Garlick on the Breath!-Long and Winding Road?
It is of course a new era at the club, with Barry Kilby standing down as Chairman in May to be replaced by co-chairmen Mike Garlick and John Banaskiewicz. What changes can we expect after Barry`s 13 years in charge at Turf Moor?
Will it be the same sort of steady as we go cautious approach or will there be a more ambitious calculated risk strategy? In many ways the direction we can take is out of our hands in light of the FIFA Fair Play ruling which dictates a club can only spend money within its means based on turnover. It is of course worrying that with Burnley having one of the lowest turnovers in the Championship that we could now be at a significant competitive disadvantage. All things being told with the club now seemingly back to midtable normality in the Championship after finishing 13th last season what are our realistic chances of making a return to the Premier League?
It is clear to me that promotion to the top flight requires more than 'sticking plaster`and lip service if the ambition is genuine. The Championship continues to get more and more difficult to get out of every season without the potential heavy load of the FIFA Fair Play ruling also on our backs. Yes you can point to the likes of Blackpool, Swansea and Norwich who have achieved success on a shoestring whilst others like Leicester who have spent millions are still where they are but these are exceptions rather than the rule! Do we want to try and be an 'exception` and spend bugger all without any guarantee of promotion or try and optimise our chances of success of earning greater revenue and increasing turnover in the top league in Europe?
Our club despite a season in the top flight not too long ago is clearly back to pleading poverty having suffered a £4 million loss last season. Any hope that the £6-7 million received from the sale of Jay Rodriguez to Southampton earlier this month would be given in its entirety to Eddie Howe to rebuild the squad soon evaporated after the club announced only a proportion would be provided.
Co-chairman, Mike Garlick was quick to dispel any fans hopes that a significant summer spending could now take place using the Rodriguez money:
"Of the fee, the majority has to go back into the day-to-day costs of running the club, he said
"We will manage to re-cycle some of the fee to make that available to Eddie to strengthen the team for next season and he has been made aware of that.
"We are discussing players at the moment and over the next few weeks and months we are hoping to see the arrival of new faces`
These of course are standard phrases made every pre-season and in many ways they are equivocal. What exactly is the 'majority` of the transfer fee going into the ether swallowed up as running costs? 51% or 99.9%? What does re-cycle mean and not mincing too many words how much are we talking about? This is just the Jay Rod money too. Either the club were fully expecting to rebuild the squad from the sale of Rodriguez alone or they allocated additional funds in case the sale did not proceed. The big question is how much would Eddie Howe have been given if Rodriguez was still on the books and how much in total does he now have now that Jay Rod has left?
The article on the Official website admits the club will 'still need to punch above its weight` and it is clear from the tone of the article that the new co-chairman does not realistically see a return to the top flight in the short term so I guess in a way that is managing expectations with a hint of realism even though many fans will find it difficult to accept. The difficulty will always be falling revenues if the club continues to be stuck in midtable mediocrity and that will be against the backdrop of evaporating parachute payments and FIFA Fair Play lower turnover. That situation could force the club into a vicious spiral unable to break free of the rut without a significant improvement in the depth of quality and quantity in the squad but with no money to do it. Could that situation also threaten our very survival in the second-tier of football? Are we a Preston in waiting?
'We finished 13th last season, so the obvious short-term aim is to try and improve on that, said Garlick.
The problem is how do you define short-term? We have two seasons left to try and get back into the Premier League before the parachute payments (already now halved) run out.
'The long-term aim - it's fair to say we want to have another shot at getting back in the Premier League at some stage, continued Garlick
'But these things take time. Quality takes time to build. We're not in a hurry, we don't want to make mistakes and when people are in a hurry they do make mistakes."
It is admirable the club still thinks we should be in the top flight but it sounds a cop out to me that there is no sense of urgency. Quality takes time to build when you are not prepared to give the manager enough money to build a squad that can compete at this level in the short-term. Might it not be a mistake to have no sense of urgency? The philosophy of 'not making mistakes` has led to one thing... stagnation not to mention pretty uninspiring football. You learn by your mistakes, but until you make some you can`t!
'So it's a vision that's built to last and it's built for the long term, but ultimately that's where we'd like to be, concluded the co-chairman
I have to say this is very much as I expected from a club that continues by its own admission to 'punch above its weight`. I may have hoped for something a bit more bullish and ambitious but the club have never tried to 'think outside the box`in more than fifty years I have supported them except perhaps for our last promotion season when Owen Coyle was given money no previous manager or subsequent manager has enjoyed since.
I just wonder when we were relegated from the Premier League after just one season whether the club at the time would have dared talk about a return to the top flight in the long term
You can state the ambition but until the financial muscle is put behind it you will be open to accusations of lip service. We are and will remain 'ickle old Burnley for the foreseeable future and that is our lot pure and simple. Perhaps that promotion to the top flight was the worst thing that could have happened to us in hindsight. Clarets fans may well have accepted season after season finishing midtable in the Championship but the Coyle era whetted the appetite and it no longer seems acceptable.
Many thanks to Burnley FC for the use of the photograph