As the season ticket sales pitch continues, Michael Conroy investigates press speculation suggesting that KLD will give LJ a £60m Championship war chest, should we achieve promotion...
Back in the days of the Drummaville Niall Quinn bemoaned the fact that other clubs were padding out transfer fees for targets because they knew we had some cash to spend. That was sensible. Quinn never spoke about transfer budgets really and you can see the merit in that. Transfers can be a little like poker and showing your hand early is a bit of a no no in poker. It was, therefore, a surprise to read news that news had leaked out of the club concerning our transfer budget should we go up. That may be an unnecessary bugbear though because, ultimately, we have a young billionaire in charge of the club. It is slightly unprofessional though. That said, if our transfer budget is to be £60m in the Championship, how does that measure up in terms of what we need and what other clubs have done before? What does this mean for KLD’s initially stated long term plan? Is this a straight push for the Premier League at the first attempt?
The starting point is really looking at what we have on the decks at the moment in terms of playing staff. Whilst I don’t want to single out any players you have to look at League One standards and what is good enough to get us out of this division and compare that with the top half of the Championship. There’s a chasm; that cannot be denied. That’s partly down to the fact that we are now successful in League One. We came down as a team devoid of confidence but with a bit of football inside us still. We have learned about League One over the past few years and modelled the squad around getting out the division. Strength, naughtiness, whatever it takes. Before we start talking about players out of contract, if we are to mount a challenge in the Championship we need a face lift. If you look at the physique of League One players compared to even the Championship, let alone the Premiership you can see the difference. Beasts live in the basement. You look at the creative players in our squad and the main man is 35 years old. For what it's worth I would renew McGeady’s contract at all costs. That’s not because I think he can do in the Championship what he can do in League One, but it’s because he could act as a mentor for a young replica. When you watch him with Jones you can see that, there is absolutely no doubt that young players can learn from McGeady. The same can be said for Leadbitter. His leadership and anchor in the River Wear make him a great candidate to remain in the dressing room. Beyond that? I’m struggling a bit.
Is £60m enough? Well, assuming we buy 11 players that makes it around £5m a man. Considering how much we’ve been spending recently that seems opulent. Like you’ve been living off super noodles and someone whacks a steak in front of you. In the Championship however, does it buy you enough? That’s a difficult one to answer. If we look back to when we first entered this hell hole. In the first season Luton, Barnsley and (sorry) Charlton went up. Barnsley made a profit in the transfer market, Charlton spent about £200k and Luton made a profit. It is possible to maintain your position without spending £60m, but those clubs were in different positions. Years of rebuilding had moved the clubs into developing talent. We have cut academy funding and signed players to do a job. Very different. The next season, Coventry broke even, as did Rotherham and Wycombe. Of those teams Barnsley seem to be making a real fist of it in the division. Imagine what £60m could do for us. Across the whole of the Championship transfer fees are relatively low with the biggest overall spend falling to Forest who splashed out around £13.5m. The value is found in loans and free transfers and that seems to be the way forward for Sunderland. If there’s one thing history should have taught us it’s that value on the pitch cannot always be measured in transfer fee. N’Dong v Phillips is a perfect example for this.
All in all, the £60m figure seems huge given the fees in the Championship, but we are in a position where everything needs to change to gear us up for the next level. There is one thing in our favour though. Whilst I don’t want to suggest there is anything good about this horrible pandemic, being entirely selfish for a little while, it has stripped clubs of their income for over a year. Where that happens sacrifices need to be made. Where other clubs are offloading wages and tightening belts, someone at our club has told the press that we have a war chest. If that’s to be believed then we may be about to see something special unfold at Sunderland.