Mark Fleming: Leicester play the market in pursuit of place at top table
The Football League Column: Leicester sit two points above Hull City, who have also beenrecruiting madly following their £40m takeover
Monday 24 January 2011
Blackpool showed a year ago how making the right moves in the transfer market can make a huge difference in the second half of the season. Manager Ian Holloway recruited the likes of D J Campbell, Stephen Dobbie and Seamus Coleman on loan during the latter half of last season, and all three had crucial roles to play in the club's remarkable ascent to the Premier League.
The consequence of Holloway's shrewd dealings has been a flurry of activity during the current transfer window in the Championship.
In total, including both loan deals and permanent transfers, 67 new players have been registered by Championship clubs so far this month. Contrast that with the Premier League, where just 22 players have changed clubs during the winter window. And there are still eight days left, which in recent years has been the busiest period of the month.
For clubs with a chance of making the play-offs the temptation to follow the Blackpool template and freshen up the squad is overwhelming.
However, having an owner with the resources to spend some relatively large sums of money is perhaps the most important element. For those men who believe you can buy your way into the Premier League, the first month of the year is the moment to put your money where your mouth is. It is a time of year when the difference between the "haves" and the "have-nots" is more marked than probably any other.
Leicester City's ambitious Thai owners have demonstrated their desire to force their way into the play-off positions with the most eye-catching deal of the window so far, the arrival of Everton and Nigeria striker Ayegbeni Yakubu (above) on loan until the end of the season. The 28-year-old has scored on both appearances for the club, suggesting his goals and performances could have a major bearing on how the table shapes up.
Yakubu said the chance to play under Sven Goran Eriksson was the main draw – but the club's ability to pay the bulk of the striker's £80,000-a-week wages was the most telling factor.
Another new arrival, defender Sol Bamba, who joined from Hibernian for £250,000, scored twice in Leicester's 4-2 win over Millwall that pushed Eriksson's side closer to the top six.
Leicester sit two points above Hull City, who have also been recruiting madly following the £40m takeover a month ago by father and son businessmen Assem and Ehab Allam. Manager Nigel Pearson has brought in strikers Aaron McLean from Peterborough for £1.3m and Matty Fryatt from Leicester for £1.2m. On Saturday they drew with promotion rivals Reading, where the tighter purse strings demand greater frugality, hence manager Brian McDermott's more modest signings of Hereford United's Mathieu Manset, Brett Williams from Eastleigh and Sean Morrison from Swindon for a total of £250,000.
Other clubs have opted for mostly loan signings. The Queen's Park Rangers manager, Neil Warnock, has added an experienced trio of Pascal Chimbonda, Wayne Routledge and Ishmael Miller, without having to pay a penny in transfer fees. Leeds United's manager, Simon Grayson, has also gone for players with Premier League experience, signing Andy O'Brien and George McCartney. Rivals Cardiff City have also been busy, and last week clinched a loan deal with Arsenal for Aaron Ramsey to rejoin his former club while he steps up his recovery from injury.
Cardiff's manager, Dave Jones, has also brought in Dekel Keinan from Blackpool on loan, Arsenal's Jay Emmanuel-Thomas on loan and Jon Parkin for £100,000 from Preston North End.
The recession has certainly driven down prices, and forced more clubs to consider loan deals. But in terms of activity the market in the Championship has rarely been as buoyant.
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