Twitter must have had Scott Arfield for breakfast. Released by Huddersfield Town, tenuously linked with a few English and Scottish clubs and then signed by Burnley after a short trial.
It brings to mind Lieutenant George clutching his stick in Blackadder Goes Forth. “Wouldn’t want to face a machine gun without this.”
That was 2013. Forty-two appearances and eight goals later, Arfield and Burnley joined the Premier League. They would not have got there without Danny Ings, Sam Vokes or Kieran Trippier but Arfield was one of those deals. You wonder why only Sean Dyche saw it. And you strongly suspect that Twitter did not.
Mustapha Carayol is no Arfield and Arfield could be seen as an exceptional case. One gem of a finish on Carayol’s debut at Elland Road does not compare to a telling season-long shift but he started out at Leeds United on the same questionable footing.
It is hard to know what constitutes a “battering” on social media these days – start with Don Goodman and go from there – but Carayol evidently found the response to his transfer last Friday a little startling.
It went something like this: can’t get a game at Middlesbrough, wasn’t wanted at Huddersfield. Signed temporarily by a club where permanent signings have a much stronger currency than loanees.
And then to Saturday: a decent debut, a classy goal and an ovation when Steve Evans substituted him. That performance in itself does not make Carayol a good signing but it makes the point that good signings are only good signings with the benefit of time and hindsight.
Carayol is a Championship player, an option in a position where Leeds need options and a winger whose style concentrates on service into the box.
There are reasons for his exclusion at Middlesbrough; the knee injury he suffered in 2014 and Boro’s tally of 52 points at the top of the Championship.
If he alone was United’s answer this month then the club were guilty of misreading the question but in amongst other signings, Carayol is a worthwhile transfer. Boro thought enough of him last year to extend his contract during a loan to Brighton.
It would be better, no question, if Leeds were in a position to hassle Championship teams for their best players; to push Blackburn Rovers for striker Jordan Rhodes, as Boro did last summer, or lure Nick Blackman from Reading, as Derby County did last week.
A year ago, most clubs would have killed for Callum Wilson, for Ighalo or Deeney. They’d take Andre Gray tomorrow. But it is obvious that Leeds are not dealing at that end of the market. They are looking for players at a lower cost. And that calls for pragmatic imagination.
On that basis, Carayol should know that any criticism of his move to Leeds was not personal.
That reaction was a by-product of annoyance over an approach to transfers at Elland Road which, going back several years, could only loosely be described as a policy.
The squad deteriorated under Ken Bates, lost its identity further under Gulf Finance House and was diluted badly by current owner Massimo Cellino’s first two transfer windows.
United signed 18 players in those months, up to the end of January last year. Only seven of them have played this season. Nine have moved on already.
There are two ways to recover from that ineffective process – spend at will (which Leeds won’t) or pick up the strength of the squad bit by bit. Liam Bridcutt undeniably raised the standard a notch.
Carayol is a competent Championship footballer and probably has the scope to find another level.
Combine that with the approach for Kyle Lafferty and the main thrust of Evans’s MO is obvious already: steady bets within a budget, designed to nudge the level of performance in the right direction.
It doesn’t sound like fantasy football and it doesn’t look like fantasy football. Leeds have not been in that mode for a very long time.
Battered on Friday, applauded on Saturday, Carayol can think of himself as safely through the door. It is good to know that he has a spine.
Leeds United’s annual accounts used to include an assessment of the value of their entire squad. It was firesale stuff - a projection of how much transfers would raise if the club found themselves selling everyone tomorrow.
If Leeds at present are truly sitting on offers in excess £30m for certain players - and the message from within Elland Road is that those offers do not include multiple bids for individuals - then their playing staff are worth far more than the last estimate carried out under GFH’s ownership: £13m as of September 1, 2013.
To put the figures in context, United say they are being offered more this month than they record in yearly turnover. Thirty million pounds is a colossal sum of money. And so the obvious question: what should they do?
The default answer to most offers should be ‘no’. It should be ‘no’ because United’s squad is not good enough to cope with losing any of the better players in it. It should be ‘no’ because Leeds have never been good at taking cash for players and making it work for them. It should be ‘no’ on account of the club’s rhetoric and their insistence that sales were not necessary or planned.
But £30m? Within that sum there must be bids which go beyond the value of certain squad members. Not every footballer is irreplaceable. Not every footballer is invaluable. Sensible clubs know an excessive offer when they see one, have the nerve to take it and the wit to reinvest in the transfer market. Money alone is not an excuse for agreeing to trade but if the £30m figure is strictly accurate, it is fair to ask if one or two departures actually make sense.