Making every penny work its nuts off
WHAT do the Albion and Atalanta of Italy’s Serie A have in common?
No, it’s not that they sit in the foothills of the Alps while we sit in the foothills of Rowley Regis. Nor is it that they play in stripes too – theirs are the wrong colour.
It’s the fact that, across Europe’s five main leagues – England, Italy, Spain, France, Germany – we are the best performing club sides relative to our transfer expenditure according to a survey conducted by the CIES Football Observatory, a research group within the International Centre for Sports Studies in Switzerland.
Their data shows that both Albion and Atalanta are presently ten league placings above where we place in the expenditure table in their country – 8th and 18th respectively in our case.
Yes, it’s something of a blunt instrument of a measure, isolating spending in one year rather than team building over seasons, but nonetheless, it does give some indication of what an achievement the current squad has posted thus far this term. It also suggests that when it comes to getting value for money, this football club has a pretty strong handle on the transfer market.
That’s not surprising when you look at the stats because Matt Phillips, Nacer Chadli, Jake Livermore and Allan Nyom have all been regular first team starts while Hal Robson-Kanu has also figured in the huge majority of our fixtures this season.
All of that is absolutely crucial for while some propagate the lazy view that simply being a member of the Premier League means you are knee deep in the folding stuff, the reality is that you have to make every single penny count because running one of these operations is more expensive than anyone imagines.
On top of that, we all know that a large chunk of the division enjoys inherent advantages that we do not, bigger stadia and the larger crowds that big cities provide being foremost. If we can’t bring in the money they can, then we need to ensure we wring all the value we can get out of the money that goes out.
That principle has seen us changing our modus operandi over recent years, such that we look to recruit quality rather than quantity these days, an important shift that has brought some stability over the last couple of seasons after the near misses we had to endure in 2014 and 2015.
We’ve played 34 Premier League games now and six players have featured in 30 or more, another eight of them in between 25 and 29. Essentially, this has been a season where we have drawn on 14 players, around half the number that other clubs have utilised. This brings continuity on the one hand and, perhaps, fatigue on the other.
What it does underscore is the tight knit nature of the playing group that we have and it only adds lustre to the results they’ve achieved in such a relentless and challenging division. They are still running as far and working as hard now as ever they were when the results were coming for us and if you’ve ever tried running 12km in 90 minutes in flip flops, I’d suggest it’s impossible.
Every one of us wants the club to do even better, to progress even faster but we can’t simply spend our way to it the way Manchester United and Arsenal can. I can tell you this though, from first hand experience. Right through this club, top to bottom, every department, there are people working long and hard to be better than them on a fraction of that resource. If it doesn’t happen, it won’t be for the want of honest devotion to the badge we all love. You can be proud of them.