There are two general paths that clubs take upon gaining promotion from the Championship to the Premier League. Many clubs take a short-minded approach, investing their parachute funds into the squad. These clubs believe that by bringing in outside talent, they can instantly boost their club’s quality and increase their chances of staying in the Premier League.
What these clubs neglect to acknowledge is the value of team chemistry, a lesson Crystal Palace and Sunderland are currently learning. The Premier League is a league unlike any other. It is enough of a task for a cohesive team to make to leap to the highest tier together. To ask a mash-up of new transfers and players who have only proven their worth at Championship level to win results in the Premier League is a tall order.
For management, it’s a high risk investment. Of course if the club is successful in retaining its place in the Premiership, no one will question the management. But all too often, clubs find themselves relegated, paying out of pocket, and struggling against a downward spiral. Wolverhampton are a prime example of a club who have yet to recover from managerial follies following Premier League promotion.
The other option for clubs is to invest conservatively and to keep together the core of the squad that got the club promoted in the first place. Instead of taking risks with questionable and expensive transfers, managers can give their loyal players a chance to prove themselves at the highest level. Some players may thrive under the added responsibility of Premier League play.
If a club decides to put faith in their players instead of bringing in transfers, they can end up saving money and minimizing risks in the future. If the club can stay in the Premiership, they will have even more money to add quality to their squad (which is now full of players with Premier League experience) for the next season. If the club is relegated, they will have a significant advantage over other Championship clubs.
In terms of English football as a whole, the latter path holds additional value. Championship clubs are home to the majority of young English footballers. The only way for an English footballer to prove their worth in the Premier League is to be given a chance. And that will never happen if clubs are continuously pressured into transferring in players from abroad. Look no further than Southampton for the benefits of giving young English talent opportunities on the pitch.
Although Southampton have made hefty investments this season, bringing in Pablo Osvaldo and Victor Wanyama, the club have retained their English core of Adam Lallana, Jay Rodriguez and Luke Shaw. All three players have flourished since Southampton gained promotion two seasons ago. Lallana was even recently called up to the England national squad. Their team chemistry has translated into a third-place spot nearly mid-way through the season.
The Southampton model for success will surely be analyzed and clubs will attempt to replicate their success. Much of the credit should be given to the clubs academy, which has pumped out quality players continuously over the past decade. However, the overall recognition must be given to the management at Southampton. They were brave enough to believe in their English players and they were rewarded for it. Now, perhaps it is time for more English clubs to follow suit.