Owen Hargreaves’ possible arrival at West Bromwich Albion, though not yet finalised, would be one of the most surprising deals of the summer. The injury-hit midfielder left Manchester United this summer after another disappointing season that was again ruined by tendinitis in both knees. The former England international’s career in this country looked to be over until Roy Hodgson and West Brom considered giving him another chance. But do teams take too many risks by taking on injury-prone players?
Two players in similar situations to Hargreaves are Jonathan Woodgate at Stoke and Kieron Dyer at QPR. Both players have experienced stuttering Premier League careers thanks to long-term injury problems but despite this both were given a fresh chance to prove their fitness with new Premier League clubs this season. Whilst Woodgate showed why taking that risk could eventually be worth it, Dyer once again suffered his injury curse and QPR must have been left wondering why they signed the former West Ham midfielder.
Only minutes into his league debut for the newly promoted side Dyer had to be stretched off with what looked to be a serious injury. Despite it looking like the foot injury is not as bad as first thought, manager Neil Warnock was forced into an early change that must have unsettled his starting line-up in such an important game. The 32-year-old signed a one-year deal this summer but this latest injury setback highlights the risks of taking on such an injury-prone star. Dyer only managed 35 appearances in four years with the Hammers and Warnock will need to get a lot more from the midfielder if he is able to justify the signing at the end of the season.
Another injury-hit star looking for a fresh start is former Tottenham defender Jonathan Woodgate. After his release from Spurs this summer Stoke took a chance on the 31-year-old and offered him a one-year deal. Despite various injury problems that have blighted his career Woodgate has made a bright start to his Stoke career. He was very impressive in Stoke’s first Premier League outing against Chelsea on Sunday, helping his side earn a very good point and keep a clean sheet. Despite not playing a full game since November 2009, he has now played two full 90 minute matches (against Hajduk Split in Europe and then Chelsea on Sunday). If Woodgate can continue to improve his fitness and perform for Stoke then the Potters have made a very good signing.
Hargreaves’ move to West Brom has yet to be confirmed but his arrival would be a risk for Hodgson. Despite being very experienced both domestically and internationally, he only managed 39 appearances in four years at Old Trafford. Signing a player like Hargreaves, Woodgate and Dyer means managers not only take risks by throwing the players back into action on the pitch but they also dedicate a portion of their wage bills (though Stoke were wise to make Woodgate’s salary dependent on appearances) on players that are not guaranteed to fulfill their contracts.
But as Woodgate showed at the weekend, if you can get the best out of these obviously talented and experienced stars, then a one-year contract might be worth the risk.
Do you think injury-prone players are worth the risk in the Premier League? If you want to read more of my bite size, 140 character views and thoughts follow me on Twitter @jennyk5