Leeds United: United’s promotion rivals are splashing the cash

Chris Wood.
Chris Wood.
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WHEN IT comes to wafting the cheque book to sign a player for a seven-figure fee this summer, Leeds United are most definitely in good Championship company.

United’s deal to bring in Chris Wood from Leicester City earlier this month, in a deal which could rise to the £3m mark, represented the club’s biggest outlay since purchasing Nick Barmby from Liverpool for £2.75m in August 2002 – and was greeted with widespread fanfare.

Several other second-tier clubs have also flexed their muscles with moves that have turned heads not just among their own supporters, but those across the Championship landscape as well for good measure.

Chief among them being Derby County and Middlesbrough, whose odds to clinch promotion to the top-flight are among the shortest in the division.

Others tipped to go well in 2015-16 such as Wolverhampton Wanderers have also splashed out £2m to sign Huddersfield Town midfielder Conor Coady, along with QPR and Burnley, not to mention Fulham.

But perhaps the broadest indication of the strength virtually across the board in the Championship comes in the shape of clubs who until fairly recently were regularly residing in the third tier in Bristol City and Brentford making big-money purchases of £1m plus.

Scanning the transfer activity across the division, it is inescapable to avoid the conclusion that it will be as a tough and competitive as it has ever been, perhaps more so – with Leeds and a number of others having made statements already this summer.

Derby have already spent over £10m and if Boro get their way and land Jordan Rhodes from Blackburn Rovers, their summer spending spree will, if reports are to believed, breach the £20m barrier.

It will probably take between £12m to £14m to secure Rhodes, which would trump the major outlay made by Fulham to purchase Ross McCormack from Leeds last summer in a deal worth around £11m.

Boro have already spent £5.5m on bringing Stewart Downing home to Teesside, with another £2.8m earmarked for Uruguayan hitman Christian Stuani.

A slight relaxation of Financial Fair Play rules for 2015-16 means that second-tier clubs are permitted to run up maximum losses of £13m in the forthcoming season – rising from the previous figure of £8m – and a number are intent on taking advantage of that to the full.

Back in December, Leeds were among three Championship clubs along with Blackburn Rovers and Nottingham Forest who were issued with transfer embargoes for the rest of the 2013-14 season for breaching FFP rules, after exceeding permitted losses of £8million in the 2012-13 campaign. Leeds have since had their embargo lifted, as have Forest.

With the cash rewards of reaching the Premier League well chronicled, the temptation for clubs to ‘roll the dice’ to try and reach the Promised Land is self-evident, although some would say so are the dangers if promotion is not achieved.

But that has not stopped several chancing their arm.

Derby have shown their intent in signing a top-flight striker in Andi Weimann from Aston Villa, with the Austrian international joining in for a reported £2.75m.

Hot on the heels of that move saw Tom Ince switch from Hull City in a £4.75m deal, with the Rams’ capture of former defender Jason Shackell from Burnley for £3m representing perhaps the club’s most head-turning transfer.

More so with the centre-half turning 32 at the end of next month, with the size of the fee showing to all and sundry that Derby are seriously ‘going for it’ in 2015-16, perhaps more than any other transfer.

Similarly, Boro’s big-money capture of another player past his 30th birthday in Downing – he turned 31 last month – is conclusive proof that they are planning on not still being around in the Championship in 2016-17.

Several clubs who remain in the fortunate position to be in receipt of parachute payments this summer are not standing still when it comes to making transfer moves, with Hull City thus far being a noteworthy exception.

QPR may be in the dock with the Football League, who believe the club were in breach of FFP regulations over £60m of loans written off by the club’s owners during their promotion season of 2013-14, but that has not wholly stopped their spending this summer and ushered in total austerity.

This despite the league attempting to fine them a massive £50m for FFP breaches, with a court case pending.

Swindon midfield pair Ben Gladwin and Massimo Luongo have arrived for a combined fee in the region of £3.5m, with Dutch forward Tjarron Chery also coming to Loftus Road for a reported fee of over £2m.

Another seven-figure deal has seen Rangers go continental to sign Germany Under-21 striker Sebastian Polter for £1m from Mainz.

A little further west in the capital, Brentford, whose average crowd was just 10,822 last season, may lack in terms of fan power, but not in terms of financial clout, with their ambition again clear to see after their remarkable run to the Championship play-off semi-finals in 2015-16.

The Bees have already smashed their transfer record to bring in Danish international centre-half Andreas Bjelland for a cool £2.1m from Dutch outfit FC Twente, with Josh McEachran and Yoann Barbet also coming in for a combined fee of just over £1m.

The Bees’ neighbours Fulham, who made the division’s marquee move of last summer to bring in McCormack, have not been quite so lavish with the cash, but that has not stepped them spending around £3m on Blackburn’ midfielder Tom Crainey, released as a youngster by Leeds United at the age of just 16.

The £500,000 signing of Jazz Richards has taken their spending up to the £4m mark.

While the Championship’s West London contingent has spent hard cash, ambition is also pronounced further west at Bristol City.

Their major arrival is a striker called Jonathan Kodjia, a player who may be little-known on these shores, but who has a strong reptuation in his native France.

The former Angers forward has arrived for around £2.1m, with his 15 goals last season earning him the prestigious accolade of bring crowned as the French second tier’s player of the year.

Expect more tills to be ringing between now and September 1 at Championship level.