Recently, I saw a graphic of the ten most expensive Premier League signings.
Two of them could arguably be considered a success, in addition to Enzo Fernandez, who’s yet to prove himself either way. The conclusion we can draw from this is that large transfer fees don’t guarantee success, and one might argue that the larger the fee, the less likelihood of value for money.
Following a dramatic and exciting season at the Stadium of Light, expectations are understandably high going into the summer transfer window prior to 2023/2024.
Many fans have mentioned a need for more experienced players, while many more are crying out for Kyril Louis-Dreyfus to splash the cash.
However, I tend to disagree, because most of last season’s success was built on two factors.
Obviously the players have a certain level of technical and tactical ability, which was tested last season, and it resulted in the unequivocal conclusion that they’re more than good enough to compete at this level.
The second factor is the psychology of the individuals and the attitude as a group.
I feel that this is predominantly down to the youthful exuberance, fearlessness and limitless belief in their capabilities, all of which was fostered and nurtured by Tony Mowbray and his staff.
Most of our players still don’t have any idea how good they really could be, and they’re all having fun finding out.
I understand the temptation to add seasoned Championship players of around twenty eight to thirty two years old, but where’s the excitement and mystery in dreaming of realised potential or seeing rapid improvement and confidence produce a player even we didn’t understand we’d acquired?
The elder statesmen are an open book and often stuck in their ways, and the younger, more naive player is as likely to produce a moment of magic as he is to make a mistake.
As for transfer fees, there’s a huge level of satisfaction as a fan and vindication as a recruitment team, particularly when you spend pennies on a player like Pierre Ekwah, only to discover a few months later that you’ve potentially unearthed an absolute gem.
Those signings come with little expectation and risk but a huge amount of hope. On the other hand, a £15 million striker comes with huge expectation and risk, plus plenty of apprehension.
As the club improves in position, status and expectation, there’s nothing to suggest the model still can’t work, because it’s all relative.
RB Leipzig, for example, finished 3rd in the Bundesliga. They bought Josko Gvardiol at twenty years old for £18 million and he’s now worth £60-80 million. They also bought Christopher Nkunku at twenty four for £13 million and Chelsea are now looking to pay £60 million for him.
As we improve, so do the players and the potential fees.
There’s an ever-increasing pressure on top flight managers to achieve quick success at their clubs, combined with top flight academies rammed to the rafters with all the best and brightest young players who then never see an opportunity to grow or show what they’re capable of, as it’s seen as too much of a risk.
It stands to reason there must be many kids like Jack Clarke, Dennis Cirkin and Ekwah chomping at the bit to take senior professional football by the scruff of the neck.
The trick is to find them, nurture them, build them up, trust them and let them loose on men’s football.
With our patience, plus limitless, loud, adoring support and adulation, Mowbray and his team are more than qualified to unearth a whole squad of relatively cheap rough diamonds.
When you take a talented young lad with no concept of what he’s capable of or forethought for failure and put him in the middle of 45,000 fans singing his name and willing him to be great, the confidence of both player and supporter has no boundaries.
A squad of young talent and a huge following all living on the mantra, ‘no matter what, ‘til the end’ is both infectious and intimidating, creating a breeding ground for for young men to achieve success.
Let’s fill the squad with potential.
It might not always work, but it’s far more exciting than the bland, overpriced mediocrity we endured for years.
It’s also much more likely that these types of players feel a connection with the club. They’ll cry with us when it doesn’t work and scream with delight when it does, which we saw from players like Amad.
What we’d been doing hadn’t worked prior to Dreyfus’s arrival, so why not try something radical, stick with it and have fun along the way?