Well, here we are. The Champions League Final brings a curtain down on our football viewing for the 2016-17 season. I’m certainly hoping it’s better than the Championship playoff final which flattered to deceive. We should congratulate Huddersfield, the size of their achievement shouldn’t go unnoticed and listening to the chairman at the end, it’s refreshing to see local owners who love the club achieve their dream of making the big time.
Looking at the Premier League ahead of next season it does make for interesting viewing. I constantly hear the comment of fans of Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest and ourselves amongst others stressing how we deserve to be in the top flight as we are huge clubs. Don’t get me wrong I’m as proud and biased as any Villa fan but it takes more than a history, an iconic stadium and a great fan base. We as fans may think we deserve it, but the clubs themselves? Questionable.
It is clear that the common denominator is how each of these clubs have been so poorly ran in the past. Identities have changed, due to bad choices, catastrophic management of funds and losing touch with the people that make the English game so special, the fans.
What is even more frustrating to many is the clubs that are in the Premier League. Aside from boasting of how we should all be in the Premier League, I have read many tweets and articles showing a complete lack of disrespect to teams that have earned the right to reach the world stage.
In 2011, take a look at League One and how that ended up. Fast forward to now and the upcoming season and four of the teams that finished in the top six will be playing at the pinnacle of English football. Brighton and Huddersfield will make their debuts, Southampton has fought back to build an impressive team held back by their recycling of making and then selling players and Bournemouth have got a footing to establishing themselves in the league and are now going on to sign the likes of players that we once took for granted.
Now you may have read the title and thought it was a glaring mistake but it has a point. Looking at these teams and their transfer policies over the last five years, there has been a real mixture of academy players coming through, battle-hardened veterans, lower league consistent goal scorers and one area that I believe we have never used to its potential – the loan market.
We’ve all been there, sat doing work for whatever reason and we’ve been distracted by a managerial game, inevitably getting our local non-league team into the Champions League final, building a six figure stadium and spending money like you’re related to Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour. The reality is you need a blend and I’m talking about in the real world when you’ve turned the laptop off!
Huddersfield is a great example. Their owner has seen the club in two extremes. A club that was 24 hours from liquidation and is now set to play the likes of teams renowned on the European stage with international fan bases.
This season, the negative minded might point out that Huddersfield finished with a negative goal difference in the Championship and I’m not going to bring up their game against our neighbours. The fact is you have a squad for a reason and it’s more than paid off but I’ve been impressed with their transfer business. A splattering of players from the German leagues made up the majority of their permanent deals spending £1.8million in disclosed fees and two of their signings were frees. Then on to the loan signings. Danny Ward, Aaron Mooy, Elias Kachunga and Isaiah Brown.
Ward – (Loaned from Liverpool) Made some superb saves and his exploits in the two penalty shootouts helped to get them through.
Mooy – (Loaned from Manchester City) Box to box, creative, combative and again scored a few eye-catching goals.
Kachunga – (Loaned from Ingolstadt) Pacy, powerful, runs at defenders and notched double figures for the season.
Brown – (Loaned from Chelsea) An exciting prospect, one of over 37 players loaned out this season by Chelsea. Chipped in with goals and formed an impressive partnership with Mooy.
Our net spend was an enormous swing to the red side whereas Newcastle made around £40million profit in sales vs purchases. Brighton spent very little too. The final surprising element was a few players signed by the three promoted clubs that actually had any Championship experience. So this summer is going to be arguably one of the most interesting in recent years for us and a sign of what we plan to do. Bruce is seen as one of the best, if not the best in the Championship with more promotions than any other manager between the two divisions.
Therefore will he play the role of Championship Manager ‘A’ – continuing to buy players that stand out in the Championship for other teams (pay for statistics)?
Or will he opt for Championship Manager ‘B’ – increasingly using the loan market and youth system to mix with the players that have shown promise this season?
I know which one I’d go for and the laptop would be locked away.