Middlesbrough’s transfer activity is going to be under close scrutiny in the coming weeks.
Neil Warnock has been particularly vocal about some of the club’s transfer business over the last 12 months and that means that the pressure is building on the club’s recruitment team to ensure that they get things right.
Securing results on the pitch is clearly the priority for any club, but with the financial landscape of life in the EFL getting tougher by the year it means that there’s an increased need for clubs to self-sufficient and profitable with a large part of that boiling down to the club’s incomings and outgoings.
Several players have already been linked with a move to the Riverside Stadium this summer but the most eye-catching has to be around links with a potential new off-field addition.
Reports from the Sunday Sun claimed that Middlesbrough were monitoring Norwich City’s head of recruitment, Kieran Scott, with a view to naming him as the club’s new sporting director.
This position is becoming increasingly common in the football world with clubs choosing to appoint a sporting director to lead the recruitment efforts of a given club, meaning that the manager (or head coach) can focus solely on preparing the team for a matchday.
The Canaries are one of the shining lights in recent years when it comes to their recruitment with the club signing players such as Ben Godfrey, Jamal Lewis and Emi Buendia for modest fees before selling them on for a substantial profit.
Other clubs to thrive in this arena are the likes of Brentford, Peterborough United and more recently, Barnsley who are taking a similar approach.
This change in business model is proving to be incredibly effective and also fruitful with each of the names clubs being on a notable upward trajectory in terms of their standing in the football pyramid.
Meanwhile, Middlesbrough are struggling to compete.
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Neil Warnock is one of the EFL’s most respected managers for what he’s achieved in the game and he certainly knows what to look for in a player when it comes to building a team that can compete in the Championship, but Middlesbrough need to work towards long-term sustainability.
Steve Gibson has been bailing out the club for far too long with cash injections to keep the club from facing financial woes – something which is hugely admirable and has cemented him as a genuine club legend around Teesside.
But surely the focus must now be on operating sustainably and recruiting in a way that will benefit the club in the short and long-term.
The general approach that clubs such as Norwich, Brentford and Barnsley take in the transfer market is to sign young, high-potential players for modest fees and develop them into a player who can not only improve the team over a number of years, but also be sold for a profit further down the line.
That ensures that the club are getting better year-on-year, while also protecting their investments with the knowledge that the vast majority of their players are only going to go up in value.
Barring a handful of signings in recent years, that just hasn’t happened at the Riverside Stadium with the departures of Britt Assombalonga and Ashley Fletcher’s this summer on free transfers meaning that over £20million worth of transfer spend were moved on with nothing in return.
If Middlesbrough are to establish themselves as a club who can genuinely challenge for promotion and get stronger every year then they need to put a much bigger emphasis on the club’s recruitment model.
Kieran Scott at Norwich City is the perfect example of someone who can come in and lead from the front in a potential sporting director role and ensure that all of the club’s business is done with a view to growing the club in the long-term rather than signing an ageing player who will only depreciate in value within a couple of years.
This summer we’re seeing Middlesbrough linked with plenty of names on a free transfer which is great for minimising spend, but with the majority of these players being aged 27-29 it means that there’s very little chance that any of the players mentioned could be sold for a substantial profit.
Put simply, this model needs to be modernised quickly otherwise Middlesbrough will be at serious risk of being left behind as clubs in the Championship take much more innovative measures to secure their long-term success and sustainability, on and off the pitch.