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Hey Big Spender

Excerpts from an interview with Chief Executive Alistair Mackintosh have appeared in the press over the past few days and as well as trumpeting the fact that we kept hold of Micah Richards and Daniel Sturridge when 'we could have cashed in', but the main thread that has been picked up was the clubs strategy when bringing new players to the club.

"We've also invested heavily in our wage bill. And while the players may have come here on Bosman transfers, they generally have a high wage attached.
But it's important and we want to support Stuart bringing in the players he wants.
Ideally you use the wages in the most efficient way. And everyone always wants better and better players.
So, if we can use them in a more efficient way we should do that. But we are very comfortable at what we've done.
It's a strategic choice to have a high wage bill. But then you want performance that is commensurate to that as possible."

The MEN stated that we have the sixth highest wage bill in the Premiership, and it is apparant that since Pearce has become manager (and to be fair it was something Keegan started towards the end of his reign) we are deliberately targeting Bosman players around 30 years old on relatively short-term deals.

As this has been a deliberate transfer strategy, have we missed out on younger players with more upside as a consequence? Ollie draws a nice comparison with signing of Didi Hamman against the potential signing of Reading's Steve Sidwell - who we were linked with in pre-season. Something that Mackintosh didn't comment on was why this is a 'strategic choice'.

Or is it a case that in general the top young talent is simply not available or would be snapped up by the 'bigger' clubs, which has meant the club taking the path of adding experienced veteran players to the squad, albeit it a likely higher cost?

One thing that the club has been blessed with is the players coming through the academy in recent times, and the current crop who have forced their way in or are on the cusp of the first team have meant the club can add older players to the club whilst still maintaining a balance age and experience wise in the squad - something which Keegan was definitely moving away from looking at the make up of the sqaud at the time of his departure.

It does strike though as somewhat of a PR move by Mackintosh in lauding up both the Academy success and the spending on player wages as a sign of the boards commitment to Pearce, coming at a time when there are questions being asked of the board in terms of financial support to the manager.

Whilst I appreciate that the top players are not going to look outside the top four clubs, looking back over the past few years and the club is littered with examples of Bosman's who have frankly not delivered (you don't need me to name them) and seeing us linked recently with a couple of lower league players is it perhaps time to abandon the tactic of bringing in thirty-somethings on two or three year deals on guaranteed money where the performances do not end up matching what they are being paid (again, you don't need me to name them) and focus on younger (hungrier?) players?

One positive at least is that Pearce has not solely restricted his more recent purchases to the older end of the age scale, gambling more on potential upside and experience with the capture of Isaksson and Samaras this past year.

Many of Pearce's early signings were perhaps forced a little by the lack of experience in the squad and the fact that the Academy players were not quite ready, but as the likes of Richards, Jordan, Onouha and Samaras in particular begin to gain more experience he will be less reliant on having to bring in players solely based on experience, and can add players whose upside is that their best years are still ahead of them - resulting in a squad that in five years time could theoretically still be together and at their peak.