Pirates ready for summer business...

STEVE Hamer pledges that Bristol Rovers’ board will give Darrell Clarke “every possible backing” in the transfer market this summer.

The chairman also says that the mood of the directors matches that of the manager in terms of positivity and that the budget will be competitive at a time when clubs throughout the Football League tend to be spending more than ever.

But he also warns that it is getting more difficult by the season to take on the big boys in every division of the Football League, due to the parachute payments on offer to relegated clubs.

Hamer told me: “Darrell is already up for next season and has been making plans. We shall give him as much support financially as we possibly can.

“Having made the mistake of thinking we were providing a top six budget, only to find out that inflation had knocked us back somewhat, I can say only we will provide him with the best chance we can of bringing in the right players.”

Clarke has often claimed his budget is among the lowest in League One, but that is not a statistic Hamer accepts.

“Darrell is an emotional person and at times can appear a bit outspoken and ungrateful after games,” he said. “I have been involved in football long enough to understand that managers sometimes look for excuses in the immediate aftermath of poor results.

“To quote one example, Plymouth Argyle finished six places above us in seventh position in League One with a budget smaller than ours.

“In fact, along with Oldham and Rochdale, they probably had among the lowest budgets in the division. So it is not all about money.

“Bury had one of the higher budgets this season and finished bottom. They had one player on eight or nine grand a week.

“It’s about what you can get out of the players you have and not just how much you spend.”

With Sunderland among the teams coming down from the Championship, Hamer accepts that it is getting harder for clubs like Rovers to compete financially.

“They receive a £33 million parachute payment and will be entitled to operate a playing budget of 60 percent of their turnover,” he said. “That will include the £33 million, plus their normal turnover, which even in League One, I would estimate at another £12 million, maybe a bit more.

“So you are talking about 60 percent of £45 million. Sunderland could have a wage bill of £25 million next season if they want.

“They should absolutely run away with League One, but of course you never know.

“Championship clubs face a similar problem to ourselves in that the parachute payments are now so large that the clubs coming down from the Premier League are likely to go back up again.

“That makes life very difficult for the likes of Bristol City or Ipswich Town, unless someone invests a huge amount of money in one block.

“Even the likes of Leeds United are finding it tough to break through the monopoly of the clubs who come down from the Premiership. The same is going to happen all through the leagues.”

As an admittedly old school follower of football, Hamer regrets that it is becoming increasingly unrealistic for supporters of smaller clubs to dream of a place among the elite.

“Those with a good player find him leaving all too soon because agents are in his ear and it is a payday for them when he moves,” he said. It is pretty demoralising because you never have the opportunity to build. All you can do is go shopping for replacements and try to find a bargain or two.

“The days of supporters identifying with a local lad who spends a career with their club are gone.

“It’s very difficult for the majority of clubs in the lower divisions to compete and even to dream, which for those of us who have followed the game, or been involved in it for a long time, is hard to accept.”

For all that, Hamer is optimistic than Rovers can progress further from two mid-table finishes in League One.

Clarke is not the sort of manager to start any season without targeting promotion and he will be looking for a more successful summer in the transfer market than proved the case a year ago when he admits mistakes were made.


When we expect managers to strengthen their squads during the close season, it is worth remembering how difficult it can be, especially in these days of inflated prices and wages.


This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.