Albion's transfer budgets have changed somewhat in the last 20 years!
Albion’s opponents this Saturday, Birmingham City, were involved in the very first £1m transfer in English football history in 1979.
Still revelling in their first European Cup triumph, Nottingham Forest swooped for Blues hitman Trevor Francis. Eager to start his game of squash, resplendent in his lovely red tracksuit, manager Brian Clough turned up at the press conference to unveil his new signing, holding a racquet!
Of course, in 2015, one million pounds is relative peanuts in the grand scheme of football things. Francis’ fee got me thinking about Albion’s transfer dealings in the last couple of decades, and just how much things have changed in a relatively short space of time.
For the start of the 1994/95 campaign, manager Liam Brady paid money for just one player; £15,000 for winger Stuart Storer, who would score the last goal at the Goldstone three years later. Two years on and Ian Baird arrived from Plymouth Argyle for the princely sum of £35,000 before moving on to Instant-Dict – yes, really – of Hong Kong just 12 months later. He was followed shortly by Hereford hero Robbie Reinelt, for the same fee as Storer.
In 1999, Mickey Adams asserted his authority by shipping out 11 players, including the unfortunately named Dave Cameron who was substituted just 19 minutes into a game at Hull City because he was ‘useless’. The collective were replaced by a host of canny buys including Charlie Oatway, Paul Rogers and Danny Cullip, the most expensive capture at £50,000.
Bobby Zamora tipped up at Withdean in 2000 with a £100,000 price tag, the club’s most expensive signing in nearly a decade. The next two years saw just one cash arrival, Geoff Pitcher from Kingstonian, before another prolific striker was secured for £100,000 – Leon Knight. The next three seasons saw just one new face that cost any money; Republic of Ireland international goalkeeper Wayne Henderson (£35,000). He was sold 12 months later for a £220,000 profit.
The beginning of the 2007/08 witnessed a pair of stellar forwards – Nicky Forster (£75,000) and Glenn Murray (£300,000) – don the stripes for the first time as Adam Virgo’s £1.5m move to Celtic freed up some valuable cash.
The Amex opened with a Will Buckley brace, the £1.5m purchase from Watford was sold to Sunderland three years later. The problem with transfer fees is the correct actual figure as it can vary from source to source.
Craig Mackail-Smith is still the club’s record signing, at £2.5m from Peterborough United and it’s only a matter of time before that record is smashed to pieces. At the end of 1994/95 Albion’s average crowd was 7,562 and the solitary transfer fee paid was £15,000; ten years later the average attendance at the Theatre of Trees was 6,462 while not a solitary pence was spent on players. In 2014/15, the median crowd at the Amex was 25,660 and an impressive £6,825,000 was invested in new players.
The future’s looking bright…