YORKSHIRE had witnessed some lavish transfer window shopping by mid-January last year, but 12 months on and the tills are ringing nothing like as much.
So far, cheque books have remained closed in club boardrooms across the Broad Acres during the early manoeuvres of the window, and chances are it could stay that way until it closes at 11pm on February 2.
It is a far cry from last year when Hull City famously committed themselves to around £14m in the head-turning dual acquisition of Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long, with the former arriving in mid-January for a fee rising to £7.5m.
Given the Tigers’ parlous plight in the relegation zone – this time last year, they were five points above safety – the need for fresh blood is acute, moreso given a crippling injury crisis.
But belts need to remain tight with the Tigers in danger of breaking Financial Fair Play rules – the club are close to the FFP limit amid a record high wage bill.
After spending £37m on the likes of Abel Hernandez (£10m), Jake Livermore (£8m) and Robert Snodgrass (£7m) in the summer window, prudence will be the watchword at the KC Stadium, with the Tigers mindful of having to comply with FFP, which allows clubs only to spend a percentage of their income on players’ wages.
In all likelihood, good old-fashioned wheeling and dealing will be the only real option for Hull, who will find out at a tribunal later this week how much they must pay Blackpool for Tom Ince.
However, given their resources are stretched – Bruce is likely to be without over £30m of talent for Sunday’s clash at West Ham, including £17m strikeforce Jelavic and Hernandez – that represents an onerous exercise.
Last season’s other big spender in January, Huddersfield Town, who spent £1.2m to sign Nahki Wells from Bradford City and £250,000 to buy Joe Lolley, are in the market again, most notably for a back-up striker, with Derby’s Conor Sammon, currently on loan at Ipswich, tipped to end his time in Suffolk and head north.
Yet the signing of Wells, given his age, was essentially an investment in the club’s future and with chairman Dean Hoyle not veering from his vision of turning Town into a self-sufficient club fully compliant with FFP – call it tough love – wafting the cheque book with abandon is not an option.
Town’s main business so far has been outward bound with Adam Hammill and Danny Ward, used sparingly this term and both out of contract this summer, linking up with Rotherham United.
Ward’s move to the Millers, for a low six-figure fee, is the only cash deal so far involving Yorkshire clubs.
Frenetic new year transfer movement is becoming a perennial event under Steve Evans with the Millers involved in 14 deals 12 months ago.
The smart money is on double-figure involvement again, given the activity so far.
Along with Ward and Hammill, Jack Barmby – son of ex-Hull and Leeds United striker Nick – has joined from Leicester, with Alex Revell leaving and Febian Brandy and Michael Tidser released.
Other players, including Ben Pringle – whose move to Millwall late last week fell through after he could not agree personal terms – are likely to leave, with a new forward high on the wish-list of Evans, who made a dramatic beat-the-deadline move on September 1 to sign Luciano Becchio and Jonson Clarke-Harris.
Expect Evans to spring a surprise or two between now and February 2 in the biannual game of transfer poker.
For Leeds, who along with Blackburn Rovers and Nottingham Forest are under a transfer embargo after breaching FFP rules in incurring losses of over £8m last season, there is limited room for manoeuvre.
United, whose business in bringing in loan duo Jimmy Kebe and Cameron Stewart last January now carries with it a certain amount of infamy, are poring over various unheralded Serie A and Serie B options in a bid to work around the restriction.
Loopholes in Football League rules allow teams under an embargo to sign players for a maximum of £600,000 in salary costs, but with owner Massimo Cellino’s appeal against the league decision to disqualify him as an owner and director of Leeds starting tomorrow and taking pre-eminence, swift incoming transfer business is a bit of a moot point.
For both Steel City clubs, who have plenty to play for on the league front, January could potentially be a pivotal time, although for Sheffield Wednesday, any significant investment will hinge on the success of Milan Mandaric’s talks with a Thai consortium to take over at S6.
If the talks drag on, the risk of losing transfer targets will increase for the Owls – not for the first time.
Across the city, Sheffield United may be working diligently to boost their numbers, but Nigel Clough insists they will not pay over the odds.
He has warned any targets that a desire to join the club is paramount ahead of wage concerns, sentiments with which many Yorkshire managers will concur. Most simply have no choice.