Players come and, as Sheffield United were reminded this week, players go.
Che Adams’ transfer to Birmingham City, which will pump a significant sum into Bramall Lane’s coffers before appearance and other performance related benefits are paid, inevitably led to complaints that promotion will never be achieved until the club stops selling its best talents. The same charge, of course, can be levelled at the likes of Bury and Coventry City who have seen important squad members move to South Yorkshire of late. Football is a food chain and although, in an ideal world, United would have preferred to retain Adams’ services, they also use their muscle cherry-pick talent from rival clubs.
There was another reminder of the financial disparity between England’s four divisions earlier this week when Barnsley received a £6.79m windfall from Everton following John Stones’ move to Manchester City. A drop in the ocean for the moneymen at Goodison Park but more than Oakwell’s entire annual income according to its most recent published accounts. The fact that Aston Villa could receive around £87m in parachute payments for essentially failing in the top-flight last season rams home the gap even more.
If the gulf between the PL and the Championship is huge, it is equally enormous between the Championship and League One. Adams’ new employers at St Andrews benefit to the tune of around £6m per season when television, solidarity and other assorted revenue streams are totted-up. United, together with the rest of their League One rivals, get an estimated £1m. A situation which means, at Bramall Lane, the owners must invest around £8m this year to keep the team competitive, maintain category two academy status, run a 33,000 seater stadium and assorted community programmes. According to my back of a fag packet maths.
The average third tier wage is thought to be around £1,300 per week this term but, a division above, it is ten times that while £30,000 packages are becoming increasingly common. Little wonder, despite the fact he is earning nowhere near that amount, Adams was so keen to do business with Birmingham. Stones, I am sure, was enticed by the prospect of winning medals and working with Pep Guardiola. But don’t tell me he never gave his prospective salary a second thought. Of course, United could have refused to let Adams leave. Even though he seemed destined to be used as an impact substitute. But, if your husband or wife want a divorce and are forced to stay, I think it’s fair to assume it will not be the most productive of marriages. Waving goodbye to the 20-year-old is not symptomatic of a lack of ambition. It’s just life.
And, in this instance, probably a damn good piece of business for all concerned.