Sheffield United spend wisely as Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and the rest balance books amid FFP fears

AS someone whose managerial career has taken him from the Conference to the Premier League, Sheffield United’s Chris Wilder knows all about the contrasting ups and downs of a summer transfer window.

Oliver McBurnie welcomed by manager Chris Wilder at the Shirecliffe Training Complex, Sheffield. (Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage)
Oliver McBurnie welcomed by manager Chris Wilder at the Shirecliffe Training Complex, Sheffield. (Picture: Simon Bellis/Sportimage)

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The 51-year-old has experienced this annual buying and selling frenzy as both a ‘have’ and a ‘have-not’, this summer’s £42m spending spree at Bramall Lane contrasting sharply with his time at clubs such as Oxford United and Northampton Town where every pound coin had to do the work of a fiver.

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Bramall Lane has welcomed ten new faces since promotion was sealed last April, the club record transfer having been broken four times in the process.

Staying put: Jarrod Bowen at Hull City. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

“Always, we just try and get the maximum out of our budget,” explained Wilder to The Yorkshire Post. “Just as we always have, no matter what division we have been in. Numbers-wise in the Championship, we were always bottom third (in terms of budget).

“The fees we spent, we brought in by selling (David) Brooks, Che Adams and Dominic Calvert-Lewin or the sell-ons for Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker. It balanced itself out.”

United, as the county’s sole top-flight representative, now boast the type of financial muscle that those still in the Championship can only dream about in these straitened days of FFP.

Oli McBurnie’s return to his native Yorkshire, pictured, came courtesy of a £17m fee that will rise by a further £3m should the Blades stay up this term. Other big money arrivals have included Lys Mousset (£10m), Callum Robinson (£7m), Luke Freeman (£5m) and Ben Osborn (£4m), while Phil Jagielka’s return brings genuine Premier League pedigree.

Going nowhere: Leeds' Kalvin Phillips (Picture: Gareth Williams/AHPIX)

“Financially, we are really proud with how we have done it,” added Wilder, who added Mo Besic and goalkeeper Michael Verrips to his squad ahead of yesterday’s 5pm cut-off point. “We have allocated money from the Premier League to improve the squad. The players we have brought in will make us better and they are also assets.

“Just as those already in the group – such as Jack O’Connell, John Egan, Enda Stevens, (John) Fleck, (George) Baldock – are all big assets. We have done it in a sensible and pragmatic way.

“I have not looked at us going down. I have looked at the market we are in. It does sound like big numbers but that has come from the Premier League money. We are not in debt and we have not put ourselves in a position where we are going to be in trouble three or four years down the line.”

In the Championship, the final few hours of the window in Yorkshire brought a flurry of arrivals with Hull City making four additions and Sheffield Wednesday three.

Nevertheless, this has been a summer where Financial Fair Play has cast an increasingly dark shadow and much of the major activity has centred on balancing the books via out-goings.

Leeds United lost top scorer Kemar Roofe and one half of the central defensive partnership from the PFA team of the year in Pontus Jansson. Barnsley also saw Kieffer Moore depart along with Adam Davies, Ethan Pinnock and Liam Lindsay – basically, the goalkeeper and two centre halves from a defence that conceded less goals than any other in the Football League during 2018-19.

Elsewhere, Aaron Mooy joined Philip Billing and club captain Tommy Smith in leaving Huddersfield Town amid the fallout from relegation, while Aden Flint and Martin Braithwaite both left Middlesbrough for a combined £10m plus as the club looked to move on from the largesse under former manager Garry Monk.

All these departures meant new faces were needed and Leeds bagged probably the best in Helder Costa, the Wolverhampton Wanderers wideman. Kalvin Phillips also remained despite strong interest – United revealing last night that around £35m of bids were rejected for their players during the window – but Marcelo Bielsa’s squad still looks thin.

Sheffield Wednesday have spent the past week or so playing catch-up after spending most of the summer under a soft embargo but, again, perhaps the most notable transfer at Hillsborough this summer was the departure of Lucas Joao to Reading for an initial £5m.

Hull City, as is usually the case, were busy on deadline day but retaining Jarrod Bowen was surely the best news of all for Grant McCann.

As for Wilder and the Blades, the sole focus now is on acquiring enough points to keep the club afloat going into the New Year and the opening of the next window.

Not that the United manager – mindful of the on-going High Court case between warring owners, Kevin McCabe and HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, that is due to be resolved next month – is thinking too far ahead.

“January is something I don’t want to talk about because there are still the rumblings going on with the owners,” said Wilder, when asked if United had kept cash in reserve for the next window. “All I asked of them was a budget I could work with, for wages and fees. They did that.

“I would imagine the future of the club will be sorted in the next month or so. We are always looking and juggling, just as we always have done in transfer windows. As for the next one, no-one knows how things will pan out with the ownership.”