Eleven months ago, when Chris Wilder first began plotting his Bramall Lane revolution, he vowed Sheffield United would no longer be taken for a ride.
Offers for players were based on market value and, as their representatives soon discovered, potential remuneration packages too.
It meant, the 49-year-old later admitted, that some targets proved unattainable and several proposed deals fell through. Wilder is prepared to risk the same thing happening this summer as the League One title winners ready themselves for Championship football next term.
“I don’t want us to be a boom and bust club and that will not change,” the United manager said. “We are ambitious but we’ll do it in a sensible way. I want this football club to be sustainable. I don’t want agents and players to be nicking money out of this football club like has happened over the past few years.”
Perhaps the most striking thing about United’s success under Wilder is that, unlike many of his predecessors, results have been achieved on a prudent budget.
John Fleck and Mark Duffy, both named in the PFA’s divisional team of the year, were among those signed on free transfers while the likes of Simon Moore and Jack O’Connell arrived for sensible fees.
“We’ve dropped our wage bill this year,” Wilder continued. “We’ve also brought in Jake Wright on a free, the same as Flecky and Duff.
“Recruitment is key and it has to be done in the right way. But we’ll be ambitious too. If there are players we feel will be assets, then we’ll try and bring them in. We understand we have to spend. But it doesn’t have to be done in a way that leaves, potentially, the club in a difficult position.”
“We have lost players this year,” Wilder added. “We are not embarrassed about that; when we have thought ‘no that’s us.’
“You stick to it, it’s no good sticking top it for three quarters of the season then abandoning it. Some Championship clubs do that, is it worth the gamble? I don’t think so.”
United enter Sunday’s final match of the season 14 points ahead of their nearest rivals Bolton Wanderers and only three shy of the 100 landmark.
Chesterfield, this weekend’s visitors to South Yorkshire, have already been relegated but Wilder insisted: “Short-term, our planning is always on winning the next game. Nothing more.
“Of course we plan medium and long-term too, regarding the players we would like to bring in and positions we might need to strengthen. But the big focus, until the campaign is over, is on trying to go out on a high with a win. That will always be the case; concentrating on the games.”