Something’s going on in the Championship. You look around and after quite a few barren years – years in which clubs kept their finances tight – the willingness to spend money is quite apparent again. Caution’s been thrown to the wind.
Between the signing of Stewart Downing and the massive bids for Jordan Rhodes, Middlesbrough are setting the bar especially high. They’re talking about a fee of £12million for Rhodes and that almost completely unheard of in the Championship.
The way Boro are going for it shows you how desperate clubs are to get into the Premier League.
Their owner, Steve Gibson, is obviously a fan and he’s put his life and soul into that club. But they’re not the only team who are throwing money about. Even Leeds United’s signing of Chris Wood went far beyond the average fee spent at Elland Road. Right across the division there’s a determination to speculate and accumulate.
Fair enough, the fee that Blackburn are demanding for Rhodes dwarfs the money spent by Leeds on Wood but to be fair to the powers that be at Elland Road, they’re starting from much further down the scale.
Boro have been investing for a while now and they were play-off finalists last season. They’re stepping it up year on year and make no mistake, they’ve got more things in place than we have at Leeds. But for all that I’m still really happy with the direction our club have been taking – and I do think that we’ve seen a vital change in attitude.
It couldn’t be said that our spending has been over the top this summer – and I’d argue with anyone who thinks Leeds should spend more than we can afford – but you can’t deny that we’ve been acting like good, stable clubs tend to act.
There’s a big coaching team in place under Uwe Rosler and some proper infrastructure behind the scenes too. We’ve signed some good players in my view and the club feel fresher and more vibrant. It makes me think that we’ve got our act together and are finally in possession of a plan which will pay off eventually. Quick fixes are never going to work at Elland Road. They don’t often work in the Championship. For all the money that Gibson’s spent at Boro, they’ve taken a couple of seasons to get into a position where most people see them as title favourites. Elsewhere, Nottingham Forest are a good example of why money alone isn’t the answer.
You do need cash and, with the way the Championship is going, you’ve got very little chance of getting out of this division without some financial clout. But money counts for little unless you’ve got good management, good coaching, a good ethos and good organisation to go with it. I’m starting to feel like we tick a few of those boxes at Leeds.
So do we have any chance of promotion this season? I honestly think that’s difficult to predict.
In fairness, you wouldn’t place us as hot favourites to make it into the top two or the top six but I do reckon we have the potential to be a bit of a surprise package.
For me, everything depends on how well we start, and for a couple of reasons. If we start poorly – and it has to be said that the first month is very tough on paper – then we’ll be under a bit of pressure and chasing our tails from the outset. Leeds are a club who need momentum so the early results are crucial.
But I also suspect that Massimo Cellino will be watching the first few weeks very closely.
We’ve still got a few weeks of the transfer window to run and knowing him, I could see him being tempted into a few late deals if we’re up and running and looking good at the end of August.
He’s not a guy who wants to stay in the Championship forever and as much as he seems to be quite realistic about our chances this season, I’m sure he’d jump on any opportunity to go up.
I’m not going to shout the odds about making the play-offs but if we get on a roll, we might just sneak in there. It’s high time this club did.