Sheffield Wednesday column: Steve Bruce, transfer embargos and the art of recruitment

Recruitment can make or break a season.  In some cases it can determine how a club operates for years to come.

January recruits Rolando Aarons and Dominic Iorfa. Pic Steve Ellis.
January recruits Rolando Aarons and Dominic Iorfa. Pic Steve Ellis.

This week an interesting precedent was set in the EFL as Birmingham City were docked nine points for signing Kristian Pedersen while under a transfer embargo last summer.

No doubt the words ‘summer transfer embargo’ are enough to send most Sheffield Wednesday fans into a cold sweat after the lengthy wait for a signing of any description last June, July and August.

Birmingham’s punishment was good news for the Owls  in some respects as it means one more team has dropped out of the play-off race.

But it also has bearing on how future business is conducted in the Championship.

For any football club, a nine point sanction is a big hit.

In the grand scheme of things though, it does not mean the Blues are at risk of relegation this season.

So that appears to be the message from the EFL – if you’re brave enough to break the rules, you’ll get a bit of a telling off but nothing too serious.

Where does this leave Wednesday? The chairman has warned that some sort of soft embargo this year is a real risk. 

Steve Bruce’s problems this summer will revolve around financial restrictions and whatever form of embargo is imposed.

But the message from the man himself is that the rules are clear and Birmingham knew they were breaking them.

This week the Owls chief told the Star: “You feel for the club because it’s a difficult situation to find themselves in.

“You don’t know the ins and outs but I think when you look at the points deduction in particular for all clubs in the Championship you have to look at the rules and that’s what they are.

“It’s a wake up call to everybody concerned that these rules are there and you’ve got to adhere to them.

“That’s the difficulty, they’ve had to spend a bit of money to try and get out of the division.”

And boy have Birmingham, Wednesday, Aston Villa and a whole host of other clubs spent a lot of money as they dance around FFP rules.

In Bruce, the Owls have found a man who has been handling this sort of problem for the last two years at Villa Park and it showed in his first three signings at Hillsborough.

Achraf Lazaar, although sidelined since before the Steel City Derby, Rolando Aarons and Dominic Iorfa have all been inspired signings.

And however FFP and the EFL affect Wednesday this summer, it’ll be more canny signings and Bruce’s mastering of the art of recruitment that will make or break the 2019/20 season.