My affection for the US political drama The West Wing is limitless. It is impeccably written, highly intelligent, and often prophetic. It also introduced to me the term “The Lame Duck Senate”.
These are Senators that have been voted out but remain in power until the new senate is sworn in. It is customary that Lame Duck Senators avoid voting on bills that go against the will of their constituency. Therefore, while they remain in office, their power is limited.
Why bring this up? Since his joining, Stuart Webber has given a deadline for his departure. With no contract extension over the summer, he is due to depart next year. His tenure is effectively 9/10th’s complete. While he has not been voted out, his decisions will reverberate far beyond his stay.
Some of his decisions have been unmitigated successes. In particular revolutionizing the training facilities, from the comical, to the innovative. He also ensured we were a force to be reckoned with in the Championship, with two promotions and a record points haul. For that, we thank you, Stuart.
When he arrived he spoke at length of ‘the sins of the past’ and previous regime ‘p!ssing money up the wall’. Indicating the financial situation he inherited was from overspending. While our financial situation is always precarious thanks to our ownership, it’s not completely true that seasons of Premier League revenues were frittered away. Money had been spent on future prospects or players that retained their value. Of course, there were also some well-known ‘poor signings’.
While there were budget deficits when Stuart arrived, they were covered. McNally and Moxey era signings underwrote everything Webber has done. He was able to sell*:
Alex Pritchard (10M)
Jacob Murphy (10M)
Jonny Howson (4M)
Cameron Jerome (1M)
Graham Dorrans (1M)
Declan Rudd (1M)
James Maddison (20M)
Josh Murphy (10M)
Nelson Oliveira (1M)
Ben Godfrey (20M)
Jamal Lewis (15M)
… and eventually Max Aarons (another potential 25M) and Todd Cantwell
That’s over £120M, or put another way, approximately 3/4 seasons of Championship budget deficit covered. Unfortunately, our business model has remained unchanged, and those deficits will still require filling in our next Championship foray. So as Stuart sold the Murphy’s for 10M a piece, the next Director will sell Dowell.
When joining. the strategy was buy low, sell high, or develop young talent for profits. It sounded great. Yet Webber has failed to consistently generate revenue through his signings.
Webber has purchased 43 players so far, about 10 a year. Of those (according to Transfermarkt) he has sold four – Emi Buendia, Marcel Franke, Dennis Srbeny and Marley Watkins – for somewhere between £35-40 worth in nearly five years. That’s ignoring the cost of recruiting 43 players, many of whom barely played, had contracts terminated, were loaned out, now train separately from the main squad, or were never sold. True ‘p!ssing it up the wall’ territory.
Worst of all, we have recently broken our transfer fees record and (in my opinion) I’d be surprised if we see business sustaining profits on too many of the incoming players. Our recruitment, once touted as being a strength, has become a liability.
This would all matter less if Premier League finances were secured. However, under Stuart we’ve also failed to meet the publicised goal of Premier League survival. We had one abysmal Premier season with a handful of atrocious signings, with another record-breaking relegation looking increasingly likely. We are sliding back to the Championship with fewer assets than ever before and nothing that resembles a team.
In short, we have a failed recruitment strategy and a failed Premier League survival strategy.
For me this raises the following questions:
1. Should Stuart still be signing players?
2. Should he be choosing the next manager?
3. Why are we still awaiting Stuart’s contract update?
4. Is it time for Adams to step forward?
Lastly, do we have a Lame Duck Director in our midst? If we’re down by December do we want the same decision-makers at the club signing players and coaches? Or is now the time for a new regime to step in and prepare for the next five years?
Note: Transfer fees are provided from Transfermarkt.com to me in dollars, so I have converted them. Consider them crude approximations.