Sheffield United: Should clubs who respect Financial Fair Play rules receive greater recognition? Chris Wilder thinks so
He should, by rights, have been fine-tuning his tactics and studying the results of John Fleck's fitness test.
Instead, after reporting for training earlier thisÂ morning, Chris Wilder found himself wrestling with two footballing riddles: When is a transfer embargo not a transfer embargo and what is fair about financial fair play?
Tomorrow's game against Birmingham City, a team beset by problems because of its balance sheet, provided Sheffield United's manager with another opportunity to discuss the importance of prudence and budgetary restraint.Â
It is an issue he has tackled countless times before but, waxing lyrical with next to no prompting, was clearly keen to shoe-horn back onto the agenda during his latest pre-match media conference.Â
"Like a lot of people, I can't quite get my head around it when teams put themselves in this position," Wilder said. "But, time and time again, you see them doing it. Really, it's a big talking point in this division and it doesn't look like going away. Something needs to happen, though, to get to grips with it."
Where it all started:
City's difficulties trace back to earlier this season when, after failing to comply with its Profit and Sustainability regulations, the English Football League announced they were facing "unrestricted" sanctions.Â
With a points deduction among the penalties being considered and several other clubs facing difficulties of their own, it brought the subject of Championship expenditure back into focus. Or, to be more exact, what constitutes a fitting punishment for those, either by accident or design, who break FFP rules.
Given his efforts to ensure United stay within the boundaries - players were sold before new ones arrived during the recent window - Wilder has little sympathy for those who fall into the latter camp. But what really tests his patience is when they escape relatively scott-free. Both AFC Bournemouth and Leicester received negligible fines after being found guilty of breaching EFL guidelines during promotion winning campaigns. In the former's case, although investigators found they were not circumnavigated deliberately, the amount constituted around a fifteenth of their Premier League broadcast share.
"It does, especially when you adhere to them," Wilder replied when asked, broadly speaking, if he was frustrated by the apparent lack of respect for FFP guidelines.
"What's the point of putting rules in, in whatever sport you play, if no notice is going to be taken of them. If the rules are in place, they should be implemented. No question about it. No messing. That's how it should be." City exacerbated their problems with the EFL by signing Kristian Pedersen in June.
Despite operating under a 'soft' transfer embargo after losing over Â£39m across a three year period, St Andrews' board paid Â£2m for the defender; much to governing body's annoyance and surprise of many Championship rivals.
Pederson, previously of Union Berlin, is expected to feature against United after starting City's draw with West Bromwich Albion last week.
"We went to that game and they've got good players," Wilder said. "Listen, I don't think the embargo or whatever you want to call it changes that. We're not talking about untried or untested kids they've been left with. These are proper players we're talking about, who they have heavily invested in, being managed by a good manager with a good reputation."
Wilder's criticisms are not directed at Birmingham City:
City's first choice eleven against Albion contained over Â£20m worth of talent, with Harlee Dean, Jota and former United centre-forward Che Adams among those at Monk's disposal. However, given the distraction caused by their on-going wrangle with the EFL, City make the journey north only a place above the relegation zone. United slipped to fifth following Saturday's defeat at Bristol City.
"I'm happy to talk about it (money) because I've been in this position before," Wilder, referring to previous spells in charge of Halifax Town and Northampton Town, said. "I look at it and think 'sympathy for Garry because he's not allowed to sign players?' Well, yes, because that's what managers do. But they're still a damn good side, make no mistake about that."
Star midfielder closes in on return:
United's squad could be bolstered by the return of Fleck who, after missing the visit to Ashton Gate, has been receiving treatment for a groin injury. Fellow midfielder Paul Coutts will definitely miss out but could make his long-awaited return, following a 10 month absence, shortly.
"He's got a clearance session," Wilder said. "He'll go through that and then see how he is. Hopefully he'll be okay and ready. If not, then we're looking at the weekend."
"Paul Coutts did 90 minutes for the under-23's and that's good," Wilder added. "We've done a lot of talking about where he is and, like a lot of people, it's probably getting a bit boring now. He's doing well and he'll be ready when he's ready."