Monday, December 20, 2010

Stocking filler

With Christmas almost upon us, it's perhaps a bit late to start flagging up potential Christmas gifts for loved ones. But all the same we'd like to highlight the publication of Pay As You Play: The True Price of Success in the Premier League Era.

The premise for the book is relatively simple, with the authors using some complex maths (the sort of which Carol Vorderman would no doubt be proud) to calculate the value in today's terms of all of the transfers since the Premier League began - a number which they describe as the Current Transfer Purchase Price (CTPP).

While highlighting that the authors hate the notion that football began in 1992 (as Sky would have you believe), they had to start somewhere and 1992 and the huge influx of cash which followed seemed a reasonable point to begin the number-crunching.

With contributions from fans (including a couple of Newcastle fans not a million miles away from this blog) the book presents a comparison and critique of all managers and teams since 1992, and in Newcastle's case makes for some interesting revelations.

In 1993/94 (our inaugural Premier League season) our first XI was worth a CTPP price of £44,674,648 making it the eleventh most expensive team in the League and as we stormed through the first season they racked up 77 points to finish third in the league (at a cost of £580,190 per point).

Over the following three seasons, as Keegan sought to upgrade the playing personnel, the CTPP value of the team rose to £80,903,917 by 1995/96. That team, (the third most expensive in the league) featuring Messrs Ferdinand and Ginola picked up 78 points at a cost of £1,037,230 per point and, as we don't need reminding, just failed to win the league.

The following year, having splashed out on Alan Shearer, we watched the most expensive side in the land thrash Man Utd 5-0 at home, but again fall short of winning the league with Keegan having been replaced by Kenny Dalglish.

For his two-year reign, Kenny enjoyed managing the most expensive side in the league, but suffered diminishing returns with the team's cost per point rocketing to £1,961,106 during the 1997/98 season (when we finished 13th).

Gullit's allegedly "sexy" football followed, and Ruud took the second most expensive team in the league to the FA Cup final, but saw the cost per point climb above the £2 million mark.

With Gullit replaced by Bobby Robson early in the 1999/00 campaign, we remained one of the three most expensively assembled teams in the league, but thanks to improved performances on the pitch, the value per point again dropped below the £2 million mark and in 2002/03 our team's place as the third most expensive in the land was matched by our final league position (the first time we had equalled or bettered our position in the table of most expensive teams since the end of the 1995/96 season).

With Robson's departure, the club appointed Grim Sourness, whose miserly record had seen him manage teams whose league position had generally exceeded their place in the cost table. However, as bitter memory will recall, the football was shite and Sourness failed to add value to the squad.

What was notable in those years was that while we continued to spend big (Luque, Owen et al.) other teams were also splashing the cash, and we dropped back to fifth in the expense rank. However, an average return of £1.4 million per point (and in particular the way in which those points were gathered) wasn't enough to keep Souness in the job.

His replacement was Glenn Roeder, our former captain presiding over a club whose relative first XI value dropped (presumably the retirement of a certain sheet metal worker's son from Gosforth playing its part in that) but whose fortunes in the league were also on the slide and Roeder averaged £1.37 million per point.

Fat Sam - who, like Sourness before him, arrived with a reputation of turning lead into gold - failed to signify an improvement in fortunes with the then sixth most expensive team costing £1.4 million per point on our way to 12th in 2007/08.

The following year, our annus horribilis, saw the sixth most expensive team (costing £63,534,985) relegated from the league with a mere 34 points, each of which cost over £1.8 million.

What is interesting is firstly how our expensively assembled squad consistently failed to deliver and secondly how managers with previous reputations for good financial stewardship (Souness' Blackburn team of 2003 garnered a point for every £571,592 spent on players) singularly failed to deliver when entrusted with Fat Fred's cheque book.

The other interesting thing to note is that, in terms of underperforming, our worst period was the 1999-00 season of Gullitt and Robson which saw each of our 52 points cost a whopping £2,273,715.

Unsurprisingly, the manager with the best record (when calculated on a points per pounds basis) is Keegan (even after his figures were skewed by his more recent spell in charge). However, second in the list is Roeder, while Robson is only ahead of Gullitt at the bottom of the table.

What the statistics don't show is that, for all the money spent, the quality of football varied greatly and wasn't always reflected in the price - with Keegan in particular producing great football for relatively cheap sums. In 1993/94 and 1995/96 our league position was above that of our place in the expense rank. No other manager achieved that, with Robson only able to match the cost/league table rankings once.

For more details on the book, please see this website, with the sample chapter "The Newcastle Effect" available to read online.


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