If you haven’t seen, read and fully digested this, I suggest you do.
I have long been a fan of David Conn’s work. For me, he is about the only football journalist out there who actually digs beneath the shiny veneer of the football industry and reveals something of the dark beast beneath. Certainly numbers-wise. Who gets what. Or rather, who really gets what.
He’s not ‘conned’, in other words, by all the spin that football’s lord and masters would have you believe. There are, rather, some total basket cases out there owner and debt-wise. As his latest tome to football’s on-going madness reveals. The Age of Austerity?
The point about taking in all that his research offers is just how important Premier League survival remains to a host of clubs; for whom relegation to the Championship is all-but a kiss of death given the extent to which their finances rest on sloughing about in that Premier League trough.
If I was a QPR fan reading those numbers on the back of yesterday’s 2-0 home defeat by Stoke City – and bear in mind those figures are pre-Redknapp and pre-Loic Remy and his reported £70,000 a week plus wages; for the next five years – I would be in utter despair. And Remy’s deal looks just one act of madness that various agents were able to screw out of an increasingly desperate – if not deluded – Tony Fernandes.
According to Conn’s sums, Rangers’ owners now have a £107 million hole in their back pockets; £15 million of which is due to Barclays Bank plc.
Given Fernandes was one of those looked at in these parts thanks to the whole Lotus/F1 connection as a possible successor to the Smiths, there is a grim irony in the way events at Loftus Road have played out. Needless to say, the biggest losers will be the supporters – a Portsmouth in waiting.
Bolton and Blackburn’s numbers make equally little sense; Wanderers might just squeeze back via the play-offs; Rovers could yet disappear into League One as Uncle Jack’s legacy lies in tatters.
But read the numbers; see who owes what; just how many football club owners and their money are so quickly parted. For what, Randy Lerner might reasonably ask himself.
Brought back to the Norwich context – and quite what a shining example of football probity they, alongside Swansea City, prove – and there are a couple of points worth making.
One is to re-iterate an old point; that to finish 12th on the Premier League’s 19th ‘largest’ wage bill was a phenomenal achievement by Paul Lambert.
Whatever transpires when the Scot returns before the season is out, it is one stat that will forever be worth remembering in a league where the great god of money talks so long and so loud.
The next point is about his successor, about whom so much has been said and written – some by those with their glasses half full, most by those with their glasses near to empty.
Because I would be very interested to know where Chris Hughton’s wage bill sat compared to the rest of his peers this season. Maybe we will only know this time next season if Mr Conn revisits his survey.
But I would be surprised if Norwich were not 17th, 18th or 19th again in that list. Reading and, maybe, Wigan, might pay less. Southampton? Swansea, probably.
But no-one has come in – The Wolfman, potentially, apart – and smashed the ceiling wage-wise to QPR-like heights.
Hughton will still have been forced to cut his salary cloth accordingly this season.
Who knows where City will finally finish on the back of yesterday’s 2-1 win over Reading. Four points from the Villa and West Brom home games? Nick a point at the Britannia?
Say, 42, and a 14th spot finish. Not quite Lambert-esque heights, but given the whole new manager, second season syndrome that Hughton inevitably added to the mix – and who lost an England standard keeper for the majority of his campaign – that remains no mean feat.
In particular, given the fact that Norwich are cash positive at the bank; in hock to no-one bar that still outstanding, £2 million loan – apparently as yet unclaimed by the Smiths.
And if the next couple of seasons belong to Ricky van Wolfswinkel and a City Stand fit to host Premier League football for the foreseeable, then both managers will deserve their place in Canary folklore.