The Curious Case of Luke Varney

The transfer of Luke Varney to Portsmouth last week concluded one of the strangest tenure’s any player has had at Derby County in some time.  With no shortage of competition for that mantle,  here’s what I mean by that statement.

By Christmas of 2008 it was obvious that Jewell and Pearson’s masterplan to smash up the Championship was not working out. With every game now being pre-empted with a “if we lose, Jewells out” the writing was well and truly on the wall when we signed Charlton, bit part player, Luke Varney on loan.

Having flopped at Charlton but previously being valued at nearly £3m this looked an ok move, until it came out that it was with a view to a £1m permanent transfer in January.  Quite why Adam Pearson thought it was a good call to sanction a £1m transfer of a questionable player for a manager already on death row is anyone’s guess.

Luke enjoying his best spell at Derby

Despite scoring one of the ugliest goals ever seen at Pride Park on his debut, Varney was a low on confidence player, coming into a low on confidence team, under a manager who was losing the plot. Surprise, Surprise, he was shit.

Minutes after the ink dried on Varney’s permanent deal (and his reported £12k per week wages!!!) , Jewell was gone. Thanks.

Nigel Clough arrived and, with form, injury & illness not helping, didn’t fancy Varney at all.  At the end of that season  Luke had a brief spell at Sheff Wed and then spent pretty much all of the following year at Hillsborough. With some newfound confidence he did ok and weirdly played significantly more games for them than he ever did for the Rams (43 appearances, 11 goals against 15 and the Palace goal for Derby). 

In between the two spells at Wednesday,  Varney did briefly return and was actually given a couple of run-outs at the start of the 09/10 season. There was no improvement and one particularly hapless display at Rotherham in the carling cup was probably the final nail.

By the start of last season, most people had Luke firmly filed alongside Claude Davies and Otto Bragstaad in the ‘transfer fiascos of the highest order’ box. Then he went on loan to newly promoted Blackpool. This seemed a strange destination but then Holloway’s bonkers, so good times. At least they were paying £10k of his wages.  

But then the most bizarre twist in the whole story happened. Varney was awesome. Scoring goals & assists for fun, including running Liverpool ragged at Anfield. I think he even got Premier League player of the month at one stage!!??!! Cue Holloway s infamous “we’re signing him for £250k in January and there’s nothing Derby can do” speech.

As we all know it didn’t quite work out for Blackpool and strangely they didn’t  take up the option on Varney, they’d previously been so enthusiastic about.  

So yet again Luke found himself back at Derby for pre-season, but now with new found “options”, following his various cameos on Match of the Day. Indeed several Rams fans said Clough should have given Varney a second chance. He shouldn’t.

Almost since the first month of Varney being at the club, it was inconceivable to me that we would get anything back on the deal apart from a costly contract settlement. The fact that we’ve got him off the wage bill and almost got our money back is, frankly, astonishing.

I don’t wish any ill toward Luke himself and I do wish him well at Pompey. However when you analyse our transfer activity over this summer, our new recruits will have to do something pretty special to make their acquisition a better deal than the sale of Varney.

As I said, a strange tenure from start to finish.



Posted on July 9, 2011, in Departure Lounge, General Rams Comment and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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