It`s a connundrum that is often debated by fans of West Bromwich Albion, sometimes intelligently, but more so not.
It`s a connundrum that is often debated by fans of West Bromwich Albion, sometimes intelligently, but more so not. Now this isn`t the fault of the fan, because even the more articulate arguments come from a stand point of ignorance which all fans cannot possibly avoid as the day to day running of a football club is something that no one apart from those responsible for doing so can really understand. However, the debate is whether prudency is a trade-off with ambition in running a football club, or whether if done in the right way it can compliment it?
Jeremy Peace is the majority Shareholder in West Brom, and therefore effectively runs the club. He is known for his maintaining of a steady ship where finances are sound and there are no immediate or indeed long-term fears of financial difficulty of the sort suffered by Leeds United, Portsmouth and more recently Birmingham City. The Premier League itself prides itself on not having clubs fall into liquidation or administration on their watch, but this does not include what happens to clubs after falling into the football league when TV revenue has taken a big cut and players wages are too high to maintain. Portsmouth was the shock that the Premier League and UEFA needed to realise the need to further promote legislation to prevent this from happening. For instance, Michel Platini has set in place rules that unless clubs break even they are not qualified to play in European competition in the coming years. Also more recently the football league have signed up to the Financial Fair Play system which involves Championship clubs not spending more than what they earn in revenue from 2012-2013, as well as Leagues 1 & 2 setting a wage cap to 55% of turnover. These are all steps towards the goal of financial fair play, but this not something that Albion have to worry about, thanks to the tenure of Peace.
Albion`s record transfer fee is £4.75 million pounds invested on Spaniard Borja Valero. Let`s compare this with the record transfer fee`s to date, 29/07/2011, of all the other Premier League Clubs for the coming season.
Arsenal – Andrei Arshavin – £15m
Aston Villa – Darren Bent – £18m
Blackburn Rovers – Andy Cole – £8m
Bolton Wanderers – Johan Elmander – £8.2m
Chelsea – Fernando Torres – £50m
Everton – Marouane Fellaini – £15m
Fulham – Steve Marlet – £11.5m
Liverpool – Andy Carroll – £35m
Manchester City – Sergio Aguero – £38m
Manchester United – Dimitar Berbatov – £30.75m
Newcastle United – Michael Owen – £16m
Norwich City – Robert Earnshaw – £3.5m
Queens Park Rangers – Alejandro Faurlin – £3.5m
Stoke City – Kenwyne Jones – £8m
Sunderland – Asamoah Gyan – £13m
Swansea City – Danny Graham – £3.5m
Tottenham Hotspur – Darren Bent/Luka Modric – £16.5m
West Bromwich Albion – Borja Valero – £4.75m
Wolves – Kevin Doyle – £6.5m
Wigan Athletic – Mauro Boselli – £6.5m
The figures show that only the three newly promoted sides have lower record transfer fees than Albion, who about to enter their 6th season as a Premier League club.
To some this illustrates a lack of ambition or a reluctance to break the bank in order to progress. However, it could be argued that Peace`s investment in other areas has provided the indirect ambition to further the club, and the proof is definitely in the pudding. In 2007 Dan Ashworth was appointed as Sporting and Technical Director, which as far as I can make out is a pretentious name for what is effectively a Chief Scout. His job is to work closely with the manager, sorry I mean Head Coach, and scour the globe for players who fit the bill and are also cheap. Previous managers, to name Tony Mowbray as one, became frustrated with the lack of funds available and Peace`s transfer policy, however Ashworth acts as the go between who can find the right players at relatively low prices. For instance, let`s look at Albion`s most influential players from their impressive 2010/11 Premier League campaign.
These players would arguably include Jonas Olsson, Youssouf Mulumbu, Paul Scharner, Chris Brunt, Jerome Thomas and Peter Odemwingie. Take out Chris Brunt who was bought before Ashworth`s tenure, these 5 players have a combined fee of around £2.5m. The most expensive being 15 goal top scorer Peter Odemwingie who signed for approximately £1.5m. the most astounding piece of business however is Youssouf Mulumbu`s transfer from Paris Saint Germain being quoted at anywhere from £70,000 to £200,000. This list of players does not include the £100,000 invested in Graham Dorrans, the previous campaign`s Player of the Season, £1.5m for reliable left back Nicky Shorey a free transfer for Steven Reid, £2m approximately on Cameroonian Somen Tchoyi and £1.5 on Simon Cox to name a few. So what we can draw from this is while Peace might not often break the bank in order to bring players to the club, he does oversee an intelligent transfer system which often provides the right players at the right prices. That to me is a prudent move, that is certainly ambitious.
Jeremy Peace also has a reputation as a fierce negotiator and a shrewd businessman when it comes to selling his assets, e.g. the players. Compared to relatively low fee`s Albion might pay for players, the fee`s commanded for outgoings are impressive. For instance, the record fee brought in by the club is an initial £8.5m for defender Curtis Davies to Aston Villa. I would suggest that Peace and fans have been laughing since that cheque was cleared right up until James Morrison turned him with ease before scoring against Davies` current employers Birmingham City in March. For a defender who was admittedly impressive in the Championship, who had a decent season in the Premier League previously the fee was above expectations. Considering Davies wanted to leave the club as well, most clubs would have sniffed the opportunity for a cut price on an unhappy player on the club`s wage bill, but Peace would never sell for the sake of selling, and if the right offer didn`t come in then there was never going to be a deal. Other such instances include £4m for skipper Jonathan Greening who just been relegated with the baggies and was entering a Championship season at 30 years of age. Diomansy Kamara was offloaded for £6m and the sale of Jason Koumas squeezed out over £5m from Wigan. It`s a credit to Peace that he doesn`t have to sell for low prices because of the healthy state he has brought the club to in his reign.
The current transfer window is a long way from over, and Peace has already overseen the free transfers of defenders Gareth McAuley and Billy Jones. Another free transfer, former baggie Zoltan Gera, is impending providing he recovers from an ankle injury. Peace, Ashworth and Head Coach Roy Hodgson are also set to take advantage of Birmingham`s financial plight by swooping for goalkeeper Ben Foster and defender Liam Ridgewell. Both were enquired about a month previously but after being quoted too high Peace waited a month before smelling blood and reinstating their interest. It`s too early to say whether Peace will break the transfer record this summer, or whether many more players will be bought or sold, but under the guidance of Hodgson Albion fans can rest assured that even if big money isn`t spent that doesn`t necessarily mean there isn`t another impressive season ready to start just around the corner.