Recently, there have been a lot of letters from disgruntled fans who aren’t happy with our club’s approach to business.
They want Kyril Louis-Dreyfus to ‘put his hand in his pocket’ and magically, all will be well. After all, everybody knows that if we want success, we have to spend and spend big?
I think the term used is ‘speculate to accumulate’ and I’m certainly not saying that we shouldn’t do this, but I think we need far more common sense than we’ve seen in most of this fan mail.
As a result, I’d like to put across a counter-argument, at least to a degree.
Firstly, let’s consider the idea that Dreyfus needs to ‘put his hand in his pocket’, because it seems to me that this is a phrase that’s easily used when it isn’t your pocket. Once you start spending money like this, you’re never going to be too far away from bankruptcy or at best, a far more limited lifestyle.
Dreyfus may well be a very rich young man, but he’s only going to stay that way by being prudent with his money.
We’re not Manchester City or Newcastle United; there isn’t a bottomless pit of cash, and if I had that sort of wealth, would I want to sink millions into a player? Even if I did spend a fortune on a player, I’d also have to pay huge wages every week.
The thing that most fans seem to forget is that even when you do spend millions on a signing, there’s no guarantee they’ll be the fix you’re hoping for.
During the Ellis Short years, we often spent eye-watering amounts of money on players who may have been big names and ‘statement signings’, but they were also about as effective as parking a traffic cone on the pitch!
Once we head down this route, the spending will soon snowball and we’ll be right back where we were when Short left in 2018.
There are plenty of clubs in the Premier League and the Championship who’ve spent big and it’s done them no good at all.
Do we really want to be the ‘old Sunderland’ again? Do we really want to be Everton? Surely a better model to follow is that of Brighton, which is exactly what we’re doing.
I think the other two things we need to consider are risk and time.
If we invest £2.5 million in a young player, there’s a very good chance we can turn a profit either if or when he improves. Even eventually selling him for £5 million (which is still cheap in today’s market), we’d have a 100% return on our investment.
On the other hand, if he doesn’t develop as we hope, we’ve only lost £2.5 million at most, so it’s a low-risk strategy.
Conversely, if we invest £20 million in a player, he’ll probably be closer to the finished article, but there’s also less certainty of turning a healthy profit. We’d need to sell him for £40 million to give us the same percentage return, which doesn’t happen all that often.
If he doesn’t develop as much as hoped, we stand to lose £20 million, which is what we did regularly under Short and represents a high-risk strategy.
Like it or not, this is a percentage game and if we want to be financially stable, we have to play the percentages.
Not every player will work out, so we have to spread the risk.
Our owners have a choice, and it’s one we need to remember. Dreyfus could certainly spend £20 million on a striker but if he did, he would’ve placed all his eggs in one basket and would need a 100% success rate for the investment to work out.
Conversely, he could buy ten players at £2 million each and if he did this, we’re far less financially exposed and with a far higher chance of turning a profit.
The reality is that if we want to be financially stable in the long term, we have to gradually build our spending ability. This is why it’s called a long term plan and the clue is in the name!
We know from the collapse of the Short era that fan money alone is nowhere near enough to run a club the size of Sunderland, and we also know that at the moment, we’re not financially independent.
This means that all of the players we’re buying, some of whom have been dismissed as ‘bargain basement’, are largely being funded by Dreyfus.
It doesn’t take long for all of these players to start adding up, and this investment also includes funding improved contracts for existing players, because these things cost money.
There may well be a time when we’ll be spending £20, £30 or even £40 million on a single player, but we’re years away from that point. To do so now would not only risk our financial stability- it would also risk destroying our team spirit.
If you have one or two players on significantly more than anyone else, would there still be the same team spirit and harmony? Possibly, but I think it would be far less likely. One of our great strengths at the moment is our team spirit, so let’s not throw that away.
We’ve fielded eleven expensive individuals before and all we achieved was relegation.
A truly great team is more than the sum of its parts and last season, that was us. With all of our injuries and a very young squad, we had no realistic right to reach the playoffs, yet we did.
That was achieved by having a fantastic team spirit and a team that was far greater than the sum of its parts. Furthermore, we were playing fantastic football that was a joy to watch, so let’s not throw all of that away in search of a quick fix that’s never worked for us before.
At this point, I should point out that I’m not a full-on happy-clapper, and I don’t see everything as being perfect.
Dreyfus clearly has to do better with marketing and the matchday experience. He also needs to invest more into the stadium itself, but I also realise that these things cost money and they’re part and parcel of our club being financially stable.
We can’t do these things if we’re spending all of our money on expensive players.
It seems to me that £10 million is a totally unrealistic sum for us to spend on a single player at this point in time, but I also see that if we want to fight at the top of the table, we almost certainly need to spend more on a striker than the club’s apparent £2.5 million ceiling.
At this point in our development, I think we could realistically raise that ceiling to £5 million if we still feel we can improve a player and achieve a good financial return. Such a figure wouldn’t risk dressing room harmony too much, but it would help to nudge us to the next level.
What I definitely don’t want to see is the club suddenly risking millions on individual players in the hope that they’re magically going to take us to Premier League glory.
They won’t, and anyone who thinks that’ll work is living in cloud cuckoo land.
Our strategy is working. It may take time, but it will work and when it does, we’ll be able to become a secure Premier League club, not a yo-yo club that’s constantly fighting against relegation.
At this point, I’m going to open myself up to the accusation that I lack ambition, because I find I’m less obsessed by the Premier League than I used to be.
The great thing about the Championship is that virtually any club can win and although money helps, it certainly doesn’t guarantee success in the way it does in the Premier League.
Although I’d love to be like Brighton at some point, for now I’m enjoying life in the Championship.
We’re playing great football with exciting young players, and we can easily be fighting towards the top of the table. I very much doubt I’d be enjoying it more in the Premier League, where all we could realistically do is scrap for mid-table mediocrity.
I don’t want to worry about reaching the top flight in the next nanosecond, I want to enjoy the journey we’re on and the wonderful football we’re seeing every week.
Unless you’re completely divorced from reality, most fans know that we aren’t going to win the Premier League title. Manchester City can, Liverpool can, and as much as it pains me to say it, Newcastle will win the title.
They’ll probably win the Champions League at some stage, too, but only because they have a bottomless pit of money that they’ve sold their souls for. Realistically, only a handful of clubs can win the Premier League and all of the rest are simply fighting against relegation.
One of the recent letters to Roker Report suggested that Dreyfus should sell up and like Newcastle, we should also chase the Saudi money. That way, we could buy all the best players and achieve Premier League success in no time at all.
I couldn’t disagree more with that, because I’m not in a rush to be part of a league that can simply be bought with blood money.
Newcastle winning the Premier League will not be a sporting achievement. Instead, it’ll be a financial achievement and a sports-washing achievement.
I can honestly say that if I was given the choice of winning the Premier League with Saudi or similar money or staying in the Championship, I would happily embrace life in the Championship for the rest of my life.
My morals and ethics aren’t for sale, and something that’s wrong doesn’t magically become right just because someone has paid you to look the other way.
Bradley Lowery’s club should never sink so low.