The transfer window, frosted and bedecked with wintry icicles, is about to open bringing with it the harsh realities of trying to avoid the drop from the promised land that is the Premier League.
Only Neil Warnock and Alan Irvine, at the time of writing, will be untouched by the myriad difficulties facing basement bosses come Thursday. From one extreme to the other, owners to nail-biting fans, there will be contrasting as well as identical concerns but the common factor will not be wanting to swap feasting at the top table with, seasonal connotations, noses pressed from the outside, looking in.
The typical knee-jerk reaction that comes with proximity to the trapdoor is panic-buying in January in the hope that money solves all problems but often the reverse is the case.
For example, a club in trouble faces a major difficulty in attracting players in to a struggle against relegation. That factor alone limits availability and reduces the pool of potential recruits. Top earners are going to factor in potentially being owned by a club that could be playing second tier football a year hence and while clubs may only be interested in offering one-year deals players usually require the security of at least double that. It takes a brave, and selfless footballer, to agree to any condition of employment suggesting a reduction in salary if relegation occurs. In reality a player would be free to break contract if such a suggestion is required, by a club.
The financial rewards of being a Premier League club are well documented and offer a simplistic explanation for common desire to remain so but even those clubs who find themselves relegated are not completely detached from the `cash cow`.
Currently the ‘Parachute payment’ available to clubs that lose their top flight status is £60 million over a four year period, an increase on the previous level. From 2010 clubs relegated from the Premier League received £15 million, then £17 million for two seasons then £8 million for the two seasons after that.
So, even if, like Wolves, a club went straight from Premier League to League One, a decent level of income stream would help service any contracts that were awarded with top flight status membership. The reasoning being that despite playing at a lower level players would still be earning at a higher one. This factor alone may satisfy the wage demands of the kind of saviour recruit relegation threatened clubs target during the `window`, though good housekeeping and prudent shopping is still crucial.
Another major criterion when clubs search for players to get them out of the relegation maelstrom is of course quality. It is quite uncommon for a Premier League club to recruit a player from the Championship, or lower, and put trust and faith in salvation in such an individual. More likely, potential targets may be returning from injury or who may have been out of favour for any one of many reasons at a top flight club. The older, and more experienced a target may be the more they are likely to cost but, paradoxically, the more likely they may be to take a gamble.
Because of all the above factors most clubs will be looking to recruit overseas players or up and coming youngsters, perhaps fringe players at Premier League clubs who are chomping at the bit and not getting a chance, who may be more inclined to risk joining a club in trouble because they have time, and a couple of seasons, to spare. With the added bonus of being in the shop window and platform to prove their worth in the top flight that factor alone may see an inordinate number of younger professionals entering the relegation arena in January.
Only time will tell but as everyone knows, from owners and chairmen who don’t grant it, to players and managers who don’t get it, through fans who have to endure it, time is the one thing money cannot buy.