Patience Is A Virtue In Boro’s Transfer Pursuit

Patience is a virtue: That should be the new club motto. Certainly when the transfer window is open.

Boro’s shopping strategy over the summer has had the stony-faced intensity of World Staring Out Championship final.  They have pitched the project to their targets, courted them, flattered them and sold them a vision and a role in it. Then they have made their offer – fair, firm and final – to the other club.

Then they have dug in and waited. And stared. And waited. And stared. And waited. Until the opposition cracked, broke down in tears and agreed to every demand.

Boro have played the long game and been successful in their slow and steady courting of Jelle Vossen, Patrick Bamford, Adam Clayton and Kike Garcia in a productive summer.

It has been fascinating to see their fully-focused and ruthless approach.

At times in the past the recruitment policy felt like a month of window-shopping at Harrods and Harvey Nics followed by a frantic late-night trolly dash round Asda.

Now it is a painfully long process starting with months of in-depth scouting and analysis on how and where they would fit into the team, followed by a hard sell on the football side to the target and a some hard-ball talk with his club.

It is a persistent, methodical, determined and diligent approach to the transfer market that has certainly paid dividends this summer.

Boro have got all priority targets the manager set out in May – and got value for money too.

Belgian international schemer Vossen finally arrived at Boro on deadline day after an dogged 18- month pursuit by the club by the scouting staff and two managers.

Boro have played a blinder in that chase. It has been an object lesson in the new determined, and slightly devious, approach.

They declared their hand on Vossen over a year ago and he almost signed on deadline day when Tony Mowbray was still in charge. He had visited Rockliffe and been impressed by the training set-up, the people and by Steve Gibson’s ambition.

That deal fell through. He was on his way to Teesside when the Genk hierarchy were spooked by a rival bid from Cardiff and changed their mind. The Cardiff bid later fell through… but it had sowed the seeds. Vossen had set his mind on Boro.

This summer he told Genk he wanted to leave – but only to Boro.

Boro lodged an inquiry and said they were keen – but only at the right price. They valued him at less than £4m. Genk wanted more than £6m. Boro walked away and told the Belgians to get in touch if anything changed.

Genk then tried to get other clubs involved in an auction – Olympiakos and Feyenoord were keen – but to no avail. The player rejected a chance to talk to clubs and waxed lyrical in the Belgian press about the challenge of England and even said as much on his club’s own website: He wanted to go to Boro.

That sparked a tongue in cheek #FreeJelleVossen campaign launched by Boro fans to free our hashtag hostage from Genk where he was portayed as being held against his will as a prisoner of conscience.

*Campaign logo designed by Steve Welsh (@miniboro_dotcom)
*Campaign logo designed by Steve Welsh (@miniboro_dotcom)

On his arrival he even mentioned the campaign. It was surreal  and light hearted but the overt flirting by legions of Boro fans will have made him felt wanted and reinforced his determination to make the move.

But while all the noise was going on at the Genk end as their suits looked to sell the player and managers and chairmen came and went and mooted moves fell through,  Boro left their offer on the table, kept their heads down and got on with their other business.

In the past the reaction to being rebuffed would have been to pile more money on the table to push a deal through – a course many fans were urging – but not now. They just waited and worked on alternatives and lined up a Plan B.

After months without movement, Genk were facing the prospect of going into the season with an unhappy player while new boss Alex McLeish needed funds to reshape his squad, and eventually they called and asked to talk.

So ruthless Boro have got another priority target – and on very advantageous terms.

Vossen is arriving on an initial year’s loan for a fee of around £1.2m – a bargain – with an option to buy at a fixed price next year.  If Vossen is a hit and Boro are promoted and exercise their option, the overall package will come to £4.75m – a bargain.

And the club will have effectively pushed the bulk of the cost into the next accounting period for Financial Fair Play. That is a great result.

Boro have played the long game all summer and are getting good at it now, although frustrated fans have gone through agonies when the twists and turns of a deal has gone public.

But the signing of Kike was equally drawn out and methodical.  Aitor Karanka had to “persuade” the striker he would flourish in England and was a perfect fit with Boro. He took six weeks and several visits to sunny summer Rockliffe with his agents and family and a lot of long chats about football philosophy and his would-be starring role in Karanka’s team to  convince him that Boro were a better bet than his Spanish suitors.

But that was under the radar so supporters were unaware of it and weren’t tortured by the twists.  The Adam Clayton and Patrick Bamford signings though were very public.

On the surface were drawn out “sagas” but while supporters fretted, Boro remained calm and confident throughout.  They had done the groundwork, sold the Karanka ideology to their targets and broadly agreed the terms with the clubs. The rest was just waiting for the usual kinks and wrangles to work themselves out.

In both cases, while fans had the jitters over imagined cock-ups and conspiracies, the club remained relaxed. Karanka – who doesn’t talk about other team’s players – went as far as giving Bamford a 20-goal target for the season.

But a lot of Boro fans would have given up on them, blown them out for asking for time to think. Some got in a real paddy with Bamford on Twitter and made their point forcefully, if not diplomatically.

How dare he want to mull over a move to mighty Boro at a pivotal point in his career!  And how soft were the club to let him take the Micky like that? We should tell him to sign on here and now or leg it! Or words to that effect.

But it doesn’t work like that. Just because we, as fans, would walk over broken glass to play for Boro doesn’t mean players with no affiliation would.

Professionals are pragmatists and their primary concerns are: Will I get a game? Will it advance my career? Will I win things? Will I get more money?

Football is a precarious business. One bad choice, one injury, one high-profile mistake, one personality clash with a manager and you can be sidelined and a has-been before you know it. There is always a lot to mull over.

And even when things are largely agreed the party-of-the-third-part, small print needs closely scrutinsing by agents, lawyers, tax specialists and sometimes needs translating and the overseas financials need clearing too.

But patience is a virtue. We have said that several times this summer. And, boringly, it remains true.

Fans may not like that. The very concept is sharply at odds with the now, now, now immediacy of the modern world. But no matter how instantaneous the internet has made information flow and “buy now” transactions take place, in real life the wheels of some things still turn at a mundane pace.

Good. This is spending they must get right. There is no gift receipt.

In the Championship with gates down and the FFP rules tightening quickly, cash is limited. And Boro are in competition with bigger clubs with bigger budgets and Premier League parachute payments that mean FFP has no impact on them.

Boro have to get maximum bang for their buck so have set out to get their transfer done methodically and properly rather than quickly.

You can always solve a hold-up by throwing money at it – but Boro don’t have that option any more. And even if they did, it doesn’t always get results. We know that only too well.

A more measured style means transfers are a year or more in the making.

Vossen has been a target for a year. Kike since March. Bamford since January. Clayton since May. Nsue and Abella were watched last term. New boy Yanic Wildschut said Boro were watched him two years ago and he knew of Boro’s revived interest months ago.

So Boro are taking their time on signings in what can be a very difficult and complex market. But that means they are thoroughly researched: they know exactly how the player’s skill-set will complement the team, what their strengths and weaknesses are, what systems and shapes and tempos they are suited to, how much they will cost, when they may be available.

And there is plenty of time to work on a shrewd deal that is value for money for the club. Bor now angle for short term deals with extensions in the club’s favour, with bonuses based on productivity and the fee broken down into a payment schedule that fits the new FFP accountancy regime and sweetened with add-ons based on promotion – that is, payable if and when Boro are in a far better position to pay.

For Boro it means more panic buys. No more internal exiles on £30,000 a week for a season of simmering, no more toxic bumps in the wage bill hampering the manager and the club.

If Boro are to get promoted in a Championship distorted by parachute payments they have to make every quid count on the pitch. They have found away of doing that. Although, of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Now it is down to Aitor Karanka to shape his Conquistadors in a potent force.

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132 thoughts on “Patience Is A Virtue In Boro’s Transfer Pursuit

  1. I’m glad I didn’t go for the third glass of Merlot, this financial stuff needs a clear head!

    OK, AV you seem to be suggesting that the club has generally been running around a £10m operating deficit or so since we were relegated – that would actually mean non-compliance with FFP for last season if the limit was £8m – but perhaps we squeezed in as Exmil argues that there may be other significant factors at work.

    However, you seem to also suggest that the wage bill has probably increased from £15m to £20m over the summer, whilst the permitted deficit has reduced by £2m – that’s £7m extra to offset by other means, which in reality could only be addressed by selling players at the end of this season – unless Boro plan to gamble on one more season and incur a transfer embargo in January 2016. It must also mean our option to buy Vossen is entirely dependent on getting promotion, otherwise how could another £4m be financed?

    **AV writes: That’s how I understand it. This season is a big push. Gibbo has been prepared to fund it because as FFP closes in and spending is squeezed it is now or never. But is not a cataclysmic risk. Some of the cost has been deferred by scheduling transfer fees into the next financial period and beyond. Some of the players brought in are on loans. Some of the players on the books could be cashed in if necessary. That will depend on how close we come this season. And on gates.

    Meanwhile, behind the scenes they are going ahead with developing the scouting network that may be needed to either beef up for a top flight survival battle, tweak for another crack or rebuild effectively at a lower level.

    1. Thanks AV that has certainly clarified the situation – it’s a last roll of the dice before Steve Gibson’s wallet is confiscated under the guise of fair play.

      Good discussion everyone, though I wasn’t tempted to finish the bottle PP – I’m an hour ahead here and my four-year old will be waking up in a little over six hours and there’ll be no sympathy for a sore head in the name trying to gain clarity over football finances from him!

  2. Thank you all for the figures.

    I had calculated only (!) a £4m rise in the wage bill but a £5m cut in the FFP limit plus a £3m net transfer spend, making a £12m deficit if we were near as damn it on the FFP limit last year.

    If the FFP limit is only £2m lower (which is a lot more sensible) and transfer fees are to be paid in instalments then it is not as fraught as I feared.

    It’s still a significant risk in my view. The questions now are how necessary the risk is and, perhaps most importantly, have we taken that risk on the right players?

    Time will tell. And whatever my doubts I’m still excited about seeing this new pump-primed squad.

    **AV writes: I think net transfer spend is negligible this summer. The Juke and Emnes income offset the Kike fee and Butterfield and Smallwood just about covers Clayton. There is only the £600k for Wildschut and £500k for Husband and those are in instalments. The latter may also include a discount for Main while the second instalment due to Peterborough for Tomlin may be written off for against Burgess. Transfer spend isn’t really the problem.

    1. AV

      Do we not have to take the deals from the whole calendar year into account? That adds Tomlin, Ayala and the Vossen loan fee.

      Fees don’t seem to be a major factor here but it’s still a consideration I would have thought.

  3. It is worth a look at the transfer business conducted by our promotion rivals – hopefully promotion.

    Often made up of a few players from overseas, a few loan players, a few paid for and a few players on frees/unassigned.

    Basically what we have done.

    Forest spent £5.5m on Assombalonga, one championship player. That may be our total spend. As for McCormack…

    We do not live in a parallel universe.

  4. Len

    If we bring Baker in it is sure to come back along with using his loaf, that’s the way the cookie crumbles and how much dough we are losing however you slice it.

    I suppose that takes the biscuit.

  5. Len,

    There was a chance I could have been an accountant at one point but thankfully the chance fell to Alves and I escaped.

  6. My head hurts trying to follow all this. Clubs have top lawyers and accountants on this, juggling money about to avoid and challenge the rules. All I know is that Steve Gibson is the only ones who knows for sure where we are, where we are going and how much it is going to cost. And I trust him to do whatever is necessary to put as much in as he can. I just wish the people who criticise him (and don’t go to the match) would do the same.

  7. Just changing the tack from the head scratching accounting. Philip Tallentire in the Gazette when picking his new starting eleven was still playing with one up front. With the quality of firepower we now have at our disposal I’ll be absolutely flabbergasted if we continue to play with one up top. Aitor has never been one for square pegging and I can’t for the life of me believe that he will put a guy like Vossen with a goalscoring record of one every two games in the hole behind the striker. It’d be madness.

    **AV writes: I think he’ll go 4312.

  8. A few more thoughts on FFP:

    If Boro’s accounts for 2014/15 showed a greater loss than was permitted under FFP, could they then avoid the transfer embargo from January 2016 by demonstrating that they had already taken steps to stay within the 2015/16 limits? Or do they have to wait until Summer 2016 for the ban to be lifted?

    I assume a ‘transfer ban’ is probably just a ban on registering new players – otherwise how could you reduce your wage bill?

    In theory, the clubs which stay within FFP limits would share out the fines imposed on clubs who gained promotion by exceeding the limit. Since these fines are pretty harsh (around £6m for the first £10m over and then 100% of anything over £10m). Given QPR’s huge loss and Leicester’s overspend Boro could be entitled to a couple of million – which could be included in the accounts perhaps?

    The accountable profit made from selling players seems not as straightforward as just the amount you get for the player. What you paid for that player gives him a asset value on day one that depreciates to zero by the end of his contract – the profit/loss is the difference between how much you get and what his current ‘book’ value is. So it’s probably in the club’s favour that transfer fees paid for our players are generally low if they need to reduce losses by selling.

  9. I don’t do Twittering and Tweeting but the article from the KIngstonian Programme about Dulwich Hamlet – see AV’s Twitterfeed thing at the top – seems very interesting and in a way relevant to some parts of the debate on here yesterday. A copy must be obtained for the full read.

    I remember Ken Bates admonishing a Chelsea fan who told him season tickets were too expensive that he should get Sky Sport.

    Anyway, have a read and UTB

    John R

  10. Karanka has to play 4312 hasn’t he? First of all we need to be more potent in attack and secondly he has Kike, Vossen, Bamford and Tomlin to accomodate one of which is going to be a benchwarmer until injuries intervene.

  11. Good piece by big Phil in the Gazette, but I’m pretty sure the North East’s last dometic trophy before Boro’s wasn’t 1955 but 1973ish when the Mackems won the FA cup, come on Phil, get your facts right!

    The Gazette reports Vossen playing with Kike in the open training session, who was in goal I wonder?

  12. Isn’t 4312 three central midfielders and no wingers?

    It’s possible but wouldn’t that make the Wildschut and Nsue signings a bit odd, whilst also leaving Adomah square-pegged/benched?

    I think it’ll still be 4231 or 4411 with Vossen probably replacing Tomlin and Wildschut challenging Reach. Bamford on the bench.

    1. Andy R –

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see Karanka play without wingers, they are notoriously inconsistent and we all know Karanka hates inconsistency.

  13. I agree Andy, but I can’t see how else he is going to do it and all the indications are Vossen and Bamford are going to be regular starters. By the way if we keep this mini debate going a little longer one of us will hit the 100 before the blogs ‘main’ strikers notice….

  14. Top quality team work there Nigel. Exceptional one-two with you nicely dropping deep at the end there to allow me to thrust into the space and finish.

    Our new forwards could learn a thing or two.

  15. We certainly need to get all our highly paid big hitters on the pitch – Personally I would go for 4-1-3-2 at home, which is what Liverpool mainly play – Leadbitter as the holding midfielder with two from Vossen, Kike and Bamford up front and then it kind of depends on who’s on form.

    In theory Karanka now has more than enough options to change the formation throughout the game to anything he wants – though as I’ve said before I think we actually currently play 4-4-1-1 with orthodox wingers.

    Maybe we should stop trying to be trendy with formations as it’s only the Championship not the Champions League – where top level teams can cancel each other out. If you think your players are better than the oppositions then 4-4-2 would get the job done against most teams in the second tier – plus the players will probably know what to do.

    But ultimately it’s players that combine together that win games not formations – so lets just play our best ones.

  16. A thought

    I wonder what Steve Gibson would think if he read some of the views about the transfer dealings on this message board?

    As I posted earlier, a lot of clubs have had a similar pattern to recruitment. The key thing is, has ours brought in better bangs for bucks? Time will tell or, especially for Len, the proof of the pudding……

  17. Ian

    Didn’t AV mention that Gibson said something along the lines of “I must be ******* crackers”? It seems some of us agree with him!

    For him as much as us fans, I really hope we pull this off. Goodness knows he deserves it.

  18. We could with a proper training session on here with regards to Boro and FFP. Think about it too much and it gives a headache, without the bottle of Merlot. Was it from Lidl Werder??

    When we talk about wages at £20m, I assume that means the whole kit and caboodle.

    The running of the Riverside, Rockcliffe, all the staff entailed therein. Then we have AK, who will be on more than TM was (600K?), all his staff and there are plenty of them, or there was in Marbella.

    Now start on the players.

    Then there is talk of increased gates to help make this a little more viable. If we had 6000 extra for the remaining 23 games at £20 a shot, (remember AV telling us about the £10 ticket) that only comes out at £2.4m. I guess SG knows what he is doing?

    And finally whilst we are all worrying about the Boro, maybe AV can enlighten us about some of our other Championship teams in these terms. Gates help, but not that much unless you are Brighton, but theirs have dropped I believe.

    **AV writes: Most of our similar sized rivals (Derby, Forest, Ipswich, Brighton etc) not only have consistently higher gates but also have afar higher take per ticket that Boro who make an average of less than a tenner a head. That is partly because of the demographics (a lot more than average family zone/kids and OAP concessions at the Riverside) but also because Boro haven’t raised season tickets now for nine years. That means against rising costs (utilities, taxes, rates, wages etc) they have pegged their main sources of income. Which in commercial terms is probably a bit daft (and has created a political monster… imagine the uproar if they raised it substantially now). Our rivals are taking upwards of £100k a game more than Boro on matchday activities.

  19. Nigel

    At least he doesn’t have to worry about the underpass, has a comfy seat and free scran. Mind you it costs an extra £11,999,610 per season, wonder if he gets an early bird discount?

  20. It appears increasingly to me that Financial Fair Play is a misnomer and is an extremely blunt instrument that fails to address the unlevel playing field that exists among clubs in the Championship.

    Currently in the Championship, there are ten clubs (Birmingham, Blackpool, Bolton, Blackburn, Wolves, Wigan, Reading, Norwich, Fulham and Cardiff) that have been relegated from the PL in the last four years and would qualify under current rules for parachute payments of different levels.

    This essentially gives these clubs greater spending power when it comes to wages and transfer fees – OK it doesn’t appear to have done them much good but it still raises the market rate, in which a club like Boro has to operate in.

    Also, FFP operates in a world where PL clubs hoover up the best young talent and offer them wages that we can’t remotely match. Since most of them are not ready for PL football they then loan them out to Championship clubs and expect them to pay a significant portion of these wages – this further distorts the market to which clubs like Boro have no control over.

    Then there’s the issue that AV raised in a recent reply about how ticket prices vary quite a lot depending on the economic circumstances in different regions of the country – FFP currently takes no account of this. Perhaps they should be lobbied to allow a club to inject a subsidy to reflect the loss of income if your fans are subject to economic hardship or lower average wages.

    I can agree with the principle that clubs should operate more or less debt free – what I can’t agree with is not allowing a club owner to help to subsidise their club to compete in market that FFP is failing to control. Is their any evidence that FFP is bringing down costs as quickly as they are bring down spending limits? I think not.

    We may soon get to the situation where a club is penalised for not staying within FFP limits but has actually spent less on wages and transfers than many other teams which were deemed to have stayed within the rules – that can’t be right and I think the system needs to be reviewed.

    Steve Gibson is taking a gamble this year because he knows that very soon he won’t be able to inject funds and that probably will leave Boro’s budget outside the top 30 or so clubs – and FFP won’t really address the market forces that Boro have to compete in.

  21. Excellent post Werdermouth. And I think you’re right that the sentiments behind FFP are virtuous but the current means of imposing it probably do not work.

    Football will never be a truly level playing field – some clubs will always be better resourced than others – but there may be fairer ways of making clubs sustainable and keeping leagues competitive.

    I wonder I’d a blunter, more transparent approach could work. Could you have a squad wage and transfer spend cap for each league, whilst abandoning parachute payments?

    For arguments sake let’s say that Premier League clubs would be permitted to spend £50m net and have a £50m total wage bill; Championship clubs could have £15m parameters, perhaps each rising with inflation.

    It wouldn’t make clubs’ sustainable, that would be up to them, but at least you wouldn’t have a huge distortion within one league if the levels were thoughtfully set.

    Without parachute payments promoted clubs would have to be very careful. Perhaps it could be made law that all players in a relegated squad would have to take the same percentage wage cut in order to ensure their club could survive at a lower level. They would certainly be easier to move on, though perhaps harder to sign in the first place.

    Just (not particularly thought through) musings.

  22. Continuing the mindless musing, perhaps the another part of the solution is simply to remove all Champions League payments.

    That would solve some of the distortion within the Premier League whilst giving FIFA a heck of a wedge to invest in grass roots and other worthwhile projects. You know how good they are with money.

  23. Thanks Andy – I agree that some form of overall squad wage cap for each league would be a fairer system and you could still impose a debt limit, which would mean it would be down to the owner to inject any capital and not risk the existence of the club with a debt burden.

    It would be difficult to put the genie back in the bottle as far as income from the Champions League is concerned – and that acts as a distortion to the PL in much the same way as parachute payments do for the Championship – I could imagine a European Super League breakaway happening if the ‘big’ clubs didn’t get their way – maybe we should let them as can any club without a billionaire owner actually compete?

    The problem in the Championship is that it is the stepping stone to the riches of the PL- with a £120m prize for just getting there. The huge financial gulf can’t really be managed in either direction from one year to another if the gap between the budgets for a club in each league continues to widen – FFP is not addressing this anomaly.

    **AV writes: Another problem is that different league’s operate different systems of Financial Fair Play rules. In League One and Two it is tied to a fixed percentage of income which obviously gives bigger clubs with bigger gates an advantage. The Championship operates a system that limits cash injections irrespective of income or existing debt levels. The Premier League don’t have any system. UEFA run a system that allows clubs to balance the books over a three year time scale. And there is no provision for teams moving between different regimes, other than the parachute payments which effectively make a mockery of the system those clubs are moving into. I think it is only a question of time before they are challenged legally.

    Football needs regulation and transparent financial management but it has to encourage and reward good governance, control wage levels and restrict escalating debt. Bolton have £160m of debt, Brighton £120m, Forest approaching £100m. Yet all are under more pressure to restrict new cash injections from owners over 12 months than they are to tackle that debt.

  24. Had a right mare of a 400mile round trip to watch the open session Friday, but well worth it.

    Vossen and Wildschut certainly look the biz, the latter can certainly shift up a couple of gears. Dimi played both halfs, which may or not suggest something.

    Who is RBS? please don’t say The bank, he had input in tactics, I think. Nsue puzzled me. He appeared to back off whenever he got the ball. At the end Aitors put his arm round him, was talking to him and Nsue shrugged him off and walked down the tunnel chuntering to himself, Whoops.

    Woody watched from sidelines, I suspect he will be doing a lot of that.

    **AV writes: When I arrived Woody was doing a very bendy yogo stretching session in the tunnel.

  25. Talking to people the other day, remember back in the fifties and sixties, they used to lay on match special buses to get fans to the game. Did you have to pay or were they free? Some said yes, a tanner; some said no, free. Still cant remember. And when did they stop them?

  26. AV

    Interesting response to Werdermouth.

    Under Championship FFP, how do you think the Football League are expecting Bolton, Brighton and Forest to tackle their debt without cash injections? Are they expected to operate at a profit and pay down their debt over time?

    I understand that FFP is not necessarily interested in debts but the Football League do state that part of the aim of FFP is to “establish a league of financially self-sustaining professional football clubs”.

    Not making provisions for debt whilst having a wildly lucrative Premier League above would, ironically, seem to encourage unsustainable spending in a bid to get promoted.

    Perhaps the only fair way for fair play is to have the FA set ticket pricing, then all gate receipts and television money go to a central pot to be distributed evenly across all 92 clubs. Clubs can then gain their own financial advantage through their individual sponsorship deals transfer dealings and possibly prize money.

    1. I think many of these clubs owe their debt to the owner and don’t pay any interest on it – in much the same way as it was at Boro before Steve Gibson decided to write it off, which was probably a wise move considering FFP would probably not allow that now.

      Though if at some point the a club owner or their company became insolvent, I imagine the administrators may look to retrieve as much of the money as they could – and that would also probably put a club into administration.

      But since historic debt is not taken into consideration when determining losses then for some clubs it is probably only a paper debt at the moment. Though I think this debt would become a problem if at a future date these clubs wanted to play in UEFA competitions – then it may disqualify them if it’s too high.

      I’ve heard talk of Championship chairmen wanting to change the rules on cash injection because these were initially agreed before the enhanced parachute payments were introduced.

      I’m sure a sensible review would be a good idea, which would take into account many of the issues being raised.

  27. Ingerlund tonight then back to proper football. I will watch the game with some interest. It is sport and I support the national team whatever they play. I want them to win but would swap three points for Boro every time.

    What I am not aware of is the full extent of the international commitments of our squad. I know Ben Gibson got some game time for England but that is about it. Ideally we want all our players bedding in.

    **AV writes: Big Ken is away with Nigeria too.

  28. AV

    Cheers, ironic the only two players away are centre backs and we have been leaky in defence. Just have to score more than Huddersfield.

  29. I like the claimed ethos of FFP, even if it’s devilishly difficult to apply in practice.

    I’ve always struggled to raise enthusiasm for Formula 1 because (or so it seems to me) winning is generally more to do with the car than with the driver. Give me a race with identical cars where it was all about the driver’s skill and then I’d be interested.

    As I read it, that’s what FFP is attempting to do. Since the advent of parachute payments/start of the PL/removal of maximum wage/purchase of Alf Common/introduction of professionalism (delete according to your favoured timescale for ‘things going bad’) football has increasingly been about buying success (we can’t complain too much – we had our tilt).

    Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a level playing field in resources and winning was determined largely by those who deployed those resources to best effect? Sadly I can’t see it coming close to happening.

    **AV writes: I think part of the logic was also to impose a notional spending ceiling so clubs could peg and drive down wages by telling players and agents quite legitimately that they couldn’t afford their demands. That seems to have largely been a success. Wage levels and transfer spending in the Championship (outside the clubs with parachutes) IS down. Markedly so.

    1. Plus a few notable exceptions where some clubs are gambling on promotion – for example as you said earlier Boro’s wage bill is increasing from around £16m to £20m. I dare say Forest and Derby are not cutting back much either – so perhaps wage bills are probably only falling in around half the teams in the Championship –

      Though you’re right that it must be having some downward pressure as Boro were able to hold out for paying a lot less on some of their major deals.

      Do you think Boro’s wage bill is mainly increasing because Karanka wants essentially two quality players for each position? so the spend is maybe more evenly spread rather than being concentrated on a small group of players as in the recent past.

      Perhaps, in the eyes of clubs lower down the budget league they would see Boro as one of the clubs that the system is there to bring into line. Though, in our defence I’d say we have little choice and are merely trying to be competitive because we are running out of opportunities.

      **AV writes: I’ve just been number-crunching the Championship transfer window for tomorrow’s column: only seven teams had a positive net transfer spend. Boro were third biggest with £1.2m net. Only Wigan and Derby were higher. Two teams broke even and 15 were in credit on transfer dealings. Last season the figures were the other way round.

      There’s been a massive turnover in players at almost every club with the main reason being existing deals being allowed to run down and – generally – new players signed on lower wages. Brighton and Reading have been doing some major clawing back of cash through transfer dealing while the likes of Bolton, Forest, Derby, Ipswich, Blackburn and Boro have all trimmed their squad quite drastically with exits in the double figures and with cash raised concentrated on a few big transfers. The relegated sides have been carrying out major culls to cut wage bills drastically. It’s not a complete picture though as wage bill figures are not available yet.

      1. Should be another interesting read – perhaps transfer fees are going to be the first to feel the effect or it could be the knock-on effect of having more players available who are out of contract? I wonder also if there’s been an increase in the loan market as clubs look to get better use out of every pound – sounds like I may have to open the Merlot tomorrow…

  30. Thanks for the wine tips Ian – and I see Blue Nun do actually produce a Merlot (though I’ve still not checked out what Lidl has to offer Pedro). Len, I’m afraid you may need to invest in a Sainsbury’s three litre box of Merlot and a straw before the international break is over and all talk of FFP returns to the background once more.

  31. Werdermouth

    There is something to be said for old fashioned bottles with corks.

    So versatile, you can cut them in half for studs and even better, stick them in your ears when half time comes and the pundits pontificate. I suppose you could use them as eyepatches for when I post.

    I saw a birthday card showing Pinot Grigio being adminstered via drip though clearly one cannot recommend that, other grape varietals are available, the practice may be in contravention of recommended weekly alcohol limits.

    Amazing really when you consdier the WHO has spent nothing on Post Xmas Slump. That isnt the band who most certainly consumed more than 14 units a week.

  32. Maybe it’s my Boronoia – but you can just guess who would be the first club to be punished under FFP rules in the Championship would be, can’t you?

    Still, unless something major changes I can’t see any real additions required in January, so we may end up in transfer credit, or nil outlay in the next window.

    1. Now you’ve done it, Smog. You’ve thrust a finger deep into that particular raw nerve (there are many – I have a whole herd of bete noirs). This one is the raw nerve of ’86 victimisation.

      Leading up to ’86, clubs aplenty went bust and simply walked away from their debts to make a fresh start. Come Boro’s turn, no we had to be made an example of. Apart from moving other goalposts, we were forced to repay first. Furthermore the FA seemed to show total disinterest in the fact a grand old club was within minutes of going out of existence.

      So it would be entirely to form for Man City to require new oil fields to be discovered to fund their success and ‘Arry (the serial bankrupter) to spend his way for QPR to get to the promised land only for the authorities to decide that enough was enough and they needed to be draconian with Boro.

      Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

  33. Nikeboro

    Does knowing they are out to get us mean we are paranoid?

    Do we exhibit any other symptons, is it drink or drug induced, are there any other delusional factors?

    I am no expert in such fields but using reverse logic, if doesn’t look like a duck, talk like a duck or walk like a duck it probably isn’t a duck, hence we are not paranoid.

    Anyway, Ingerlund out of the way so were are back to out 00.17 slot on BBC.

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