What are the metrics of a successful transfer policy and how do you measure them.?
I read a reasonable article on the internet recently which outlined all our transfer activity over the past 5 seasons and asked the reasonable question – are we getting bang for buck?
The list of players put up were:-
2015-16-Boyata, Janko, Ciftci, Scott Allan, Christie, Simunovic, Cole, Sviatchenko, Kazim-Richards
2016-17- Ajer, Dembele, Toure, Sinclair, Devries, Gamboa, Kouassi
2017-18- Hayes, Benyu, Ntcham, Compper, Morgan, Hendry
2018-19- Bain, Edouard, Izaguirrre, Mulumbu, Bayo, Shved, Gutman, Perez
2019-20- Jullien, Bolingoli, Elhamed, Taylor, Frimpong, Klimala, Soro
I recognise that a few of our Youth punts were excluded from that list but these were the main buys for the immediate senior squad, with the possible exceptions of both benyu and Frimpong. The article accepted that no club is going to have 100% success in the transfer market, so, that raised some questions in me.
What would be an acceptable level of success in this sphere?
What percentage of success have Celtic had over the 5 seasons listed?
Is this poorer than the average percentage for comparable clubs?
And finally, how do you measure it?
You might have bought, say, 8 players- 2 were successes, 2 become squad members who play 10 to 20 games a season and 4 who did not make it onto the pitch very often. You might chose to calculate that as, say , a 50- 75% success rate. That is using time on the football pitch as your metric.
However, if your 2 successes are each, subsequently sold for £25m plus and you break even when selling on the squad members, but take a loss of £5m for each of the 4 who did not make it, is that a financial success of +£30m.
Or do you have to deduct wages and bonuses and other costs before evaluating that is a successful year of trading. That is using player trading profitability as your measure of success- not something the fans want to think too much about.
And then, there are the value of the trophies won by the players when with your club. How do you measure what they are worth and what contribution your transfer activity made towards it? Is CL qualification really worth £30m plus to the club as outright profit? Is the league title really worth the same since you could not attempt qualification unless you were a league winner, most years? Even a player who did not quite make it with the club, could be responsible for pressuring a first team member to improve his game so that the team benefits. How do you then value the trophies and titles won?
And then there are the trophies lost- not many domestically, I grant you but an ever decreasing spiral of difficulty in being relevant in Europe. This gets explained differently by different viewpoints within the support. I belong to the Glass Ceiling Explanation group that suggests we are competing in an unfair market with TV money used as a steroid to allow less relevant clubs in the larger leagues (Southampton, Villa, Celta Vigo, Nimes, Atalanta etc;) to attract players that we were interested in, and that there is no amount of sane increased spending that allows us to bridge that gap. The alternative view is that we should Top Load our spending, spend a little more (rarely specified how little is little), spend it earlier, bed in a team and these difficult Euro qualifiers will become somewhat less difficult and we will pay ourselves back with a higher ratio of CL Group qualifications than we currently do.
Both arguments are legitimate projections and, in fact both predict the same outcome. A desire to be cautious and I’ll say risk-aware, rather than the jibe risk-averse, leads to a recognition that you are unlikely to get as many Group appearances as you might do. You are somewhat accepting of your lot and, in the words of Hawkeye in Last of the Mohicans, you are just staying alive in these risky times until you can get rescued. The “Spend a Little More” Group also predicts that, if you do not do so, the same outcome will occur-there will be fewer Group qualifications too. Trouble is no-one, but the fans on the sideline,are heavily invested in a let’s call it “Higher Risk” approach, rather than the pejorative “Risk Oblivious”. No-one is going to put that to the test. Certainly, not a Dermot Desmond nor a Fergus McCann.
Fergus is now a revered figure amongst most of the support, but he was reviled when he was here. He allowed the old dead Rangers to achieve 9iar because he would not loosen his purse strings to sanction player buys to attempt to bridge the gap. Poor Lou Macari had to raid the Army for two players because Fergus stuck to his Frugal Plan as he wanted to ensure success of the Stadium build and saving the club from its enemies before he loosened them. When he eventually allowed Tommy Burns to go for Van Hoojdonk, Cadete and Di Canio, we nearly stopped them, but we didn’t. Is that a fact in favour of Risk-Aware or Higher Risk spending? You takes your pick and chooses a side but it remains a legitimate argument either way. We did eventually, stop the 10 with the burgeoning genius of a medium-price punt who was a Swedish player in the Eredivisie. We achieved the stopping of the 10iar with a squad that was, on paper, a less stellar squad than Rangers (as they were then) had, and with a manager who had never done anything very much as a coach and was at war with his general manager. So many of the factors that predict success just did not apply that season.
The final unknowable financial in all of these equations is the one posed by Auldheid recently- the price of the Soul of our club. Are we the club of Walfrid, a sporting outlet to raise charity for non-football aims? Or was that question settled early in our history when John Glass and others ensured that football and financial success were our main aims, and the ones that brought the crowds flocking, with charity as merely a welcome sideline; a tail but not a dog?
I do not have all or, indeed, most, of the answers to these questions. I am merely trying to assert that this critiquing of the club is not as easy as it looks.
The above by SFTB. Guest articles always welcome firstname.lastname@example.org