IT SOUNDS like Boro are gearing up to really give it a go this season. After three years of austerity, cost-cutting and book-balancing Steve Gibson could be ready to sanction some serious spending this summer. It could get exciting.
We’ve already seen some of the surface signs of that activity: a move for proven goal-scorer David Nugent that was knocked back; a move for Real Betis right-back Juanfran that floundered when he got cold feet (although Karanka has since said it could be revived if he finds his nerve/doesn’t get a better offer). Alright, they didn’t come off but they give an indication of the quality and price range Boro are looking at this time round.
Aitor Karanka knows who he wants this summer – and Gibson is prepared to get them. Myself and Juninho’s best mate Phil Tallentire had a chat with the big boss yesterday and he made it clear that he was ready to invest in the team. With Financial Fair Play closing in – another turn of the screw this year will reduce permitted losses by £2m – it could be now or never for Boro.
Boro’s revenue is the lowest of that group of teams that fancy themselves as contenders. Boro have lower crowds and a far lower ticket take per head than Derby, Ipswich, Forest, Brighton etc. Season ticket income, the revenue from shirts, merchandising and hospitality at the Riverside comes to around £6-7m… and Gibbo is ready to invest it all in the team. And most of that could go on new strikers.
Not all that spending will go on transfer fees of course. There are wages. And money for loan deals. Quality players from big clubs on loan are not always cheap. We know that Aitor has got Jose on speed-dial and has already had conversations about Big Ken but there will be others at Stamford Bridge coming this way too. You are allowed up to four from any one club and if Boro can get four like Kenneth Omeruo who are close to being ready for the Chelsea first team rather than drifting towards outer orbit as Josh McEachran seems to be, then they will try and do it.
There will be sales too. Obviously Project Emnes to Swansea is the first to leave but others will follow as Boro try to generate the cash for not just fees but wages for a smaller but more potent squad. As we saw, the team that returned to training this week was a slim-line one with big gaps. The intention is to fill those gaps with quality first team players that will raise the bar and to make sure the existing players are fitter, faster, more focussed and better drilled.
There has been a big investment in the set-up behind the scenes with a level of sports science professionalism and technocratic preparation under ruthless determined Karanka that has echoes of the Steve McClaren era. And with the basics right, Gibson believes the ingredients are there for a serious challenge. And he is ready to fund it.
The club still has to pay it’s running costs – wages, tax, rates, utilities, stewarding and the rest – so there isn’t money to burn. Boro still need to be responsible and well run. He won’t jeopardise the future stability of the club.
But the chairman – who is already putting £1m a month in – is ready to take a calculated gamble and find the funding to give the team an extra gear. He is ready to go right up to the FFP ceiling. In fact the implication was that should Boro be in the mix and the right players become available that the manager believes can make the vital difference then he is ready to gamble on promotion and go through it. In the short term at least.
And it would be a gamble. Success and promotion would bring with it a “fine” on any overspend but then, that could be paid out of the cash sloshing around on the Premier League gravy train. Failure though could mean sanctions up to and including a transfer embargo. But Gibson is ready to take a calculated risk.
A good start and bigger crowds would give him far more wriggle room in that. The single biggest factor in building a good team and meeting the tightening regulations (and having extra financial firepower to fine-tune the team along the way) would be an extra few thousand bums on seats every week. A extra thousand on the gate would bring in £10,000 or so every game; enough to sign and pay a good player at this level. Two thousand enough fund a very great one. Three thousand a great one.
That extra income on the gate would raise the permitted FFP ceiling considerably, make the club more stable and less dependent on the chairman and may cover much of the initial investment. And it would leave the club with options come January.
That backing from the fans is vital if Boro are to mount a serious challenge. Bbut GIbson knows realistically that the crowds will only come back in numbers to support a winning team. It is a chicken and egg situation. Spending now is pump priming.
But a flying start and real momentum may spark renewed enthusiasm, create a buzz around Teesside and bring back lapsed loyalists. An increased gate on a regular basis would give the manager added muscle come the January window and beyond and make the gamble worthwhile.
Boro are currently working hard to close deals for two strikers to give the team the clinical cutting edge that was missing last year. They could fall into place next week. That would be the starting point of a calculated reshaping of a team capable of giving the Championship a good crack.
It has the makings of a significant summer. Bring it on