So it seems to be promotion or bust, according to reports coming out of the forum held by the club last night. The club confirmed what has been suspected by a number of fans over the last few months and years; that spending large sums of money on average players will lead to a breach of Profit and Sustainability rules brought in by the EFL.
Since the 2016/2017 season (when our spending really seemed to take off) we have had a lot of players come into the club. Our success rate with those transfers has been almost completely terrible. I’ve used the following website to look at our transfers in since 2016/2017, as I don’t pretend to have a perfect memory. Any errors in these records are due to the website I’m using;
2016/2017 Incoming Transfers
Urby Emanuelson - Transfer
Will Buckley - Loan
Jordan Rhodes – Loan leading to full transfer
Callum McManaman - Loan
David Jones - Transfer
Daniel Pudil – Transfer
Jordan Thorniley – Transfer
Vincent Sasso – Transfer
Jake Kean – Transfer
Steven Fletcher – Transfer
Sam Winnall – Transfer
Morgan Fox – Transfer
Almen Abdi – Transfer
Adam Reach – Transfer
2017/2018 Incoming Transfers
Jacob Butterfield – Loan
Frederico Venancio – Loan
George Boyd – Transfer
Joey Pelupessy – Transfer
Joost van Aken – Transfer
How many of these players were an improvement on what came before? How many of these players contributed in a meaningful way to the team or squad?
Prior to 2016/2017 we also had the following failed transfers on our books:
There are some transfers on this list that were worth the gamble, when viewed in isolation. Sam Winnall seemed a bargain. George Boyd seemed a useful addition having played week in, week out in the Premier League. Then there are some that, to put it politely, raise an eyebrow.
Who thought it would be better to spend a rumoured £3M on Joost van Aken, when the known and dependable Vincent Sasso was available for free?
Why did we sign two proven wingers on loan, Buckley and McManaman, and then hardly play them?
Why did we break the club record to sign Jordan Rhodes at a time when we had strength in depth in attack, and were crying out for a box-to-box midfield monster?
I don’t claim to know what is going on behind the scenes at Hillsborough, and much of what I write comes from observation and deduction. I don’t think the Jordan Rhodes transfer killed the club, despite what some people suggest. Rather, I think it was many of the transfers that came before, with players such as Urby Emanuelson, Almen Abdi and Morgan Fox being signed and then contributing little or nothing. Carrying players who seemed to be continuously injured or just “unavailable” like McGugan, Matias and Melo also contributed. Then there were the loan signings that added nothing of value like Buckley and McManaman.
At the start of this blog I talk about how our spending seemingly took off in 2016/2017, and that subsequent transfers did not really seem to add much or improve the squad. Let’s look at some of the incoming transfers from the season before;
2015/2016 Incoming Transfers (selected ones only)
And the season before;
2014/2015 Incoming Transfers (selected ones only)
If someone was to put together our strongest starting line-up, it would probably be a variation of;
How many of these players arrived as a result of the big spending from 2016 onward?
It is unforgivable that we have spent so much money and not improved the line-up. We are still half a team away from being a play-off contender. No, the Jordan Rhodes transfer is not to blame. Signing after signing that weakened the squad instead of strengthening is to blame.
I’m not anti-Chansiri. I think he’s approached the task of getting us promoted with enthusiasm and good intentions. It is the execution that is lacking. There also seems to be a cultural divide with Mr Chansiri not understanding his fan base. We are a club starved of success with fans living off past glories. We are, for the most part, a self-deprecating bunch who laugh and joke through adversity. But we are, for the most part, a working class group of fans from a northern and fairly unfashionable city. It sticks in the craw when we are expected to pay more for tickets than many clubs in the nation’s capital. It also frustrates when we are told to pay top dollar if we want to see success on the pitch; the visit to Wembley was nice but can hardly be considered “success”.
So far, the Chansiri era has been a failure which was almost a huge success but there is often a fine line between ecstasy and despair when gambling and that appears to be what we have done. With the club now under an embargo there seems to be no back up plan. The fans are still expected to pay more for season tickets, match tickets, membership, replica shirts and now even free radio commentary has been taken away. All this whilst the performance on the pitch declines and our squad loses quality and depth.
I read on one of the Sheffield Wednesday message boards that the club needs to have a £20M turnaround this season to avoid further sanction. I’m not sure how accurate this figure is, but it does not seem too unrealistic given the spending we have seen in recent seasons. Fortunately, a £20M saving should not be that difficult to achieve but it will involve some fairly drastic changes in approach.
It might be unpopular, but I would sell Forestieri and Westwood. In the current market, a player like Forestieri should bring in at least £10M. What I don’t know is whether we have a sell-on clause with Watford. Westwood would probably not bring in that much in way of a fee, maybe £2M at a push, but his wages must be sizable. I would hazard a guess that between two players, the combined wage must not be far off £40K per week. Accounting for hard negotiating from the buying clubs due to our financial plight, we can probably expect to net maybe £8M from those two players. The saving in wages is another £2M. So, we’re halfway there already.
The next step is to try and get some of the fringe players off the books. If Matias can be shipped out for the duration of his contract on loan, even if we have to pay half his wages then we should do it. He contributes nothing. I would rather we pay half his wages than all of them, even if he is unavailable for us. I don’t know how much he is on, but it’s probably a decent wedge. Anything saved here is a bonus.
Another consideration is the F.A. Cup and League Cup. I would treat this with the utmost respect and importance. A decent run in both cups could bring in some much needed cash. Unless we are in the midst of a huge relegation battle, I would play the strongest side we have in the cup games and advance as far as possible, rather than playing a second string side that is defeated by lower league opposition looking for a scalp. With the lottery of the cup draw, there are no guarantees here but we can at least move the odds of a good cup run slightly in our favour.
The next part of the plan involves going through the records of sale for any recent player sales. If we have sell-on clauses that we can cash-in on, then this may be the time to do it. I am not sure how plausible the reverse is, but we can always ask clubs we have bought players from if they would be willing to renegotiate terms on transfers. For example, if we still have £4M to pay over two years, would they accept £4.1M spread over three years?
I’m not sure if the transfers of Jack Hunt and Jordan Rhodes factor in to the £20M swing needed, but if they do then we would not be that far away at all from meeting that saving.
I would then appoint an advisor to work alongside Mr Chansiri. This would be someone from the area, who understands the area. Someone who knows the club and the fans. Someone who can have a quiet word and say; “say it like this, instead of like that”. Often with Mr Chansiri my issue is not with the act but with the execution.
Finally, just tell us in plain words what the situation is. Fans of this club will rally when needed if they are made to feel valued. If they are given the impression they are not wanted or valued, then it does not affect just them but their friends and family too. If an elderly fan who attended hundreds of matches, before Mr Chansiri could even point out Sheffield on a map, is now told he cannot listen to our games on the radio because we have to think about the majority of fans, who does that fan’s children and grandchildren perceive this club? It’s a major faux pas and shames the club.
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