One club is teetering on the brink of financial collapse. Another, according to several well-placed sources, has instructed an agent to encourage bids for all of its players.
The financial landscape in the Championship looks particularly challenging at present. But Chris Wilder is convinced his approach to transfers can help Sheffield United avoid any catastrophic pitfalls.
“We’ll always treat our money as if it’s our own,” he said, referring to assistant Alan Knill, scouting guru Paul Mitchell and himself. “There’s a risk involved in everything, of course there is, but we always try to minimise it.”
Figures published by Deloitte, the professional services network responsible for reviewing the game’s accounts, revealed only four clubs recorded pre-tax profits last season. One of those, Nottingham Forest, found themselves in the black because a previous owner waived his right to a loan. Revenues across the division were calculated to be around £720m, less than a seventh of those in the Premier League, with parachute payments responsible for nearly a third of that amount.
Next term’s numbers are likely to make even bleaker reading, despite the competition’s Profit and Sustainability rules. Earlier this week, Aston Villa were forced to reach an agreement with HMRC over a £4m tax bill despite being in receipt of a top-flight handout. Another team which took part in the play-offs is willing to listen to sensible offers for its entire first team squad. Like Steve Bruce’s side, they have gambled, spent big and lost.
United came 10th and entered the penultimate match of the campaign chasing top six qualification. Despite, as Wilder was frequently reminded, operating on a budget which should have meant they were fighting relegation instead. Although Bramall Lane’s hierarchy has since increased the amount at his disposal, the 50-year-old’s pockets are still pretty shallow compared to the likes of Middlesbrough, Leeds United and Reading. All of whom have been beaten by United in the past 10 months.
“We’re ambitious but we also recognise that we’ve got to be sensible,” Wilder said. “There’s no point in ‘boom and bust’ because, in my opinion, that’s not the best way to bring long-term success. I’m a planner. All of us like to plan. Yes, you’ve got to take care of things in the short-term but we look at the medium and the long as well.”
“I’ve thanked the owners for doing what they did,” Wilder added. “Yes, there may well be times when they say we can’t do that, we can’t go that high, and I understand that. It’s right. We all want to keep pushing the bar.
“We always take a good look, not only at a player’s ability, but also their personality. Overall, you’ve got to identify which ones, within your (pay) bracket, are going to fit best into the group as a whole.”
Although Wilder’s relationship with United’s board of directors has immeasurably improved since his public complaints about a lack of “clarity” behind the scenes, the detente could be tested if David Brooks is sold and some of the money is siphoned off rather than ploughed back into the team.
The youngster, who recently changed his agent, is known to interest AFC Bournemouth but Wilder has purposefully avoided commenting on the situation directly.
“We all want the same thing,” he said recently. “And that’s the best for this club and the fans.”