Last Thursday was a typical transfer window day for Crystal Palace supporters. We started it hoping for our most high-profile signing of the year, only to see Fulham beat us to the signature of Aston Villa's Darren Bent. Still, at least we learned that we had made another free transfer signing, having no doubt headed off a pack of clubs to recruit 35-year-old goalkeeper Neil Alexander, who was playing in the Scottish Third Division last year.
Nevertheless, after a summer in which we have made barely a ripple in the transfer market, you will hear few complaints from any Palace fans who possess more than a dollop of common sense. While other clubs have been liberally splashing their TV cash, we know that our owners see promotion to the Premier League as an outstanding chance to secure the future of a club that has twice gone into administration in the last 14 years following the stewardships of owners Mark Goldberg and Simon Jordan, whose fortunes melted away almost as quickly as they had made them in the dotcom and mobile-phone revolutions.
Our current owners – Stephen Browett, Jeremy Hosking, Martin Long and Steve Parish – are all lifelong Palace supporters who have built their own successful businesses through years of patient enterprise. No wonder the likes of Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion are their Premier League role models rather than Queens Park Rangers or Portsmouth.
The only players for whom we have paid fees this summer are Dwight Gayle, a £6m striker from Peterborough who was playing for Bishop's Stortford last year, Jose Campana, a £1.75m midfielder from Seville, and Stephen Dobbie, who completed a £850,000 move from Brighton after a spell on loan last season. More signings will be made before the transfer window closes, but nobody is expecting a spending free-for-all.
Some younger Palace fans might regret the fact that we have not been spending more of the TV-fuelled bonanza that will be coming our way. Like every club in the Premier League, we are guaranteed at least £60m this season even if we do not score a goal or win a point, with about as much again to follow in parachute money spread over the next four years if we are relegated.
Palace's transfer strategy has been based around not having a single player on the club's books who would be a liability if we lasted only one season in the Premier League. The squad will include players on decent wages, but they will be on loan deals, on one-year agreements or on contracts which will see their money drop in the event of relegation. Where substantial sums have been spent on transfer fees, they are for players who are young long-term prospects whose wages will not break the bank.
Most thinking Palace supporters are not envious of the likes of Cardiff City, who have broken their transfer record three times this summer, their recruits including £8m Steven Caulker, a Tottenham Hotspur reserve. Palace's owners, all too aware that selling clubs know how cash-rich the Premier League is, will not be held to ransom by other clubs.
The hope is that Ian Holloway, the manager, will have been given enough of a budget to ensure that Palace have more than a fighting chance of keeping their heads above water, while money can be set aside for more long-term projects. The need to budget for the future is underlined by the fact that in the Championship, where we were one of the thriftiest of clubs, we were losing between £3m and £5m every year, the shortfall made up either by the owners' largesse or by player sales.
Arguably Palace's best signing this summer was the £2m spent on buying back their training ground, which Jordan had sold off. Money has also been spent on Selhurst Park: a reflection of the club's long-term thinking is the fact that new seats have been installed in the main stand which can be used when the whole structure is rebuilt in the near future.
I for one am glad that my club are spending their money on the seat where I hope to watch my team for many years to come rather than on players who will probably have left by the time I have learned to pronounce their names.
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