John McCormick: bored

John McCormick.

There are times when contributors to this site hark back to the music of yesterday, and today is no exception. The transfer window’s  shut (you can insert any other vowel of your choice if you wish) leaving me feeling underwhelmed, and a song from 1971 or thereabouts is in my mind. Not because I like it (I didn’t then and still don’t now). Not because it got to number 1 (it did, but then so did Benny Hill with a song about a milkman). It’s because of the refrain which starts the song and echoes throughout it.

Only, not quite. The song, “Chirpy chirpy cheep cheep” begins, “Where’s your momma gone?”, but my mind is playing it as “where’s the money gone?”

It has gone, and it’s a lot of money, which explains a great deal.

During most of the window it looked as if the club was being more than a touch parsimonious, and even after buying Didier Ndong we weren’t up there with the big spenders.  Yet only a few weeks ago I posted a piece about the Deloitte Money League, which has us at number 25 in their list of the world’s best revenue-generating clubs with €133 millions coming in through the doors in 2014-15.

new seats cost money, and who's paying the electricity bill?

New seats cost money, and who’s paying the electricity bill?

Even allowing for stadium running costs, new plastic seats and player wages (plus managerial pay-offs) that kind of money should guarantee a reasonable annual top-up for the transfer kitty.

Apparently it doesn’t, so what has happened? I resolved to investigate, with the help of The Transfer League website.

I must begin with a disclaimer. I like the transfer league website but I’m not saying it’s totally correct. In fact, I’d be surprised if it were. These days players move for undisclosed sums and loan fees aren’t publicised.  (Clubs do declare agents’ fees  and the site has a section for them). Then there’s the timescale of payments – transfer fees aren’t usually paid upfront but in installments over the length of a player’s contract, which affects outgoings each year. So I take what I read with a pinch of salt, whatever the source, and I advise that you do the same.

That said, the transfer league site is consistent with what we do know and appears to be as accurate as any other source. It’s well put together, with a wealth of detail, and I’m happy to use it and acknowledge it as a source.

So let’s begin at the Ellis Short takeover. 

Roy Keane, as portrayed by Owen Lennox

the last of the big spenders? I think not

Roy Keane was the man in charge and he had spent heavily to get us into the premiership and to keep us there. I don’t think anyone will blame him for that but some of his decisions could be questioned. After all, it was he who said of Djibril Cissé “I’d be happy to break the transfer record if Djibril’s doing the business”.  But Keane didn’t stay, and neither did Cissé. The managerial wheel had begun to  spin, creating a vortex that  threw out old players and sucked in new ones. And that had costs for the club.

That wheel may have stopped but the vortex is still spinning. Ten years after promotion we’re more or less where we started: spending to survive rather than building to succeed and, as a consequence of constant turnover, losing in the transfer market. Not since the days of Mick McCarthy has a manager turned a profit. Paolo came close but he wins no medals because of the costs of the clean-up when he went:

transfer expenditure by manager

transfer expenditure by manager

Our last half dozen managers have come and gone almost at random, and none have stayed for any great length of time. As a result each new one has found himself with players , many on long contracts, they wanted to move out.

You might think that moving out players would make money for the club. Well, yes, some individuals have been sold for a profit, as was home-grown Jordan Henderson, but apart from 2010-11, when we sold both Kenwyne Jones and Darren Bent, we have never ended up in the black. Mediocre – or just wrong – players have been bought and then sold or released, often at a loss. Some, such as Danny Graham (whose fluke of a goal cost £5 million plus wages) have been loaned out or sidelined until their contract has run out. Consequently the club has spent more than it has recouped every single season since promotion, with the exception of that single one:


We can simplify that chart to show the gains or losses per season:

lossesvgains_by season

Adding the numbers up is telling: Since Ellis short took over we have spent £162 million, with a net loss of £90 million, in order to scrap for safety at the bottom of the premiership.

That might sound a lot but it’s actually a middle of the road sum and you might think it money well spent as it has kept us up.  The point is, however, that the majority of clubs which have spent similar net amounts have achieved much better results.  What’s more, other clubs have done better on less – ESPN reckon Leicester’s squad cost £54 million, although we do have to acknowledge that they spent that over a shorter period of time.

Another way of looking at our transfers is to compare that £90 million loss with our revenue. At today’s exchange rate £90 million is less than the  €133 million detailed above, or even what we generated in 2013-14 (€122 million),  but it is  a lot more than our total revenue for 2012-13, when TV money was a lot less. You could say, with some justification, that our incessant chopping and changing has cost us over a whole year’s income.

When I look at our transfers I’m astounded by our profligacy and the amount of money – over half of our transfer budget – that we’ve wasted. I no longer wonder why Ellis Short wants to rein in our transfer spending, I’m just glad he has bankrolled the club. Anyone who feels critical of him should recognise the unsustainable drain we’ve had on resources and accept it can’t go on.

Money well spent?

Money well spent?

Currently, however, there’s little sign of change. In the last window players went out cheaply and then David Moyes spent heavily on relative unknowns Djilobodji and Ndong. I’ve no doubt he’ll be spending more in the next window, Anichebe notwithstanding.

That said, Moyes does appear to have assembled a decent squad and does appear capable of finding decent players at resonable prices. I think, I hope, his appointment bodes well for the future. In the meantime, all I’m asking is for us to become middle of the road.








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Salut! Sunderland is written, illustrated and edited by - and principally for - supporters of Sunderland AFC. The site aims to be sufficiently literate and entertaining to appeal to people who do not follow SAFC but enjoy good football writing.

12 Responses to “Chirpy Chirpy – no. Cheap Cheap – no. But what about Middle of the Road?” Subscribe

  1. Bill Taylor September 3, 2016 at 2:00 pm #

    So now we have Victor Anichebe upfront, too. It’s not exactly a strong squad but decent? Yeah, it could be. Good enough, I hope, that we’re not simply trying to keep our head above water until January. But I look back at what Leicester did with some lesser-known signings.
    As Havelock Ellis said, “The place where optimism most flourishes is the lunatic asylum.”
    Make that the SoL. No one ever said you had to be sane to be a Mackem!

  2. Phil D September 3, 2016 at 2:20 pm #

    Very interesting article. Thanks!

    Only problem – I am of that age and I now have “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep” and “Ernie” running through my head. No thanks! 🙂

    Some revenge – “Billy Don’t Be A Hero” and “The Streak!”

    • John Mac September 3, 2016 at 2:36 pm #

      You could always alter the words to fit Ndong

    • Eric012 September 3, 2016 at 5:19 pm #

      What about Tony Christie and “Is This The Way To Amarillo?” Dawn and “Tie A Yellow Ribbon”. Quite liked “The Streak” though.

  3. Eric012 September 3, 2016 at 5:08 pm #

    Aargh double Aargh! Hated this song in1971 and hate it even more now. I was stationed at RAF Masirah in Oman throughout 1971. We had a charity night on our camp radio (Radio 65). No tellys there. The idea was you paid a small sum and the DJ played a song of your choice (the worst one you could think of ). Someone else then phoned in and pledged an amount to remove it and listen to an even worse song. In between calls this song played on a loop (for almost 12 hours). For a least a week afterwards 200 men (no women there) were in a Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep induced trance. Middle Of The Road? Middle of the Arabian Gulf would have been better.

    • John Mac September 3, 2016 at 6:25 pm #

      didn’t your radio have an off button? (or for MoTR an F off button)?

      • Eric012 September 4, 2016 at 10:11 am #

        The radio could be turned down to a low level, but it doubled as the camp alarm system so was always buzzing away in the background. You didn’t notice it after a while and the radio station stopped broadcasting around 10. Some of the lads used to cut the wires and repair them again in the morning using little box things.

    • malcolm September 3, 2016 at 10:11 pm #

      Did you drive round in a jirpy jirpy jeep jeep?

      • Jake September 4, 2016 at 9:30 am #

        That’s it Malcolm get your coat!

  4. malcolm September 4, 2016 at 1:25 am #

    Just looked at the You Tube clip and I’m sure that was Davey Stott playing the drums. Maybe I’ll look for a clip where TOTP wasn’t introduced by a certain cigar smoking Yorkshireman, although he only appears as a name in the credits.

    • Jake September 4, 2016 at 9:36 am #

      HA! Just watched it and you’re spot on, it IS Davey on drums, the sly get kept that quiet didn’t he?

  5. Keith Hutton Africa September 5, 2016 at 9:05 am #

    Whatever happened in the past can’t be made a better of, since Jan we have brought in players of a higher calibre, no one had heard of Kirchhoff, Kone or Khazri but all three were successful, loans have helped us greatly but we rarely make their position permanent, Marcos Alonso, Rose, Welbeck, Evans and Simpson we could have purchased maybe not Welbeck and they would have great been great buys and investments we should learn from this. I think we have bought wisely and borrowed well, we need M’Vila and if all are fit there will be competition for places even without a good crop of youngsters coming through I feel it is a case of forward and upward and we need a striker. The future looks bright let us all be positive

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