James Shield's Sheffield United Column: This is why Bramall Lane's hierarchy can spend with confidence in the Championship
Warren Buffett, the businessman, philanthropist and supposedly one of the most successful investors in the world, might not know much about football.
But when it comes to generating wealth he has two golden and, given the size of his bank balance, two very shrewd rules: 1) Never lose money. 2) Never forget rule number one.
It is a maxim some clubs choose to live by and others, particularly in the Championship where Sheffield United will ply their trade next season, deliberately ignore. If Bramall Lane’s hierarchy needed reminding that the financial landscape has changed beyond all recognition during their six years in exile, the sight of Wolverhampton Wanderers lavishing over £15m on Ruben Neves without the benefit of a so-called parachute payment will have rammed the fact home. Fist, knuckle duster and all, first.
Unable to compete with the likes of Middlesbrough, Aston Villa and the freshly-minted folk from Molineux, United have been forced to take a different approach in the transfer market; one focusing on players yet to establish themselves in the second tier but who possess the quality required to step-up.
Good, because United usually recruit better when they are preaching prudence. Arguably their greatest success in recent years, barring Wilder’s promotion and Nigel Clough’s cup runs, has been wasting huge sums of money on so-called ‘statement signings’ which actually turned-out to be anything but.
Buffett would be a fan of Wilder’s recruitment strategy. The vast majority of new arrivals since his appointment 12 months ago are now worth far more than the fees they initially commanded. Those that aren’t can still be loaned-out to recoup some of United’s initial outlay.
But, if Wilder’s paymasters want to do more than just tread water, there will come a time when they must loosen the purse strings. United’s hierarchy, it must be noted, have already sanctioned some pretty significant purchases this summer. Some incomings have cost significantly more than the figures I’ve seen quoted. Others for a great deal less. (Although that is to be applauded, not criticised).
If United do decide to push the boat out a little, however, they can give it a shove with utter confidence. Not because Wilder’s side romped to the League One title last term. Rather his adherence to Buffett’s principles.