David Preece: Sunderland signing Kyle Lafferty was always going to cause a stir but what does it say about the club's recruitment policy?
The signing of any players will always draw the full spectrum of reactions but the signing of Kyle Lafferty was always going to cause a stir.
On and off the pitch, to put it politely, he can prove to be a divisive figure.
Some players just get the opposition’s back up and he seems to thrive on that. I’m not sure I’d put him in the bracket of players who are niggly and nasty that you’d rather have playing for you than against you, but you only have to look at the replies to any article or tweet about him and you’ll find plenty of evidence of the opinions on him.
If his arrival wasn’t going to make enough of a splash, the naivety of whoever is responsible for running the club’s social media made sure waves were made.
As pointed out to me after I’d said on Twitter how both his signing and the tweet itself reflected badly on the club, it was perhaps an error made out of ignorance rather than plain stupidity but as we all know, social media is a powerful tool and anything that projects or garners negativity can carry huge consequences.
However innocent the mind of the those who sent the tweet, anyone with even a tiny amount of knowledge of Scottish football is aware of the sectarianism that has marred its image and no matter what defence is made, mostly by Rangers fans it has to be said, playing a flute or singing songs about it is a provocative Loyalist gesture and the connotations are clear. Just ask Gazza.
In these troubled times at the club, the last thing it needs is bringing controversy upon itself via Twitter.
Mistake or not, whipping up a storm that requires dampening down with apologies is never a good thing – and a mistake that a lot of people make is thinking Twitter doesn’t matter.
Quite the opposite. It’s revolutionised PR and marketing and, done well, you can harness huge popularity for free.
AS Roma have created a global following through their social media, which currently includes helping find missing persons. This isn’t about the “permoffended” leaping on every little thing. It’s about responsibility.
The tweet I put out on the matter was two-pronged though. Not only did the misunderstanding make the club look amateurish, I was also suggesting the signing of Lafferty was a reflection on the club too.
It’s a reflection of where the club is currently at, not especially a reflection on the player himself.
Despite the tweet being picked up by most major media outlets, plenty of people were quick to accuse me of heaping negativity on the club by bringing more focus on the matter, some going as far as suggesting it was my bias against an ex-Rangers player because I’m a former Aberdeen player.
In that respect, I will say my first experience of Lafferty was when he feigned being head-butted by Charlie Mulgrew when the then Aberdeen player didn’t even come in contact with him and was wrongly red-carded. An action which you can make your own mind up about.
But when finances at the club are the way they are, in an ideal world we should be recruiting players who have a resale value or at least be developed into a future asset on the books.
The club’s recruitment strategy has come in for criticism and to me this was a valid point.
Creativity in this department is needed and I know that there are players out there who could satisfy both the needs of the club on the pitch and in the balance books, but to quote a notable figure within the game who agreed with me, it seemed a lazy move.
I understand the current position with money and the insecurity surrounding ownership dictates that this is a signing which reflects that and despite my reservations, if Kyle Lafferty proves me wrong and fires the club into a position that makes promotion achievable, then there will be nobody happier to say ‘I was wrong’ than I will be.