The Long Road Ahead for Sunderland & Birmingham
Birmingham and Sunderland have hit the jackpot. There’s never a bad time to get promoted to the Premiership but if you’re in to do it, this was the year to make it happen because the money that it will bring both clubs is simply huge at anywhere from £30-50 million.
It’s mega money but what does it mean in reality? Primarily it means both clubs can buy better quality players this summer. But Reading has proved this season that you don’t need big money signings to succeed in the top flight. Team work, good tactics and organisation are much more important and clubs such as West Ham have proved that spending money is no guarantee of success.
So there’s no simple equation that you can use to prove that simply getting a massive sack of TV cash will make your club even survive in the top flight. And to further complicate the situation it’s pretty clear that some managers don’t know how to spend money especially if they’ve had to survive on very little for years. Some seem to feel obliged to lash out money on any old rubbish just to try and prove they’re doing something.
At Birmingham, Bruce’s reputation in the transfer market is very patchy when they were in the Premiership. The occasional odd good loan signing was counter balanced by buying crocks and players who just were not good enough and yet this season, his purchase of Gary McSheffrey along with the Arsenal kids was totally crucial. So getting the right man in can be key. But it’s far from inevitable.
Managers can live and die by their transfer policy but what do you do? Spend big and hope the players you get in will do the business or do you stick with the squad that got you up? There’s no easy answer. In recent seasons Coppell at Reading and Jewell at Wigan stayed up after promotion by spending very little. Sheffield United has just about survived also on a shoestring budget. And yet others such as WBA were relegated after not spending much money and were criticised for not breaking the bank.
So the hard work is just beginning for Bruce and Keane. Fans will expect big names and big money to be spent as a sign of the clubs ambition. Ironically, the amount of money available to these clubs next season will put even more pressure on the managers to get it right first time. Because as happy and joyous as Birmingham and Sunderland are right now, a poor start and some bad results early next season will see that quickly evaporate.
Read John’s recent article about his trip to the States and the experience of watching a Middlesbrough match on telly here compared to his home in the UK.