By Kane Prior
One of the best economic decisions would have to be the sacking of Steve Bruce by Sunderland and the subsequent hiring of Martin O’Neill. Under Steve Bruce, Sunderland were in 16th position when he left, with a form of 11 points from its first 12 games. If you carried that form for the rest of the season then they would have 33 points in 36 games with just two games to go in the season, which would place them right in the relegation battle, as Bolton in 18th place with just 32 games gone are already on 29 points. Now it would be very harsh to suggest such poor form would have continued for the rest of the season but it is clear to see a management change was an effective decision. Under Martin O’Neill, Sunderland are now in 11th position and in his first 12 games won 22 points. With pretty much the same squad, Sunderland could make approximately £5 million more in prize money if they finish in 11th position. He has also boosted the value of players like James McClean, who is rumoured to be valued above the £10 million mark. The decision turned around Sunderland’s fortunes and it was entirely possible the club could have got relegated under Steve Bruce, an event that would have ruined the club financially.
The next best economic decision was Newcastle’s transfer dealings this season. In the summer they brought in Demba Ba on a free transfer and he has gone on to become their top goal scorer with 16 league goals. They also managed to get rid of the controversial figure of Joey Barton and replace him with French league winner Yohan Cabaye, who has formed a great relationship with Cheick Tiote in midfield. The midfielder was bought for a reported £4.3m (a relatively cheap transfer) and has impressive stats: 3 goals, 4 assists and 1.6 key passes per game. Left-back Jose Enrique wasn’t dedicated to the cause and was moved on to Liverpool, ironically to qualify for the Champions League, of which Newcastle now have a much better chance of achieving. Then in the January transfer window they signed a new forward, Papiss Cisse, who has already scored 10 goals in just 9 league games. Another relatively cheap signing at a reported £10 million, as strikers are well known to be the most expensive signings. This has reinvigorated Newcastle’s season as they lie in 5th place on equal points with Tottenham, with a great chance of Champions League qualification that could boost their finances by £50 million.
The final best economic decision was Tottenham Hotspur’s decision to keep their best players. In the summer they fought off interest for Gareth Bale and Luka Modric, their two best players and key parts of their successful form. Gareth Bale obtained great plaudits last season after his scintillating form in the Champions League and without the same stage this season many thought he would move on. However he was convinced to stay to the benefit of Tottenham, with 9 goals and 8 assists in the league as well as pushing his team to the FA Cup semi-finals. With Luka Modric, the speculation over his future was fierce with rumours continuing into the first games of the season, leading to him being dropped after worries over his mental state. The main source of these rumours was Chelsea’s failed bids for Modric earlier in the season, estimated to be around £30 million. Tottenham rightly rejected these bids, with Modric an extremely talented player that is key to the way they play (the link between midfield and attack). If he could help them qualify for the Champions League they could gain more money from prize money and TV rights and they would then have the option of selling him next season for a similar if not inflated fee. It was a risk and Tottenham are not assured of their place in the top four, but they would surely have finished much lower without either player and risked spiralling into bad momentum. Keeping both players got Tottenham playing their best football before Christmas and could reward them with a place in the Champions League next season – a prosperous result for Tottenham’s board.
All three clubs have benefitted hugely from these vital decisions. Sunderland could be facing relegation right now had they kept hold of Steve Bruce and we might never have heard of James McClean. Newcastle could still be caught up in the twitter world of Joey Barton and run out of steam long ago without Papiss Cisse. While Tottenham could be in Liverpool’s situation right now, where it is comparable to look at what happened to Liverpool when they sold Xabi Alonso (their midfield playmaker like Modric) and dropped out of the top four. All three will benefit financially as well with qualification for the Champions League and avoidance of relegation the most profitable aspects of the Premier League.