Blackburn Rovers boss Tony Mowbray has hinted his side will be targeting free agents on just a few thousand pounds per week during the summer if they remain in the Championship, speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph.
Mowbray has been forced to work within a limited budget this season despite the £15m sale of Adam Armstrong to Southampton last summer, failing to get a single signing over the line before making five additions towards the end of the window, with four of them being loanees.
They did make four further additions in the winter with Ryan Hedges, Dilan Markanday, Ryan Giles and Deyovaisio Zeefuik all coming to Ewood Park – but these additions weren’t enough to prevent Rovers from sliding out of the play-off zone.
Quiz: Which club did Blackburn Rovers sign these 24 players from in the 1990s?
With the knowledge that they have a team capable of pushing for promotion though, some would expect the club’s owners to fully back Mowbray or a potential successor in the summer with the inexperienced squad likely to be even better next season with a full season of second-tier football under their belt.
And with Venky’s stating their clear intention to keep hold of their prized assets including Ben Brereton Diaz, they may be tempted to build on this with significant investment to give Rovers the push needed to get to the top flight.
However, Mowbray has hinted his side will need to make full use of the free-agent market in the coming months.
He said: “Recruitment is ongoing.
“At this moment, sitting here right now, the club doesn’t know what division it’s going to be in, so it’s really difficult to finalise things because if we did win the play-offs we wouldn’t be signing some of the players that we’re maybe looking at on free transfers and on a few grand a week.
“If we got into the Premier League we’d need to start thinking about spending £5m, £10m, £15m that could help us try and stay in that division.”
Blackburn will probably have a clear choice this summer: back the manager in terms of incomings but cash in on prized assets or adopt a more conservative policy and focus more on retaining their best players.
Considering what Mowbray has built this season, they would be well-served in trying to keep hold of some of their best players but with the likes of Darragh Lenihan, Ryan Nyambe and Joe Rothwell set to leave in the summer unless their contracts are renewed, they face needing to invest in quite a few new additions.
In fairness, there’s no shame in looking at the free-agent market and it could even prove to be quite fruitful with many talented second tier and League One players available for nothing in July.
And one other thing is for certain – and that’s the fact they need to be a lot quicker in terms of getting players in this summer – even if they need to cash in on Ben Brereton Diaz first which would be wise if they can’t get him tied down to a new deal.
This money made on the Chilean can then be pumped back into the playing squad, enabling them to buy a new goalscorer and invest in other areas if they can agree a big enough fee for their talisman.