,” said Waggott.
“We offered him a high contract, well above our normal level because of his value to the club, but Adam is ambitious, he wanted to go to the Premier League, with us if he could take us there, but that did not happen during the time he was with us.
“I called him like him being in the departure lounge, he wanted to go, so it was just the clubs going in and we just had to market him to the right level.”
Despite the offer, Armstrong did not engage with the club on a new deal, but left in a dignified manner once the two clubs agreed on a fee, visiting the training ground. from Brockhall to say goodbye before posting a thank you message to supporters on social media.
Waggott said securing an Armstrong departure was the most important thing once it became clear that he would not be signing a new deal.
He said: “I think that was a big no. He didn’t accept the contract, he wanted to leave, he’s a big boy Adam, I’ve known him and his family for many years, and once they want to move it’s hard to keep a player because that, not that they did, but some players are demotivated and frustrated.
“Once the decision was made that he wasn’t going to sign a new contract, it was a question of seeing where we could go in terms of income generation.
“It was a shame to see him go, but he has gone to Southampton in the Premier League, where he wants to be, and the club have to move on now.”