By Paula Marcus
The start of September is a very strange time for football fans. After surviving three months without football, followed by the rapid number of games occurring in part due to the EFL cup, we are then straight into the first international break. But if we need something to distract us from below par England performances at least there is always the transfer window.
Whilst, unsurprisingly, most of the headlines have been influenced by the vast spending in the top division and across Europe, it may have gone unnoticed that this is also a record breaking window for the Championship too. The divisional spending record has been broken along with many clubs individual spending. In general, there has been three catagories of clubs; the relegated, the rich owner and the less is more.
Obviously the clubs relegated from the Premier League have the luxury of money to burn. Not only do they have the parachute payments to bump up their incoming money, but they are also far more likely to sell players for above average prices. This season’s biggest spenders fit into this category. Middlesbrough managed to spend over £50 million in the last two months. Not only have they probably spent more than any club in recent memory (although Aston Villa might just edge that), they have almost had the biggest signing fee with the £15 or so million they spent on Britt Assombalonga.
Middlesbrough were in the very fortunate position of combining over £30 million in player sales with their parachute payments. Hull City have also been making the most of those payments to boost their squad, spending a total of £14 million so far. Hull have, however, spread that money around, with their highest fee in the window ‘just’ £4 million. Proving that just because you have something you don’t have to use it are Sunderland, whose top fee so far is just £500k.
Despite all the promise that Financial Fair Play (FFP) brought to the smaller clubs in the division, it has so far not lived up to the hype. Clubs with rich owners and are still pumping money into clubs with no regard for the future consequences. It probably doesn’t help that the League has previously seemed unable to do much for past breaches as long as promotion is reached (step forward QPR). Small fines are insignificant against the windfall and promise of the Premier League.
Changes introduced last year aimed at making clubs far more accountable by allowing the League to impose any punishment they see fit, including point deductions. But with this season’s considerable increase in total spending, it seems the new version of FFP hasn’t worried many clubs. The club that should be most concerned are Wolverhampton Wanderers. Not only have they spent around half their FFP allowance for total losses in this window, but they also have the new league record for most spent on a single player (£16 million).
Three of the biggest spenders are predictably last season’s three unsuccessful playoff teams Reading, Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham. Reading have smashed their single player record, giving Fulham £7 million for Sone Aluko just before the window shut.
On top of this, they have also spent a further £4 million, suggesting that promotion is still the primary aim. Sheffield Wednesday’s £11 million signing was technically worth the money, as they opted to make Jordan Rhodes loan permanent. Fulham’s spending was the lowest of the three, topping out at £8 million.
There are a further seven clubs that have spent in excess of £1 million on a single player, putting them in the lower spending side of the spending clubs. After a series of big money and slightly laughable transfers last year, Villa have apparently learnt you can’t always buy promotion. Instead they have spent just over £1 million on their most expensive signing. This seasons current leaders Cardiff City decided their amazing form at the end of last season meant minor tweaks to their squad would be enough, also spending only a few million. A special mention should also go to Ipswich Town, the traditional non-spenders. This season they have been upgraded as they have signed two players for almost £1 million each.
Less is more
Despite all the money flying around this year, there are three clubs who have zero outgoings. QPR are another of the clubs that has apparently learnt lessons about over spending. They have spent the last few seasons trying to balance the books after living beyond their means. This season they have relied on free transfers to strengthen their squad and hopefully elevate them to a mid-table finish. Another team following suit are Nottingham Forest, who have seen no reward for their big spending over the past few seasons, other than a few bans on signing new players.
The two remaining zero spenders are the last two promoted clubs Millwall and Bolton Wanderers. Bolton are just coming out of a period of huge uncertainty and the club are unsurprisingly unwilling to gamble again on their future. Instead they have signed smartly, bringing in five players that featured in the Championship last season hoping that this will be enough to steer them to survival.
With the window shut, clubs now have to hope their squad has the strength and depth to cope until it reopens next year. It remains to be seen which of these new signings will bring the biggest impact, but at least we only have a day or two until football is back.