Select Page

Is Fulham’s financial might really the problem?

In the wake of Fulham’s fine start to the season, the relative strength of the Craven Cottage squad and the club’s financial might has been subject of much comment in the media and on one particular podcast. The situation is more complex that the suggestion that the Whites have spent twice as much as anyone else in the division, so I thought it was worth examining in detail. The amount of money splashing around in this transfer window has been reduced following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, so a fuller analysis needs to take a longer view.

In my previous article, I discussed the spending of a number of clubs such as Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Looking back through the years from when the Whites first competed back in the Championship in 2014/2015 until now, I’ve compiled a list of the most expensive Championship signings as well as looking at the major club spending and who has made the biggest loss.

The record signing in the Championship is currently the Portuguese midfielder Ruben Neves, who moved to Molineux for £16m and enjoyed a remarkable campaign as Wolves stormed to the title and was nominated as the EFL player of the year and young player of the year. A list of the other nine most expensive transfers in the division over this period – using the data compiled by Transfermarkt – makes for instructive reading:

1st. Ruben Neves, £16 million to Wolverhampton Wanderers

2nd. Britt Assombalonga £15 million to Middlesbrough.

3rd. Joaõ Carvalho £13.5 million to Nottingham Forest.

4th. Hélder Costa £13.5 million to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

5th. Ross McCormack £12 million to Aston Villa

6th. Harry Wilson, £12 million to Fulham (although this has been widely reported as being an initial loan from Liverpool).

7th. Benik Afobe £12 million to Stoke City.

8th. Jonathan Kodjia £11 million to Aston Villa

9th. Isaac Mbenza £11 million to Huddersfield.

10th. Andre Gray £11 million to Burnley.

I have now looked at the transfer income received and spent by each Championship club season-by-season since 2014/15 to look at who really have been the big spenders.

In 2014/15;

Fulham spent: £15.69M, income: £16.11M – profit £420k.

Middlesbrough spent: £10M, income: £5.53M. – loss £4.47M.

Norwich spent: £18.32M, income: £17.44M. – loss 876K. 

Watford spent: £8.10M, income: £0.495K. – loss £7.61M.

QPR spent: £12.74M, income: £16.57M. +£3.8M in profit.

2015/16 season;

Burnley spent: £23.13M, income: £16.63M. -£4.5M in loss.

QPR spent: £15.67M, income: £10.62M. -£5.05M in loss.

Middlesbrough spent: £30.06M, income: £6.39M. -£23.67M in loss.

Derby spent: £30.65M, income: £0. -£30.65M in loss.

Sheffield Wednesday spent: £13.91M, income: £1.22M. -£12.69M in loss.

Fulham spent: £7.80M, income: £8.57M. +770k in profit.

Brighton spent: £12.12M, income: £0. – £12.12M in loss.

2016/17 season;

Newcastle spent: £57.83M, income: £90.79M. +32.96M in profit.

Norwich spent: £23.81M, income: £33.03M. +£9.23m in profit. 

Aston Villa spent: £76.95m, income: £41.22M. -£35.73M loss.

Derby spent: £15.54m, income: £14.63m. -905k loss.

Sheffield Wednesday spent: £9.81m, income: £0. -£9.81m loss.

Birmingham spent: £9.08m, income: 180K. -£8.90m loss.

Wolves spent: £32.49m, income: £2.69m. -£29.80m loss.

Fulham spent £23.00m, income: £21.40m. -£1.59m loss.

2017/18

Hull City spent: £17.86m, income: £40.65m. +22.79m in profit.

Middlesbrough spent: £50.09m, income: £48.87m. -£1.22m loss.

Reading spent: £12.69m, income: £1.86m. -£10.83m loss.

Sheffield Wednesday spent: £13.68m, income: £0m. -£13.68 loss.

Fulham spent: £18.15m, income: £16.38m. -£1.77m loss. 

Leeds United spent: £25.59m, income: £15.75m. -£9.84m loss.

Cardiff City spent: £11.40m, income: £2.39m. -£9.02m loss.

Wolves spent: £22.15m, income: £5.69m. -£16.46m loss.

Bristol City spent: £12.09m, income: £2.97m. -£9.12m loss.

Birmingham spent: £15.89m, income: £4.23m. -£11.66m loss.

2018/19 season

Stoke City spent: £56.61m, income: £27.14m. -£29.48m loss.

Aston Villa spent: £17.19m, income: £14.54m. -£2.66m loss.

Middlesbrough spent: £19.35m, income: £43.28m. +£23.93m in profit.

Nottingham Forest spent £24.69m, income: £1.08m. -£23.60m loss.

2019/20

Cardiff City spent: £16.21m, income: 17.82m. +£1.61m in profit.

Fulham spent: £33.30m, income £25.65. -£7.65m loss.

West Brom spent: £19.35m, income: £33.54m. +£33.54m in profit.

Derby spent: £7.38m, income: £1.22m. -£6.17m.

Bristol City spent: £29.66m, income: £43.86m. +£14.21m in profit.

Brentford spent: £31.19m, income: £36.83m. +£5.64m in profit.

Birmingham spent: £9.25m, income: £21.42m. ++£12.17m in profit.

Reading spent: £11.61m, income: 765k. -£10.85m loss.

2020/21 season 

Nottingham Forest spent: £13.45m, income £14.18m. +£729K.

The spending in this current season has obviously not finished – we are not even at the end of the summer transfer window yet. Middlesbrough have spent around £6.86m. Some outlets have suggested that Fulham have already spent £20m but when the club’s only signings have been Paulo Gazzaniga (on a free transfer from Tottenham) and Harry Wilson on an initial loan (which could eventually rise to as much as £12m) you realise that there are some inaccuracies involved. The impending arrival of Rodrigo Muniz for a fee believed to be eventually more than £6m will increase the club’s spending, but you also have to factor in the departures of Aboubakar Kamara – for around £4m – and Stefan Johansen (reportedly sold for an initial £600,000 to QPR) and whether any other players will depart before the end of August.

I have also selected a set of sides, including Fulham, comparing how much they’ve spent, how much income they got from transfers and if they made profit or a loss since 2014/15 – bearing in mind, that like the Whites, several clubs have been promoted and relegation in this period.

Aston Villa 

Relegated to the championship for the 2016/17 season until promotion took them back to the Premier League for the 2019/20 season.

Spent in total: £96.66m, income in total: £71.81m. They made a total loss of -£24.85m in their three years in the championship.

Birmingham City 

Spent in total: £46.72m, income: £54.68m. They made a total profit of +£7.96m

Derby County 

Spent in total: £83.77m, income: £55.66m. They made a total loss of -£28.11m.

Reading 

Spent in total: £47.51m, income: £33.765m. They made a total loss of -£13.745m

Sheffield Wednesday

Spent in total: £41.639m , income: £9.32m. They made a total loss of -£32.319m

Nottingham Forest

Spent in total: £65.06m, income in total: £80.92m. They made a total profit of +£15.86. 

Wolverhampton Wanderers

From 2014 until promotion in 2018

Spent in total: £66.52m, income: £23.6m. They have made a total loss of -£42.92m. 

Fulham

This will be broken down into two sections as Fulham have been up and down between championship and PL – 2014-18, 19-20

From 2014-18 they have spent in total: £64.64m, income: £62.46m. This marks a loss of -£2.18m.

in 2019/20 they spent £33.30m, income: £25.65m. This marks them at a loss of -£7.65m.

in total they have spent: £97.94m, income: £88.11. In total loss of -£9.83m.

Middlesbrough

From 2014 until promotion from the Championship at the end of 2015/16 season.

They spent in total: £40.06m, income: £11.92m. They made a total loss of -£28.14m.

Following their relegation they were back for the 2017/18 season.

Since 2017/18 

They have spent in total: £75.31m, income: £105.286m. They made a profit of £29.976m.

Meaning they are in total profit of £1.836m.

As you can see from the detailed lists above, Fulham’s spending is not an outlier when we consider the recent finances of Championship clubs. There is probably a legitimate argument about whether the financial structures of English football create an even greater gulf between the have and have nots – something that is arguably only enhanced by the parachutes payments that clubs who drop down from the Premier League receive. There is no doubt that the instability of a number of clubs is also caused by the game’s lax governance and the unsuitability of the ironically named fit and proper person’s test for owners and directors. Reigning in rampant spending would be a laudable aim but it requires the powers that be to take action. Until they do, clubs will try to use any advantage possible to put them in the strongest position on the pitch.

Early deals help Fulham hit the ground running

It is no secret that since the Khans took over at Craven Cottage, Fulham’s recruitment has been somewhat hit and miss. There have been gems – like the arrival of Aleksandar Mitrovic and the purchase of Stefan Johansen – but plenty of poor ones – where is Adil Chihi these days, for example? Perhaps the most alarming part of the approach was the way the Whites had to play catch up with a lot of deals being left until the last minute. A succession of managers have had to wait until the closure of the transfer window to figure out what their best side is and that could be the difference between staying up and going down.

The scattergun transfer policy has spread disquiet amongst the fanbase and director of football Tony Khan has copped plenty of flak for it. Marco Silva’s arrival as Scott Parker’s replacement seems to have shaken things up somewhat. The Portuguese head coach got his first two acquisitions in over the weekend and rather before obscure signings from continental divisions, they were two players with significant experience of English football. Paulo Gazzaniga has played in both the EFL and the Premier League, whilst Harry Wilson has real Championship pedigree.

The rumoured impending arrival of Matt Grimes, who is due to have a medical with Fulham next week, suggests that the Whites are targeting players who know what it takes to perform in the Championship. The Swansea skipper has been one of the division’s most consistent midfielders in the last few years and a key part of the side that reached two play-offs under Steve Cooper. Should all go to plan, the arrival of these three players would end even more nous to a squad packed with Championship experience, including the likes of Tim Ream, Tom Cairney, Denis Odoi and Harrison Reed.

Whether this approach signifies a change in strategy or is a reaction to the tight financial fair play envelop that Fulham have to operate in at the moment, remains to be seen but there is no question that this campaign will be do or die for the club. Failing to secure an immediate return to the Premier League would undoubtedly be a financial disaster, almost certainly sparking a fire sale of the biggest names and probably making it difficult to compete in an unforgiving Championship. The stakes are certainly high – something Silva has acknowledged even as he demanded further signings in his Sunday interview.

There is no doubt that Fulham have the quality to be in the automatic promotion shake-up, as evidenced by the early bookmakers odds. They have squad that seems to have plausible alternatives in almost every position. The one area where the Whites still look a little light is up front having struggled to score goals last season. The hope is that a fit and firing Mitrovic will reproduce his outstanding Championship form having been mishandled by Scott Parker, but there is still a need for a capable back up. Jay Stansfield has had plenty of minutes in pre-season but the talented teenager remains raw at senor level. That’s presumably why Silva has made such a play for young Flamengo forward, Rodrigo Muniz, as he seeks to repeat his success in bringing Brazilian talent to English football having nurtured Richarlison so superbly.

Ultimately, we’ll only know how successful Fulham’s summer recruitment has been when the serious stuff gets underway in August. The fixture computer appears to have given the Whites a winnable set of early games so Silva has the chance to build some early momentum for a change.

EFL preparing for full capacity crowds in August

Fulham could kick off the Championship campaign in front of full capacity crowds in August following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that coronavirus restrictions would be lifted on July 19th.

The EFL chief executive Trevor Birch said: “The EFL welcomes today’s positive announcement by the prime minister that capacity restrictions are expected to be lifted later this month, which will allow us to finally press forward with our plans to see a full return of fans to EFL stadiums from the start of the new EFL season in just four weeks’ time.

“Football has been planning for this outcome since the outset of the pandemic and having been forced to endure empty stadiums since March 2020, the message from EFL Clubs is that we are ready to re-open and welcome fans back in numbers. From the EFL’s own participation in the Events Research Programme and our Club’s extensive experience built up over many years, we are confident that all our Clubs can successfully manage large scale events and we will continue to work with the Government on the guidance that will help support their matchday operations.

“Today’s developments, of course, have been made possible by the staff at the NHS and countless medical experts and scientists who have helped to develop and roll-out the vaccines. On behalf of the League and its membership, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for playing such an important role in helping re-open our sport and wider society.”

Precise capacity arrangements at Craven Cottage would have to be confirmed by the Hammersmith and Fulham Council safety advisory group which licenses all fixtures played at Fulham’s home ground. Due to the fact that Fulham’s historic home only has one entry point at Stevenage Road, Fulham have previously played in front of smaller crowds than their competitors, but there is a possibly that the relaxation of restrictions could facilitate full capacity for the opening fixture against Middlesbrough on Sunday 8 August.

Seven days, seven points

I’m not sure how you would work it out, but the Championship has to be one of the toughest leagues in Europe. It is ultra competitive, as we saw yesterday with a direct Millwall side posing Fulham plenty of problems, and anybody stands a chance of beating anyone else (I give you Burton’s victory over Slavisa Jokanovic’s side in September). There’s also the sheer weight and frequency of the fixtures that mean injuries and suspensions can prove very costly – and the stakes are so high that the pressure is intense.

Perhaps that’s why after the reverse at Wolves a couple of weeks ago there were those amongst the Fulham fanbase who were giving serious consideration to the idea of ditching Slavisa Jokanovic. Dan wrote at the time that he felt that was madness – and I haven’t spoken to a match-going fan who can come with a reason why the Serbian should be sacked – but, as the men who count the money never tire of telling us, football is a business now. And, to borrow a phrase from West Brom’s statement when they ran a mile from the odious Tony Pulis, it’s a ‘results-based’ one these days. If Jokanovic, who came so close to leading Fulham out at Wembley after that unbelievable end to last season, doesn’t manage to inspire some sort of promotion push than a parting of the ways could come at the end of the season.

But this week has shown us that dismissing the man who has got Fulham playing the best football since Craven Cottage witnessed Jean Tigana’s French revolution would be as big a mistake as, say, employing a stats fanatic with no experience in English football, as your assistant director of football. The Serbian certainly hasn’t become a bad coach overnight and Fulham’s prospects of reaching the Championship play-offs look an awful lot better after the Whites picked up seven points in a week where they hosted one of the promotion contenders, travelled to the league’s early pacesetters and won a thriller and then beat Millwall for the first time at this level since before Margaret Thatcher took up residence in Downing Street.

Jokanovic also tells us whether he can satisfied or not after each Fulham performance. It always reminds me of the pained high school teacher during parents’ evening trying to tell parents that their beloved boy or girl isn’t the angel they envisaged. Fulham’s head coach is such a stickler for the standards he set in his own playing career that he’s rarely ‘satisfied’ – and the last two games provided good examples of this. After the almost coronary-inducing end to that goalfest in south Yorkshire, Jokanovic told the press that, whilst it might have been a great game to watch for the fans, he’d have preferred a much less stressful evening.

The fear was always that Fulham, who looked like they could score at will when going forward at Bramall Lane, would grant the coach his wish – or wise – by struggling to break down a stubborn Millwall side. You could tell by the way some in the Hammersmith End began booing as Fulham nearly played themselves into trouble at the back that some fans felt Neil Harris’s men should be swept aside in an instant. That’s the danger of the sublime football we saw last season – those sort of standards are incredibly hard to maintain, especially when your opponents have had a whole pre-season to mug up on the things you do well.

People should also recognise that Fulham were markedly weaker yesterday than when they took the field in south Yorkshire. Tim Ream – undoubtedly Fulham’s most improved player during Jokanovic’s time at the club – was missing after succumbing to a knock picked up against the Blades. Denis Odoi, who had been an excellent left back against Derby and Sheffield United, reprised his central half role from Reading and Leeds. Kevin McDonald, arguably the most pivotal performer during last season’s surge to the play-offs, was missing from the base of the midfield and Stefan Johansen, promoted from the bench to the starting line-up, lasted only 45 minutes. Floyd Ayite’s hamstring injury is likely to get him out until much closer to Christmas at the very least.

In the circumstances, Fulham coped well with an aerial bombardment from a Millwall side who were desperate to end their six-game winless streak. On another day, the Whites could easily have been punished for allowing Tom Elliott two free headers inside the penalty area – one thudded against the far post – and affording the silky George Saville the freedom of Hammersmith and Fulham at times in the second half. There were plenty of hairy moments, not least when Aboubakar Kamara made a clumsy challenge inside the penalty area during stoppage time, but Fulham ground out an important home win for only the second time this season.

They perhaps should have made their possession count earlier in proceedings. Sheyi Ojo, cruelly mocked for that ‘go faster’ hairdo by the excellent travelling supporters, wasn’t quite as clinical as in Sheffield but he has certainly shown why Fulham were so pleased to conclude that loan deal with Liverpool. A moment of magic, when he decided to try and chip Jordan Archer from outside the box seemingly because nothing else was on, almost put the Whites ahead and his movement and willing running injected energy into the hosts’ play. Having Tom Cairney pulling the strings makes such a difference – twice two sumptuous through balls might have released Ojo and Neeksens Kebano, but Archer and Shaun Hutchinson just about snuffed out the danger.

Harris was convinced there was an element of fortune about the award of the penalty, but Conor McLaughlin clearly pulled back Rui Fonte, who had struggled to get much change out of the Millwall defence until that point. Given the baffling penalties that Fulham have seen awarded against them – the phantom penalty at Burton still sticks in my mind – you could understand Jokanovic’s bullishness on that point after the final whistle. He won’t have been happy at how Fulham ceded the initative in the second half, even if both Kamara and Tayo Edun showed both an appetite for the fight and an aptitude at this level that might lead to more first-team outings over the festive period.

Fulham’s lowly league position has been caused by a failure to bank points in August and September unlike the early pace setters. They’ve struggled to break down resolute defences at Craven Cottage and, as a result, only just climbed back into the top half of the table. Few would have expected seven points from a home game against Derby, who demolished Middlesbrough yesterday to move into six, a midweek trip to Sheffield United and a south London derby. The manner of this scrappy and yet gutsy three points was almost more important. It showed Fulham have the stomach for a fight.

Jokanovic welcomes transfer window move

Fulham head coach Slavisa Jokanovic has welcomed the English football authorities’ move to close the summer transfer window before the start of the season.

The Premier League clubs recently voted to close the August window before the start of the domestic campaign rather than at the end of the calendar month and the English Football League have also backed the plans – with a formal vote of the member clubs scheduled in January. Jokanovic believes that the decision will allow clubs to plan for the new season without the distraction of an open window remaining for the entire month of August.

The Serbian said:

I believe it’s a good idea. If the Premier League made this step it’s logical that the Championship teams do the same thing. At the end I expect we’re going to have the same rules as the Premier League teams,

The Fulham boss is also pleased that a change to the current regulations will allow EFL clubs to loan players after the summer transfer window closes for permanent deals.

I believe this loan rule can bring us more players in for pre-season, I believe we can start working with 90 per cent of the team that we are going to start the Championship with and this is great news. If you start pre-season with one team and in second half of pre-season you are with a second and then at the start of the season you have a third and then you finish the month with a fourth this doesn’t make any sense. At the end I think this is a very good idea and I support this 100 per cent.