Clubs can’t afford to allow players to leave for free

FREE: Chris McCann linked up with former Burnley boss Owen Coyle at Wigan after leaving the Clarets this summer
FREE: Chris McCann linked up with former Burnley boss Owen Coyle at Wigan after leaving the Clarets this summer

I really don’t envy the roles of those that govern our football clubs at boardroom level.

Imagine your every breath, every move and every decision regarding every faction of the club and every penny invested being under the constant scrutinisation of thousands of people.

It takes an exceptional, resourceful business brain to manage an organisation which boasts so much activity in order to ascertain its stability or development.

However, the recent outgoings at Turf Moor have expectedly raised a few eyebrows.

In an age where prudence and shrewdness is the key to evolution, how can a club afford to watch three first team players walk away for nothing?

First Lee Grant, then Chris McCann and now Martin Paterson parted company and unequivocally became bargains for the respective clubs that they signed for.

Not only that, but a belated offer of a contract extension to striker Charlie Austin means that Hull City are on the verge of an absolute steal. Why would anyone pay over the odds for a player who would also walk away for free in 12 months time?

Somehow, somewhere, someone has made a detrimental error and they need to be made accountable for it.

I’m led to believe that talks with both McCann and Paterson opened in August, but even in this case it baffles me as to why talks were left until this point to get under way.

The two players had been the subjects of significant offers during their time with the Clarets. After making McCann his first signing of the summer, new Wigan Athletic boss Owen Coyle revealed that ‘big money’ had been rejected for the Dubliner.

And another former boss, Steve Cotterill, tried and failed on many occasions to lure Paterson to Fratton Park with a bid believed to be in the region of £2.5m being knocked back for the striker prior to the 2011/12 campaign during his tenure with Portsmouth.

Now I’m not criticising the club’s desire to retain key personnel, but having turned down millions for the duo - money that could’ve been reinvested in the club - surely the pressure should’ve been on to ensure that they didn’t depart on frees. Negotiations, in my opinion, should have begun once the 2011/12 season had culminated.

Yes I understand that the departure of Eddie Howe and the arrival of Sean Dyche may have temporarily put talks on the back burner, but deals for the pair should have been done and dusted by that point.

Instead, a firm contract offer was only presented to Paterson after the current term was over in light of the forward scoring in consecutive games against Wolves and Ipswich Town. That gave rival clubs the opportunity to throw their hats in to the ring and as a result - following conversations with Terriers boss Mark Robins - the Northern Ireland international joined Huddersfield Town.

The club may have got away with the Grant scenario after signing no less than three goalkeepers at little expense, but how do you replace the likes of McCann and Paterson with players who don’t command a fee.

Admittedly, their exits would have seen the wage bill cut considerably - in line with the inauguration of the FFP’s regulations - but money will inevitably have to be spent to plug those apertures.

At the moment it seems like Austin is heading for a similar fate. I admire the club for holding out for a bid that meets their valuation - with the Tigers yet to meet the club’s estimation for the player - but I feel his sale price would have been far more enriched had the 23-year-old been offered and accepted a contract extension at an earlier date.

Nobody wants rid of their prized possessions, but if Austin doesn’t leave for a cut price now then a striker with 28 goals in all competitions to his name last season also faces the prospect of heading out the door on a freebie.

It just doesn’t seem like good business sense to me.