Why spending big is no guarantee of success

With the international break over, it’s a return to Premier League action with Albion hosting reigning champions Manchester City at the weekend, writes West Brom blogger Warren Stephens.

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This fixture has provided us with some favourable results in recent seasons, the 4-0 home drubbing that kick-started our first promotion season and the remarkable 1-1 from no shots on target that kick-started the Great Escape amongst them. However since the arrival of Sheikh Mansour and his vast wealth, City are something of a different prospect now than they once were.

Indeed the XI that started City’s last Premier League game set them back nigh on £200m in transfer fees; Albion’s starting line-up against QPR cost around £14m. City, like Chelsea before them and to a lesser extent Blackburn, have been handed a virtually blank cheque book and been told to exchange it for Premier League titles.

I must admit I find the distortion in Premier League wealth profoundly sickening and I think the predictability of results that comes with it detracts from the league as a spectacle. Whereas 40 years ago any of many teams could challenge for the league title, it now seems only one of a select few have the resources to. Champions League revenue and wealthy benefactors have left the rest in the shadow of the best, achieving far greater value-for-money being the only viable way a relatively self-sufficient club like ours can compete.

This set me thinking about Albion and value-for-money. What if Sheikh Mansour had swapped his Boddingtons for Banks’s, his Parker jacket for pork scratchings and handed Steve Clarke a blank cheque to wage an assault on the top-four? A quick glance through the history books doesn’t necessarily suggest it’d be a good thing. David Mills, Peter Barnes (coincidentally from Manchester City), Martin Albrechtsen and Borja Valero were all signed for club record fees at the time. I also remember Paul Groves joining for a near-record fee, none of them went on to particularly justify their price tags. Conversely Tony Brown, Bryan Robson and Cyrille Regis cost the club barely anything and are all part of the folklore of the club. Is there something in Albion’s DNA that lends itself to creating names rather than recruiting them?

We’d obviously all love to see Albion competing for major trophies in a way we once could, but would we want to see the community spirit of a club like Albion replaced by corporatism to quite the extent City’s has? While I’m sure Manchester City fans are enjoying their moment in the spotlight- particularly given they’ve spent so long seemingly in the shadow of neighbours United- it’d be interesting to hear what they felt about the contributions of some of the players that have joined their ‘gravy train’ in recent years.

Onto the game itself and City will obviously start as favourites, but we only have to go back 10 months and the 0-0 draw at The Hawthorns last season for encouragement that an away win is by no means a certainty. We had to defend resolutely that day and I suspect we’ll have to again for large periods, the full-back areas in particular may come under the spotlight given recent injuries. However, Chelsea aside, Albion are the only team remaining with a 100 per cent Premier League home record intact and, hopefully, we’ll have a chance to display some of the excellent attacking football we’ve shown in some of our home games so far. Come on you Baggies!!

 

Comments for: "Why spending big is no guarantee of success"

Bromham Baggie

There's only one club that I care about. I have a passing interest in Wolves, Villa, and perhaps B'ham City. The other 88 league clubs, apart from match day, are totally irrelevant to me. I would be very pleased if the " giants" departed for a European Saturday League, so that my club could compete on a more equal footing to win competitions, but in the big scheme of things I'm happy to be a Baggie (well, 'happy' might not be the right word, but I suspect people know what I mean) And I would laugh like a drain if, for any reason, the financial rug was pulled from beneath Chelski, Man City et al.

Robin Brittain

I know what you are saying but I think you have to admit that without the Man Cities and Chelseas we may never get to see some of the great players that they have brought to our league . Our own club have attracted some high quality imported players such as Claudio Yacob but it's unlikely that we can afford an Aguero or Hazard , but we still get the opportunity to see them live. It may be an unlevel playing field but it's a very entertaining one.

Bromham Baggie

I'd prefer it if I could respond after knowing tomorrow's result, but if a player with a £25m price tag scores against us it would be of little comfort to me how good he is.

Shropshirebaggy

Magnificent blog Warren, the fact that Albion have succeeded on such a limited budget is something I feel extremely proud of.

The wealth now in football means clubs are spending way beyond their means and at some point, many of these clubs will collapse under the weight of all this debt, just like Portsmouth already have.

Wall Heath Baggie

It's funny how supporters from ' poor' clubs always take the moral high ground but if their club was to suddenly get a ' Sugar Daddy' , their moral indignation would disappear like smoke in a whirlwind.

Jack ♣ Hat.

Wall Heath,

What would you really have, 1/ Living on a knife edge with a rich owner. 2/ Have a solid base that Jeremy Peace affords. Answer honestly.

BOING~~~~BOING~~~~J♣H.

We got solbakken the club

Once again Jacko you put up a nonsensical argument. Can't remember Blackburn fans living on a knife edge with Jack Walker, especially when they won the prem. JP is also a fan of his club it's just that he's a good way behind some of these owner/investors in financial standing.

Au revoir our kid...

Jack ♣ Hat.

Sobackinthechampionship,

Yours is the nonsensical argument and you are sticking your nose in when you haven't a clue what we are on about. So for your sake only, We are discussing clubs that failed in the attempt to buy themselves glory. So run along a disgust the teams that did make it with yourself. Byeeee!.

BOING~~~~BOING~~~~J♣H.

CantelloRocket 78

Solbakken the obsessed-

it makes you wonder why these guys make the effort, don't you think?

Poor Sir Jack was a massive fan of your club, yet over 60 million of his wealth was poured down the drain at molineux, after which he was abused and spat at by wolves fans.

It must break his heart to see the state you've got yerself into, whilst JP has done such a superb job at The Hawthorns.

No wonder you can't keep away from here, it's like a kid looking through the window of shop at things he would love to have, but just can't afford.........

Wall Heath Baggie

I am starting to like Solbakken as he takes the heat of me . Keep posting me mon.

CantelloRocket 78

Max,

c'mon, tell the truth, you secretly love getting stick on here, don't ya?

As for 'Solbakken', if you like him so much, you could always copy him-

all you have to do is become extremely jealous of wolves, spend all your time on their site, and give yerself a pathetically bad 'catchphrase', just like Paul Daniels and The Krankies.....

(Don't forget to have a pint for me, see ya soon.)

Jack ♣ Hat.

Sobackinthe championship,

Jeremy Peace is an ALBION fan, he isn't as rich as the big boys and no Albion fan as I Know has said otherwise, it is something you have made up yet again. But he is top of the league when it comes to running a football club. Now go and dream up some more lies.

BOING~~~~BOING~~~~J♣H.

Kev in Mallorca

Definably wrong"again" there mar mate!

Speaking for myself and quite a few Baggies fans I know we would be dismayed from a personal point of view as we all feel the same pride as fans that we and the club have brought WBA this far forward and wouldn't mind if we continued at the same pace and sure a little something would die inside but still accepting,because it's the club we all live and breath, "The progress" that the money would hopefully bring.

Warren

For obvious reasons I thought the article about the cost of football was your long awaited blog when I saw the headline.

Although you've said how you feel about the distortion in football you haven't really said how you would feel if it was your own club?

Adéu

Jack ♣ Hat.

Kev,

Sorry for invading your air space.

Wall Heath,

Watch it mate he is trying to steal your Thunder.

BOING~~~~BOING~~~~J♣H.

Jack ♣ Hat.

Kev,

You could misinterpret my post to Wall Heath mate, I am referring to the dopey Dingle on here who believes he is clever.

BOING~~~~BOING~~~~J♣H.

Mboy

Max - as a working class bloke who has had to work hard for everything I've got, I certainly would NOT appreciate a "sugar daddy" taking over OUR club! Look at Cardiff now playing in RED - who knows what a new owner would do!!!

Jack ♣ Hat.

Mboy.

Frightening mate. Just had a nightmare, our new money mogul changed our strip to "Yalla un dowdy Black". ☺☻☺☻s.

BOING~~~~BOING~~~~J♣H.

Wall Heath Baggie

Perhaps we could come out waving pink flags.

Kev in Mallorca

I'll see what I can do mar mate!

Adéu

Lobe

Interesting question Warren. I've got Man City colleagues and neighbours, all of which are enjoying their success, but most of which also admit they've lost something as a club, with fans now feeling dissenfranchised. Tomorrow they're depressed if they don't get a good win, whereas we're jubilant with a point or three. I find myself expecting us to at least give them a good game and create chances, and I absolutely believe we can win it. Personally I think where we are now is perfect. On the up, playing good football (usually anyway), and capable of giving anyone a good game, but not too depressed if we have a slight setback. Strangely I did get a slight down feeling when we dropped out of the top 4. I do believe this team has a chance of doing something special tomorrow, and this season.

Jack ♣ Hat.

Warren,

Thanks for your informative blog. I remember Leeds being forerunners in the "Splash the cash" glory hunters, they have strived to get back in (The Premiership) for years. Sheffield Wednesday splashed their cash on a brand new stadium, incidentally, when we played Leicester at Hillsborough in the semi final of the F.A. cup, it was the first time I had ever seen an electronic scoreboard. That was their cherry on the cake which was the magnificent structure in those days. Wednesday were relegated and as their cash had been spent on the stadium, they have remained in the wilderness ever since. Jeremy Peace and Co build our squad and stadium in tandem. Just to mention, John Deehan was bought in to partner Mills at great expense and his Villa form deserted him. The only way I would welcome a £multibillion owner would be with Jeremy Peace still pulling the strings. Go get 'em ALBION.

BOING~~~~BOING~~~~J♣H.

Warren

I'm only 31 Jack, it's times like this I need help from you and the other regulars in churning out historic examples!!

Warren

Cheers for the comments, I submitted it quite late so there's probably not as much of a debate as there normally is.

Wall Heath/Kev

As you both know, I work in finance, looking at a negative balance sheet pains me!! Would I prefer if we could win things? Yeah of course. But I'd prefer all clubs bound by legislation to stay solvent and we did it that way rather than as some oligarch's toy.

As Shropshire sort of alludes to, when you're under one of these bloke's spells, you're forever indebted to them. A few Chelsea fans took a banner to Abramovich a couple of years ago, Fulham fans (probably rightly) protested about the Michael Jackson statue erected by Al-Fayed and our Villa friends love a good moan at Lerner. But all three of these clubs owe vast sums of money to their owners. If a wealthy owner reaches a threshold of tolerance for the criticism they get, they could theoretically walk away, ask for their money back and bankrupt the club overnight.

What if Fayed's long-lost twin took us over, gave us £200m then started erecting statues of One Direction outside the ground??? There's not a lot you can do!!

I think most of us are proud of where we are given our resources. The problem's more the distribution of the money in the game.

Lobe

Are you in Manchester somewhere? I live in Heald Green.

Lobe

Heald Green, not that far from my lad in Withington. No we did live in Manc some years back but now in Hereford. City fans seam to be everywhere these days. Opposite us is a City fan married to a Baggie fan so a good time of year for the banter.

Warren

I lived in Fallowfield for quite a few years, so know Withington quite well.

There's enough City fans in Manchester who never go to the games, the last thing we need is more everywhere else!

IanH

Heald Green? I was brought up there until my family headed to the Midlands when I was nine. Rossendale Road, we lived in.

A Manchester City fan since '69, so boy have I suffered. Interesting times now though.

But despite the expectations all the cash has brought us, I never go into a game certain that we're bound to win it. Hopefully the City fans will resist that type of arrogance, typified by fans of certain other clubs (you know who you are!).

After all, there's no other team can "do a City" quite like Manchester City . . .

Warren

I live just behind the train station (Moss Nook side), it's a new estate and probably the only bit of Heald Green that falls under Manchester and not Stockport.

I could be wrong but a City fan since '69, didn't you win the FA Cup that year and the League Cup (against us!!) a year later??? Not a bad start. Sending United down can't have been a bad year either!!

Cyril Randle

Warren, you are becoming a worthy successor to Jarrod. Higher praise hath no man.

Define 'Sport'. A competition between MATCHED opponents.. So the Prem ain't sport, not TRULY sport if you can buy your way to the top. We get a rush of excitement when we play the Sheik's Hotshots only because it's underdog v Crufts.

Believe me though, the glow we got from playing 42 matches against 21 reasonably equal sides was superior in every way. This week has seen racism raise its vile head once again, the authorities showing too they haven't a clue how to combat it. A fine is derisory and the pain is minimal. Make Serbia play home matches behind closed doors for a whole season. Then we had the Rain in Poland falling mainly on the pitch. Incompetence on that level suggests too much banqueting with no one responsible available, followed by dishing out sleeping pills to athletes ! Which brings us back to MONEY, the love of which is the root of all evil. Yow cuddn't mek it up !

Jack ♣ Hat.

Cyril,

That is a brilliant medley mate.

..... un ar bay on abaert a medeum soise field ayther, ☺☻☺☻s.

BOING~~~~BOING~~~~J♣H.

Warren

Thanks Cyril, kind words and I really appreciate it. Hopefully see you for a pint before the season's out!!

CantelloRocket 78

Warren,

alright, mate?

Time and again fans have discussed the 'inequality' of the football clubs, and until someone comes up with a 'fair' solution, we have to go along with it, but it's an issue that really needs sorting out.

To me, it's very simple-

TRUE success is all about reaching the maximum of your own potential.

Locally, Villa and Blues are based in a major city, with potentially millions of fans, and Villa also have a billionaire owner, whilst Wolves are now also based in a city, and have had millions of pounds poured into the club from the local council, Sir Jack and Steve Morgan, yet Albion stand high above them all on limited resources.

It's interesting that Sir Alex was happy to spend large amounts of money at United to beat financially poorer opposition, but since City began spending MORE, he's now calling for a 'cap' on what club's spend- double standards or what?

The bottom line for me is that I love my club, I love the 'family' image, and I'm very proud of 'what we've done with what we've got'-

if Albion were to win trophies because some foreign billionaire took over, and threw money like water at greedy players to come to a club they wouldn't normally be interested in, for me it would be extremely hollow success.

If we don't have some level of fairness and equality in sport, then where's the satisfaction in beating someone poorer or weaker than yourself?

We may as well just call it a day.

Warren

CR78

Hello mate. I think you make a very good point that I missed out on, but to me City's title win last year was a hollow victory. It's sort of like a 12-year-old walking into a playground full of 8-year-olds and beating them up, or an Arsenal fan mocking a Yeovil fan about attendances.

In fairness to United, and I'm no sympathiser with them, they have a far higher turnover than almost everyone else. It doesn't begrudge me them spending money that's come through the turnstile or over the counter and they're paying a higher price than anyone for being victim of a hostile takeover. For every Sheikh Monseur and Dave Whelan there's a Malcolm Glazier and Carson Yeung.

astleistheking

Paul Groves! I remember being so excited that we were signing a player for £750k which for me and probably you too Warren was the biggest fee we had witnessed at the Albion. He was very dissapointing to say the least. I also remember the 4-0 game as we played like champions that day.

I am excited but cautious about tomorrow as I know what it's like to build it up only to be knocked down by a few pegs. There will be more anticipation amongst us tomorrow after the 0-0 draw last time, but just like when we played our hearts out against Chelsea and Man United we came away with nothing. If we can get a draw I will be over the blue moon, ahem...

Warren

Shaun Cunnington, Julian Darby. There were some questionable 'big-money' (for us) purchases during that regime!!

astleistheking

On the subject of Man city, I have noticed a lot of Man city tops appearing around London as late but unlike Man United fans they're not from London, this having spoken to a few of them. They're generally from abroad which just goes to show you how success can bring you bigger returns in many ways.

JimDavis

Borja Valero was quality, we just got him before the rest of the team was in place. Imagine him with Mulumbu and Yacob behind him for cover, Morrison next to him and Odenwingie and Long ahead to receive his passes. We'd be unstoppable!

Jack ♣ Hat.

Jim,

That is a nice thought mate.

BOING~~~~BOING~~~~J♣H.

Warren

I agree with you Jim, he's undoubtedly a technically-gifted and talented player but unfortunately it didn't work out. I often wonder about that season, we often went into games with either Miller or Bednar upfront alone and especially at home teams could sit and pick us off. We'd spend so much time playing balls across the pitch yet so often little opportunity (with such slow build-up play) to thread balls in behind teams. Like you say he'd probably flourish with what we have now, it's a great shame we'll never know.