Writing about a transfer window before it closes should probably carry a health warning, not least because you can’t be certain just how many players will be signed between now and when the transfer window finally “slams shut” late on Wednesday evening.
Nevertheless, as transfer windows go, this one can, so far, only be described as disappointing.
Back in May, following relegation, I was far from alone in thinking that this City squad needed a complete overhaul. Frankly, at the time, I could name at least half a dozen players towards whom I’d be totally indifferent if they never donned a yellow shirt again because many had just suffered a second relegation in three seasons.
Alex Neil, in his post season analysis, seemed to be on a similar wavelength, touching on the fact that the age profile of the squad was, in footballing terms, relatively high and that a number of players had been here already for several years.
“Refresh” was the word on the lips and a summer of wheeler dealing seemed inevitable.
Except it hasn’t – not yet anyway.
Looking back, with the benefit of hindsight, after the post relegation inquest, the initial signs were far from good.
On 10 June 2016, the headline on the club’s website read – “Nine out-of-contract players to leave City.”
“The cull has begun” me thinks – except, again, it hasn’t.
Eight of the nine are academy players, with barely a handful, if any, appearances to their names and the only two senior players out of contract were Gary O’Neil – who subsequently left – and Steven Whittaker – who had just agreed a one year extension.
Whether I agree, or not, with the Whittaker extension – or the club’s decision to defer announcing the automatic contract extensions to Tettey, Wes and Turner (which were actually agreed back in 2014 and conditional on going straight back up in 2015) – is largely irrelevant and the not the point here.
The key factor, post relegation, we had virtually the same squad, many under contract until 2017 and beyond.
And this is where I really start thinking. What will be the key drivers behind this summer’s transfer window, its success, or otherwise?
For sure, the resignation of the CEO, especially one who was so “hands on” on transfer activity, just prior to the end of last season, wasn’t helpful, but I cannot believe that it was a one man show. After all, how many times were we told that, when one transfer window closed, the planning for the next one began immediately? And that’s before we start talking about the recruitment board – or whatever the term is.
Dropping a division clearly impacts on both the budget and potential targets, for sure, but do we not have A-lists and B-lists? Sorry, but I’m not buying that one either.
So, is it down to money?
Undoubtedly, yes it is, but, this is where perception and reality may just differ, because, for all the talk of transfer budgets, wage caps and being uncompetitive on transfer fees, just consider the last time City were in this league in 2014/15.
Not only did the Club have the highest revenue (£52m) it also had the highest revenues excluding parachute payments (£29m) highest commercial revenues (£12.9m) and, more importantly, highest wage bill (£51m). *
So, okay, those figures are already out of date – it’s now 2016/17 and the Championship also contains Newcastle United and Aston Villa, both of whom will generate higher revenues and spends than City, but are we really financially uncompetitive? Personally, I don’t think so.
And this is the nub of the issue. Football, just like any other business is ruled by cash flow. Yes, there are – and always have been – other clubs with wealthy benefactors, ready to lend a hand with another soft loan to assist with meeting a shortfall of income over expenditure.
But let’s not use that as an excuse for City being uncompetitive in the transfer market, because, when the financial figures are released for the current season (rather than for last) in some fifteen months’ time, City will be in the top three, for certain.
Which, rather neatly, brings us full circle – with apologies for those who I may have lost along the way.
Given that we will undoubtedly have one of the largest revenues in the league to play with this season, is the club hampered by its current wage bill? And, by that I mean, do we actually have too many players on wages that are relatively high for this league, thereby making them difficult to move on, even if the manager wants to?
Was having too many players under contract at the end of last season actually a hindrance, rather than an advantage, in terms of freeing up wages for this season’s budget?
If you’re still uncertain, consider this: last time we were in this league our wage bill was actually 97 per cent of our total turnover, even having regard to the then relegation clauses and the subsequent promotion bonuses. Yes, that’s unsustainable long term without Premier League football and, if it was a problem last time, you can bet it will be again this season.
More importantly, is it a liability which actually restricts the manager’s ability to wheel and deal now?
Aiming to spend every surplus penny on the football budget is undoubtedly the way to go – after all, football clubs are not here to make a profit, or pay dividends to its shareholders. But I can’t help but wonder, whether, in aiming to be competitive in the Premier League, we’ve somehow let the wages genie out of the bottle in terms of too much money being directed towards wages for what are, effectively, mainly, top end Championship players?
Now, there’s an interesting thought and, perhaps not the conclusion many were expecting when reading this.
* Figures sourced from @SwissRamble
Tony Brown says
I’m confused. What other possible conclusion could we draw? Even the most ardent ‘sign McCormack’ fans conceded his wage demands were ludicrous. The average wage of the average player is incredulously immoral.
The other point is that another reason we were being tipped for a quick return was precisely because we did retain a continuity of playing staff. So seems you’re dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t.
The frustration is that we all know that we ARE good enough, but too often our defence makes catastrophic errors and we look confused at the pointy end. An American style system of employing a defensive coach might be more prudent than snapping up yet another promising young midfielder.
Stewart Lewis says
Well analysed, Gary.
Fans get fixated on the headline figures of transfer fees (hence the myth of the “free transfer”). In truth, we should think of a playing budget – including headline fees, of course, but most importantly taking into account wage commitments.
The club does ‘get it’. Thus the intense efforts to get Hooper and RvW off the wage bill, almost irrespective of the transfer fee involved. We’re in a similar position with other players, and it will be a significant factor in the business we’ll be trying to achieve in the next three days.
I expect to see departures and arrivals by Wednesday night – or at least I expect midnight oil to be burned in the attempt to make them happen.
Gary Field says
@1 Tony – thanks for your reply. The gist of the article is intended to be that, despite parachute payments and Redmond transfer fee, the vast majority of this season’s income – 90+% – is already going to be absorbed by wages for players under contract. Alex Neil probably doesn’t have the flexibility many perceive.
@2 Stewart. The problem is the huge difference between Premier League TV monies – £65m last year and £100m this – and the monies received by Championship clubs – less than £10m each. Relegation clauses simply don’t cover it and I think City are in the position where, even with reduced Championship wages, they’re struggling to move players on.
Alex B says
Another problem with city’s transfer policy is having a clear idea what they want, as in the so called young French defender it seems a fee, wages had all been agreed but then the club comes out and say this has been put on the back burner till after we get a striker strange way to conduct a transfer.
Bassong we hear that 2 clubs want him but can’t afford both a fee and his wages give him a free transfer.
Lafferty Cardiff are interested if AN don’t want him again cut your loses and give him a fee let him restart his career.
Russell Martin a right back never in a month of Sunday’s will he be a centre Half if he is not happy at right back sell him someone would buy him for a reasonable price.
AN biggest mistake was keeping Dorran and selling Johnson to Derby last season, He then didn’t play Dorrans much and we missed Johnson’s goal threat.
The problem I have is AN is so tactical inept it’s worrying , bring in Steve Bruce to reshape the team
Alex B says
My take on this player is very cinical in as much that I was not sure he wanted a move to Norwich in the first place.
He knew his time at Everton was over and knew that AN was more than interested in him, possibly offered the same money he was on at Everton and no one else was interested.
Wasn’t getting game time due to a niggling injury and City needed personnel in to try an avoid relegation (unsuccessful again).
Everton overpriced him and City paid in the hope he would get fit and help the cause (unsuccessful again).
Before the start of the season he came out and said he was here for the long haul and wanted promotion with city.
I see this as away not to lose any potential tranfer money by not asking for a move his body language is saying he is not really interested in being in the championship with city if the rumours at correct and Moyes wants him at Sunderland and City can get all or most back do the deal
el dingo says
Our record in recent transfer dealings is gruesome. End of, really.
And you cannot get rid of players nobody else wants on their books, come hell or high water. We are still paying players literally nobody else wants.
Extensions for Whittaker and Turner tipped me over the edge I’m afraid. I had high hopes of Spearo but I’m really starting to wonder…
Gary Fiield says
@7 el dingo – there seems much confusion over the Turner contract extension, which, actually was exactly the same as the Wes and Tettey extensions.
All three had their contracts renegotiated back in 2014, following relegation, with all three guaranteed an automatic 1 year extension in 2016 if the club got promotion at first time of asking in 2015 – which, obviously happened.
Hope that helps?
The Frenchman must be wholly confused. One minute he’s sitting in the stand watching a dull bore draw, the next he’s on a plane back to la belle France. This summer Window has been a bizarre farce, conducted with total incompetence, the li,e of which we have come to expect. The Portuguese fellow has dissapeared, has he been speaking to forest? Has his club changed its mind on selling him? Is he picking carrots in Wisbech? Why don’t they just announce the damn thing? So far we’ve got two free goalkeepers, a reserve winger and an injured Spurs midfielder. Strikers we have none.
Dave H says
I think the other point about the extensions for Whittaker & Turner is that the rules regarding loans have changed for this season. Clubs can no longer rely upon the short term loan system to cover injuries etc so it’s vital to ensure there’s depth in the squad. While those 2 players aren’t people that I’d particularly want to play, there is logic in keeping on players who they know and know the system we play.
el dingo says
Thanks Gary – I sometimes think you have to have a degree in Economics to understand the ins and outs of footy finance. Like many of us I get the Club accounts every year as a (very) minor shareholder and struggle to comprehend them:-)
It didn’t seem to be reported that way at the time re Turner, although the other two were to be fair. I hardly object to extensions for Wessi and Tettey anyway!
#10 Dave H makes a very valid comment too.
Let’s hope for the best in the next 36 hours.