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  • Writer's pictureSteve Moore

Premier League Recruitment & The Balance Sheet - Part One

Don’t pinch yourself…It actually happened. As much as I feel sorry for him, Frankety Dabo did more with one kick of the football for the town of Luton than any local councillor could do in 50 years.

We are in the Premier League and for everything that means off the field, on the field it has already started the rumour mill off on a level we’ve never seen before. You only have to check our twitter (Andre Ayew…REALLY??)

Even the most relaxed of fans must be wondering who we could bring in for our first Premier League season. What exactly is the action plan of recruitment for Mick, Jay Socik, Rob Edwards and the rest of the recruitment team?

Surely after what we’ve done, only the craziest of fans would do anything but trust the process of whichever way we choose to attack it. However, where is the fun in that?

Therefore, I have thought about what I would do if suddenly parachuted in as an American style General Manager or European Director of Football and the entire squad building process was up to me.

There is no FIFA Career Mode style rebuilds here though, or Forest-style 20-player signing windows for that matter! This whole thing will be dosed with the realism required to make it a real task.

So how does it work?

Firstly, every potential signing must be someone that we could officially afford both transfer fee and wages. Not only that, but I will also have to explain both; why they are interested in coming to the Kenny and why we would not be gazumped by others who could outbid them for the fee/wage allocated for them.

Secondly, while there is no sure-fire way to know exactly what wage a player is on, or what transfer fee a club will accept for a player, I will be using serious and supposedly accurate source as a guide (mainly TransferMarkt or preferably Football Manager) unless it is a figure that is overtly wrong.

We will assume that we will get new deals done for the four players who we are attempting to re-sign; so Pelly- Ruddock Mpanzu, Tom Lockyer, Amari’i Bell and Luke Berry will be staying.

Now, most importantly, how much have we got to play with?

Well, to work that out I firstly need to work how much we got thanks to victory. Most media reports seem to have the range at around £150-170m and that includes the two years of parachute payments (you only get the third if you stay up for a year).

So, taking that figure, the next aim is to work out, how the club would split that dividend out. Well, we know that about £10m will be needed to get the Kenny up to Premier League spec. Then we need to work out how much will be needed to be diverted to help the building of Power Court.

I think we all agree that the possibility of building it completely debt-free is too good to pass up. If we take the sale of the Newlands Road site at around £30-50m (which seems reasonable given the sale of it undeveloped but with planning permission on what was originally meant to be a £200m development) and take Gary Sweet at his word that Power Court is currently budgeted at £100m that would take another £50-70m. This is without considering however, that Sweet himself has said that building costs increases in the current climate have already put another £30m onto the budget to take it to that £100m figure.

I am going to say, partially to make things more challenging, that 2020 will probably budget £120m to secure against further building cost increases. This would mean around £70-90m of the windfall would be kept aside.

That leaves us with anywhere between £50m-100m to play with. However, that is before considering any promotion wage increases written into any transfer fees and current contracts. There is no real way of knowing what those are. However, our best estimate would come out of the Football Manager database, so that is what I have used. That comes to approximately £3m.

Therefore, to be conservative and make it a real challenge we have £45-60m to add to the squad. Remember though that isn’t just for transfers but must also account for the contracts they will sign. Free Agents will also have signing on fees in their contracts, as well as their bog-standard wage. There may also be the possibility of giving players new contracts who we might want to tie down more long-term (see Gabby Osho).

A look at the current contracted first team squad | Graphic made by Ollie Kay

The first thing I want to do is look at who we have who we can offload to add additional funds. Immediately I am looking at the three goalkeepers we have. We all agree that we wouldn't want any of then to start in the top flight & we also have proof that Edwards thinks that Matt Macey is the most disposable of those. However, despite his good form there, reports suggest that Portsmouth are unwilling to part with cash to sign him. Realistically if they are not willing to pay a transfer fee, then I doubt anyone would. However, I think we could easily get a similar loan deal to the one he has. According to FM23, Pompey were only paying £3.5kp/w of his wages and I think that is a fair amount for 6 or 7 of the clubs either in top-half of Lg.1 or maybe a Plymouth or Rotherham to consider, were they to lose their own number ones (more on that later).

Glen Rea is the next one certain to leave. We have outgrown him now and his serious injuries came at the wrong time. Going to Cheltenham implies that there was very little willingness for clubs to gamble on him as a result. The fact he got through 14 games in the West Country is helpful for his prospects of a move but I can't see us being able to sell him. I think the best thing for all parties, presuming he only has one year left, would be if we agree to pay up somewhere in the region of half his salary to allow him to find his next club. This allows him to be a much more valuable commodity as a free agent than contracted to us. This would also save us somewhere in the region of £2.5kp/w.

Given the promotion, it almost certainly rules out any of the other loanees from being involved in the first-team squad. However, I think it's much too early to cut John McAtee as a sunk cost, especially if we start 2024-5 back in the Championship, so I think another loan is the best situation for him. Albeit that playing games would be much more important than recouping finances. Whereas, I think the time has come ways to part ways with Dion Pereira, whom I reckon that while any fee would be nominal at best, we could probably recoup the whole of his wages, given he was signed as a development player. Lastly, Carlos Mendes-Gomes is unquestionably the most advanced of the loanees. His form for Fleetwood certainly suggests there is a possible Championship player in there. However, he suffers from the fact he was bought at a time where Nathan Jones was looking at 4-3-3 and we are very much a 3-5-2 side now. Probably even more so with Edwards, who very rarely looks to change the system within games where NJ would. While I would like to keep him long-term, it makes no sense because of this and I genuinely think a richer League One or lower end Championship club looking at the 24-year old as a very good left winger would give up somewhere around £250,000 with a small sell one.

One player who is currently rumoured to be attracting interest is Admiral Muskwe. Given that he did not get anywhere near the squad under Edwards shows that we need to part ways. Despite him being massively outperformed at Fleetwood by Mendes-Gomes, the fact that he was one of Wycombe's best players in the Championship before joining us shows there is still a player in there and I genuinely think we could get £100,000 for him.

While there are other who I may consider looking to let go (Potts, Freeman, Taylor, Watson) either permanently or on loan, I would like to have upgrades on them lined up before budgeting for their departure. The only exception to that is Elliot Thorpe, but even then it would only be on loan and I would want assurances that he would be used in the wing-back role we are trying to turn him into. Otherwise, I would prefer him playing there for the under-23's.

I believe all that may well give us somewhere in the region of £1-1.5m extra for the budget. This just shows us how different the market we will be needing to work in is when the funds coming in are frankly nominal and are only really being used to clear space for incomings.

Replacing the loanees

Priority number one is unquestionably to replace the loanees that helped us get here before we can even think about improving what we had. (Let's just be pleased that there are only three unlike our play-off winning predecessors!)

There is definitely an advantage to keeping the squad together and trying to bring them all back permanently, certainly for the two outfield players. While he is unquestionably on the biggest wage of them, Marvelous Nakamba may well be the easiest to tie up. He evidently seems well liked within the dressing room and seems happy here (as highlighted by the 'I'll stay if 'Pelly' does comment at the parade). We are also helped by the fact that Villa seem to want to get rid, due to his lack of ability on the ball and their signing of Tielemans, we seem to be the only interested party. As a result, I feel that we could get him in the door for around £5m, plus a wage in the region of £20kp/w (which allied with a signing on fee, should come somewhere in the region of £2-2.5m).

A Marvelous return on the cards? | Photo courtesy of Gareth Owen

Cody Drameh looks a harder deal to secure. Leeds' relegation makes him much more attractive for them to try and keep hold of. In addition to this, we now have rumours of multiple potential suitors who may well be better options for the youngster. He could stay up north and play for Burnley (which would have the added bonus of playing for a 'Pep disciple') or if he was willing to move south, it now appears Brentford are interested. Not only are they more established and probably willing to out bid us, they also have a gaping hole at right wing-back so big that they spent most of last season playing Aaron Hickey (a LEFT-BACK) there.

So we are looking elsewhere for his replacement. Which brings us to our next big question. What are we actually trying to achieve with squad building. While some would purely look at building the best possible squad for trying to survive this season, I would be looking slightly more medium term. Yes, we need to be competitive, but I would be looking at this windfall to bring in a squad of players who will be here beyond next summer and, in the most part, would be willing to stay and try and repeat what Burnley did under Sean Dyche; where, if we were to go down, use the much bigger, parachute payment enhanced, wage bill to go straight back up and then stay up for a decade or so).

This would mean heading down the NJ route of limiting loans. This also makes sense given that we can only have 2 from other PL clubs by the rulebook and they can't be from the same club either. Certainly I don't want to be in a situation where come next summer we are again without a starting right-wing back at the club. This rules out loaning in the likes of Djed Spence, Conor Bradley or Kaine-Kesler Hayden.

Norwich have two players that would both be excellent options. My preference would be for Bali Mumba, but I think he would take an eight-figure sum based on his form at Plymouth and the fact he appears to be penciled in as a starter with them looking to offload Max Aarons in the last year of his deal and having brought in Jack Stacey too. Norwich probably believe they can get a similar amount for Aarons and if they could, that again blows us out of the water.

What I am going to do is try and replicate the Alfie Doughty deal. Young wing-back; hugely talented; had a torrid time with muscular injuries; Step forward Nathan Ferguson. While his injury record eclipses Doughty, the talent he showed as a youngster shows that there is a premier-league standard player there. Without the injures, he would be way out of our range, on a rumoured £30k a week with Palace. We represent the only chance he has of staying in the Premier League, we have proven we can get players like him fit (RE: Doughty) and we will be able to get it done for about £8-10kp/w and a nominal signing-on fee. While we will definitely need to return to this and add another wing-back as insurance by taking this gamble, it is a risk well worth the £750k the entire deal takes.

Is this goodbye Horvath? | Photo courtesy of Gareth Owen

As for the goalkeeping situation, we know we have a reported buy clause for Ethan Horvath. However, I am surely not the only one who thinks that a huge part of his clean sheet record was the protection he was given by the back three. In a dream world, we would be able to take advantage of the fact that Caoimhin Kelleher seems desperate to get out of Liverpool to play football. However, Klopp has already mentioned that it will take an 'extraordinary deal' to get him. The likes of Brighton, Spurs (& Villa if Martinez leaves) are all in the market for someone like Kelleher too, so we are probably getting outbid.

The keeper I would really want is Michael Cooper of Plymouth. Speak to anyone who has seen him play in the last year and the 23-year old is a 'premier league goalkeeper in waiting' (quote courtesy of the Not the Top 20 podcast so not Argyle fans either) and the last keeper I heard getting those reports at League One level was a certain Wimbledon loanee called Aaron Ramsdale. He would be perfect except for one thing... he did his ACL in February and will miss the start of the season.

While having James Shea and Jack Walton would be a competent way of starting a season in the second tier, taking that risk in the Prem is frankly foolhardy. However, given that, we can take a risk to bring in a keeper who is much more likely to leave next summer. The linked Asmir Begovic is one option, but I would prefer another free agent who is slightly younger so, were we to survive, they could be persuaded to stay. That man is Timo Horn.

Like his compatriot Loris Karius, Horn is someone who is suddenly out-of-contract and looking to rebuild his career. While the reasons for Karius' 'fall from grace' are well documented as they came in the biggest club game of all, Horn's are much more simple. A short-term loss of form and replaced by a guy who has gone on to play so well he has kept the former German youth international out of his boyhood side and now out-of-contract.

This is an Olympic silver medalist starter just six years ago, who was expected to be the guy Liverpool signed when they instead signed Karius. It may well take a signing-on fee of up to about £3m as well as a wage up there with Nakamba at the higher edge of my £20kp/w cap I would like to implement but we can offer him the guaranteed number one spot in the league with the most eyeballs on it in the world and a chance to completely resurrect him career. Given that the upside is a 30-year-old keeper, who has been a starter for a Europa League qualifying Bundesliga side just 18 months ago, it is a gamble worth taking.

So that at least gets us to the point we we can start adding quality to the squad. For that, stay tuned for part 2.

Sum Spent: £12.5m

Sum remaining: £33.5-48.5m

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7 commentaires

12 juin 2023

Good article. Whilst I may not agree with all your suggestions, it certainly puts our needs in perspective


12 juin 2023

Could be right but he has stepped up to the level every time so far and I would just like to see if he can do it again before writing him off

14 juin 2023
En réponse à



11 juin 2023

Great article. It’s very exciting!


11 juin 2023

I’d say I’m from the small c conservative don’t bet the house side of things. Let those who got us there have a crack. Sign the loanees and maybe a couple more.

Transfer fees are the least of our concerns with new signings as we will probably pick up the like of Nakamba for more like £1m giving we’re likely to shop in the basket marked “my club doesn’t want me”.

Wages could be the killer. £20k a week is £1m a year (you don’t need many of them to be in a bind financially in the championship). £40k (a low prem wage) is £2m a year. And getting the people you want to accept a relegation pay…


Peter Scott
Peter Scott
11 juin 2023

If we are honest and think with our head Pelly is not up to Prem League standard so we need to replace him asap and get another good midfielder to get the ball to Morris and Adebayo. Looking at the Youtube sites Pelly does not feature in their teams. The king is dead, long live the King!

14 juin 2023
En réponse à

Gotta let Pelly play one game though, to get the record…..

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