After 288 appearances over seven years, Southampton captain Jose Fonte has joined West Ham on a two and a half year contract, and we caught up with Tom Atherton (@Athers32) from Brace the Hammer for his thoughts on the club’s new arrival.
Q: Judging by your latest string of tweets, it seems that you are pretty pleased with the business completed by West Ham.
I am indeed. The defensive struggles this season we've seen compared to last year have been agonising at times. Although I love [Angelo] Ogbonna, having someone of Fonte's quality in and around the team with his vast experience in the Premier League — coupled with performances at Euro 2016 — makes for a fantastic signing for us.
Q: You mentioned his experience. But at 33, do you see it as a bit of gamble to bring him in or was it just the best option available?
I honestly feel that the club should have kept hold of James Tomkins during the summer, instead of looking toward Fonte this January. At 27, Tomkins had done more than his fair share over the years at the club to warrant and earn himself a regular place in the starting line-up.
Q: Is Fonte someone who will immediately be put into the starting eleven?
With his wealth of experience behind him, I'd definitely expect him to make an immediate impact as a starter, although he can't be seen as a long-term solution to our current problems.
Q: West Ham are in a similar situation with Dimitri Payet wanting out. What did you know about Fonte's situation and how long do you feel he has been on the club's radar?
I knew about Fonte's situation earlier in the month when he handed his transfer request in. At the time, I fully expected the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool or even Manchester City to pounce on him due to their recent defensive struggles.
Not until last week did the rumours begin to pick up pace that West Ham might actually have a chance at signing him, as many know our current situation at striker and right-back were the two main priorities coming into this January transfer window. Although it's not perhaps the position we were looking to fill, he must have been on the clubs radar for quite some time due to our frailties we've had all season at the back.
Q: Fonte will make his return to St Mary's on 4 February. What reaction do you feel he deserves based on the manner in which he left and what he meant to the club?
It's difficult. You can quite clearly look at [Dimitri] Payet's current situation and realise that's one way not to leave a football club. Whereas with Fonte he's been incredibly loyal, enduring time down in League One all the way through to the Premier League. I understand it's hard sometimes when players want to move to a bigger club as Southampton know full well over the past few years. Although there will be some left annoyed at his decision I think his loyalty as captain during his seven year tenure at the club will speak volumes, and he should enjoy a rousing reception.
Q: Final thoughts?
We all hope that Jose enjoys the same success with us as he's brought to Southampton.