Today this column tears up that golden rule in one exceptional case. The chairman of Sheffield Wednesday.
I find Dejphon Chansiri very different from your normal breed of football club owner. All are businessmen and, while it is ever harder to draw a profit from football’s bottomless pit, money is ultimately the bottom line.
Chansiri seems somehow to operate above that. Which for a man who admits to not being a particular fan of the game is pretty remarkable. And yet he could not be more of a fan of one of its member clubs; more emotionally, as well as financially, invested in it.
Ok, you can say he’s chasing the riches of the Premier League. But I think we’re all convinced that, even if Wednesday were to receive bids well over the odds, no player Chansiri and head coach Carlos Carvalhal want to keep will be sold in this window. Or the next, come to that.
Forget for a moment the focus on window signings. It should not be overlooked that Wednesday have more players other clubs would wish to buy than the number Carvalhal would like, or need, to recruit.
Let’s start with Keiren Westwood, the best keeper in the Championship. Barring something absolutely ridiculous, is there an offer that would make Chansiri part with him? I reckon we know the answer. Kieran Lee (currently injured) and the interest, as revealed here, from Sunderland? Still a non-starter for me. Sam Hutchinson? Don’t be silly. Throw in almost any other regular player. And there will be suitors lurking for young George Hirst.
I don’t think Chansiri sees any of these in purely business terms. His bottom lines are pride and principle. The example comes with the player conspicuously not mentioned above, Fernando Forestieri. That early season stand-off and its outcome remains hugely significant.
Most, if not all, other chairmen would have taken £10m or £12m from Derby or Newcastle in the circumstances of a disenchanted player refusing to play. Not Chansiri. Here’s some educated guesses as to why.
Pride. He will have felt he couldn’t hold his head up among his wealthy family and friends in Thailand if he bowed to one employee. Principle. Players have to honour contracts they sign.
What would have been the message to other players if he had crumbled to the demands of one? Chansiri would have felt irreparably compromised by such a blow.
The point is that money didn’t enter the equation. Chansiri was prepared to lose some, even a lot, if necessary in making his stand. For instance, the Forestieri we saw in the wake of the stand-off was not worth the money talked about at the time. The chairman will, I think, have shrugged his shoulders, feeling it was still a price worth paying.
Forestieri’s recent suspension and injury has knocked the edge off his return to form (and he’s not alone in a team that has to play better) but forget the conspiracy nonsense.
He will KNOW all of the above and, no question, he can again be that special player other clubs would pay lavishly to acquire. Another chairman might then think of profit rather than loss. Again, you doubt Chansiri would be remotely interested.
Pride and principle. A very unusual, not to say powerful, blend in a football chairman.