Joe's a bargain hunter

LIFE as a manager has turned full circle for Joe Royle as he seeks to plot a low-budget promotion route for Ipswich.It is almost a case of back to the future for the Town boss, who is bound by the same financial restrictions that were the norm when he started out in football management with Oldham in 1982.

By Mel Henderson

LIFE as a manager has turned full circle for Joe Royle as he seeks to plot a low-budget promotion route for Ipswich.

It is almost a case of back to the future for the Town boss, who is bound by the same financial restrictions that were the norm when he started out in football management with Oldham in 1982.

Royle, who will celebrate his 1000th game as a manager with Town's 13th fixture of the new campaign, recalled: “It's a no-spend situation at Ipswich for the time being and it was basically a case of having to sell to survive at Boundary Park.

“There was no alternative. We had three years in the Premiership and showed a profit each year, but we still had to unload players to bring money in or we would never have got by.”

Now Royle and other experienced managers, like Peter Reid at Coventry, Nottingham Forest's Joe Kinnear and Portman Road predecessor George Burley at Derby, are chasing success on a shoestring.

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Reid, Kinnear and Burley may have previously lavished cash on players at their former clubs, but it is a different matter now with their current employers not just struggling to make ends meet but also clear a mountain of debts.

Royle said: “In a way, I've never known any different. I might have spent money at Everton, but I always worked on a tight budget.

“I remember spending a net £12million at Goodison, but that was at a time when other clubs seemed to be shelling out hundreds of millions.”

When it came to buying cheap and selling expensively, nobody did it better than Royle during his 12 years at Oldham.

He can rhyme off the names of all the players he traded for huge profits, one of whom went on to become a scoring favourite at Portman Road.

Royle said: “I paid Everton £100,000 for Ian Marshall and John Lyall paid £700,000 to take him to Ipswich, but that was only one example of how we used to cash in.

“Manchester City were very good to us. Earl Barrett only cost us thirty grand and we got £1.7m for him and Paul Warhurst's value went from £10,000 to £800,000 with us.

“We got Denis Irwin on a free from Leeds and sold him to Manchester United for £750,000, while Rick Holden cost us £150,000 and we got £1m from Manchester City for him.

“Andy Linighan, he was another one. Cost us £45,000 and Norwich paid £350,000 for him. And Tommy Wright, he went for the same after he'd cost us £80,000.

“At the time I don't think anyone was as prolific as Oldham when it came to sell-ons.”

Even when he moved into a different financial league with Everton, the former Toffees striker showed he had a good head for figures.

The most he has ever paid for a player was when he took flying winger Andrei Kanchelskis from Manchester United in a £5.5m deal.

But he later sold him to Fiorentina for £8m and managed to double his money on Duncan Ferguson, paying £4m and banking twice as much from Newcastle.

Gary Speed and Nicky Barmby were others on whom Royle showed a profit at a club where success in the FA Cup and finishing sixth in the Premiership were obvious highlights.

The current transfer market inactivity is in stark contrast to previous years when millions of pounds regularly changed hands between clubs.

Royle said: “The market has changed. Bosman means players move on at the end of their contracts - not all but most - or clubs look to sell them off on the cheap when they only have a year to run.

“The very big clubs, like Chelsea and Manchester United, and sometimes Arsenal, will still pay the going rate for the top players, but there will be very, very few cash deals involving clubs lower down the scale.

“Managers need to know who they like and who is available. I've always drawn up lists with three columns - the unlikely, the possible and the very likely.

“Then you start working your way through it and that's exactly what I'm doing now as I try to find the right players to come in and do a job for Ipswich.”

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