I’m still staggered by the news that we were allegedly forking out £30k-plus a week for Jamie Mackie.
I know we live in an era when it’s apparently fine to jump online and demand other people spend millions of pounds on footballers just for our own enjoyment, but it is still pretty gobsmacking isn’t it?
I don’t know about you, but that’s more than my total annual salary for just one week. It’s three quid for every single minute. He’s basically banking £1,000 while he’s asleep. And he cost a £1.5 million fee too.
Not that it is particularly fair to single out Jamie Mackie. He always struck me as a hard-working player and it’s not his fault we chucked silly money his way.
It does show just how out of control our club was in the summer of 2013 though.
One day before Mackie put pen to paper, Djamel Abdoun was snapped up for a similar fee and, reportedly, an even higher wage.
That summer also saw the arrivals of Gonzalo Jara, Jamie Paterson, Eric Lichaj, Darius Henderson, Dorus De Vries and – for a reported £2.5 million – Kelvin Wilson. Heaven knows how much we paid Casual Kelv in wages, especially given that he’d lined up in a Champions League fixture for Celtic while we chased his signature. Jack Hobbs also came in on loan.
Going by the reported fees – isn’t it infuriating that everything is ‘undisclosed’? There would appear to be more than £6 million in fees spent that summer, on top of what we now understand to be eye-wateringly high wages (Abdoun and Mackie’s wages alone would have topped £3 million a year).
It’s a level of spending that flew in the face of the oncoming storm of the Financial Fair Play regulations and has landed us in our current predicament. Yes, Dougie Freedman has shopped around well for additions and there is a ‘blessing in disguise’ case mounting – but the simple fact is that life would be an awful lot easier without the embargo hovering over us.
All of this got me thinking (it was painful…) about the infamous David Platt splurge.
The names of Moreno Mannini, Salvatore Matrecano and Gianluca Petrachi are etched into the minds of any Forest fan. The £5m-£6m flushed down the toilet in this trio was followed by the captures of Ricardo Scimeca, Jim Brennan, Stern John (on a frankly ridiculous and later unaffordable goal-related fee structure), David Johnson, Jack Lester and Tony Vaughan across a miserable two-season period.
Remember Tony Vaughan? Sure you do. Here he is getting sent off on that miserable day at Wolves:
Does the 2013 Billy era now, in hindsight, deserve to be bracketed together with that period as a similar financial disaster? Both, it has to be said, were massive missed opportunities and resulted in ridiculous levels of money being wasted. The circumstances and context of both summers might have been different but both were damaging.
Of the 2013 mob, only Lichaj can really be seen as a success. Paterson shone brightly for a season but has a lot to prove this term and Jack Hobbs, while good enough to warrant his later permanent capture, has been an injury-prone addition. A devil’s advocate would argue that Scimeca, Johnson and Brennan did, over time at least, become an important part of the side even if we paid over the odds for them. Say what you want about Platt (no, really, say what you want and preferably litter it with harsh sounding Anglo Saxon expletives…it helps) but he didn’t trash the reputation of the club with the press either.
Billy’s bizarre meltdown in the early part of 2014 left a big rebuilding job. Initially that meant restoring our image – the part of Pearce’s tenure that was a success - and now, over time, it means dealing with the constraints imposed on us by the Football League. Of course, in truth, Billy isn’t the only person to blame. The spending began before he arrived and continued under Pearce last summer.
It took a long while, for example, to clear the decks of the disastrous spending under Steve McClaren.
But 2013 felt like a big moment. This was when, as a club, we looked at an already expensively assembled hotpotch of a squad, considered FFP, stuck two fingers up and carried on regardless.
Fawaz probably thought he was doing the right thing in trusting in Billy, the man who brought about a miraculous upturn in our fortunes upon his return earlier that year.
Yet the problem was that you felt there was nothing between ‘Team Billy’ and Fawaz. No checks and balances – just cheques and bank balances.
If we’re honest, deep down that worry remains. Dougie looks to be a much different character to his fellow Scot but a lot rests on the shoulders of a man who is bidding to become the first manager to last a full season under Fawaz (that’s how we judge success these days). With Lennie Lawrence and Leon Hunter you feel Freedman himself is looking to fill the void that exists where our management structure should be.
Instagram photos aside, Fawaz seems well meaning. He just badly needs some help in running a football club in a world where doing so is incredibly tough. I worry that he sees the embargo as an annoyance and, once over, plans to party like its 1999 or 2013 all over again. Yes, it is an annoyance, but FFP has to be a wake-up call that the previous level of spending was wrong. It’s not as if it was a success on the field either.
The post-Platt era did at least see the emergence of an exciting crop of young players. If there are parallels at all, it’d be nice to think that, partly through necessity again, Tyler Walker, Ben Osborn, Oliver Burke etc can follow in the footsteps of the Michael Dawson, David Prutton, Andy Reid, Wes Morgan, Gareth Williams crop.
Indeed, if this next season resembles the Hart play-off push then we’d be in for a treat…and the fewer Platt parallels in the future the better.
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