I think I might have made a mistake.
Or: “I plan; the chairman laughs.”
After spending the first week of June 2012 wielding the axe, I started tying up new contracts for the players I wanted to keep. The entire team’s contracts were due to expire at the end of the month, so I really had no choice in the matter. The trouble was that everyone haggled. Understandably, no one wanted to stay on the same money or take a pay cut and the net result was that everyone ended up getting a small pay rise.
A bit of wage inflation shouldn’t have been a problem. My own personal fiscal rules for responsible club management mean that I set a hard limit of no more than 50% of turnover being spent on wages. Ideally, the wage budget would be below that, but this is football and the players are arguably the most important asset a club has. When I started at FC Halifax, the wage bill was £209k pa. With the addition of some youth players and the signing of striker Luke Rodgers, this rose to around £235k. By the end of the year, it emerged that this was close to 60% of the club’s turnover. That this was a Bad Thing was underlined by the losses of over £100k in the final summary.
With my ‘Night of the Long Knives’ I had reduced the wage bill to a much healthier £165k per year. With a budget of £200k, I could realistically sign the remaining youth players needed to complete the U18 squad and probably three decent experienced players to complete the first team.
Except I couldn’t.
I had nearly finished with the youth set up, when I realised that the chairman had very different ideas. He pegged the wages budget at £160k and I’d already blown the budget. He was only prepared to go anywhere near the £200k I needed if I was going to commit to winning the league in the coming season. With the squad as it stood, there was no way I could commit to that. I could understand his position, of course. The club had made a big loss during the previous season, and it’s entirely rational to be cautious and to try and recoup those losses. Still, it leaves me in a hole.
I look at my playing squad and it is substantially weaker than it was when I took over the reigns. By my reckoning, only four players are the finished article and good enough to play in the first team week in, week out. The other seven have the potential to be good, even great players at this level, but they are not there yet. Worse, there are some positions, notably the goalkeeper, where there is no cover at all. This is looking very bad indeed.