Earlier this season, not long after August’s deadline for permanent signings, Sheffield United began devising plans for next month’s transfer window at Bramall Lane.
Representatives of the coaching staff, owners and board of directors sat down to talk strategy. Targets were identified, scouting missions organised and, perhaps most importantly, budgets set.
I say most importantly because, as events at last night’s opponents Coventry City and fellow promotion contenders Bolton Wanderers illustrate, bad things can happen when clubs fail to govern themselves.
The end game of City’s owners SISU is, to all intents and purposes, impossible to fathom. Ninety miles north, Wanderers find themselves teetering on the brink of a precipice purely because of financial largesse.
Perhaps United’s greatest achievement during the first half of the season has been to improve the squad while spending less. Or, to put it another way, using their money more wisely. Signing talented players who are fit for purpose and capable of complementing those already in house. Above all else it has proved that pound notes do not guarantee performances. If they did then Wanderers, who according to chairman Ken Anderson are losing £800,000 a month, should already be putting the champagne on ice and getting ready to celebrate promotion. Anderson told supporters at the Macron Stadium earlier this week that one member of Phil Parkinson’s squad earns more a year than Walsall’s entire team. A frightening admission which makes you wonder what happened to Financial Fair Play? Clearly, given Bolton’s desire to extend Sammy Ameobi’s loan from Newcastle until the end of the season despite the mess Anderson has inherited from a previous regime, it has been quietly consigned to the dustbin. Otherwise, how can teams operating under transfer embargoes be allowed to sign players at the start of the season? They can not pay fees so, presumably, have discovered a pool of footballers willing to work for free. Clubs punished for failing to comply with FFP regulations, as Nottingham Forest and Fulham also were last year, should be prohibited from recruiting anyone until they get their houses in order. If fresh blood is required then it should come from their respective academies. (An area where both Forest and Wanderers really do excel). Otherwise, the likes of Walsall, who cut their cloth, must wonder why they bother. FFP. The clue is in the name.