Conor Washington’s £2.5 million transfer from Peterborough to QPR last week was the latest in a series of exits from London Road – a trend which has seen Posh collect in excess of £21 million in fees for eight players. This statistic shows Tom Simmonds that the Posh are a club who are experts in making their place in football’s food chain work for them.
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Since Aaron McLean joined Hull for £1.3 million in January 2011, Washington, Britt Assombalonga, Dwight Gayle, Ryan Bennett, Lee Tomlin, Craig Mackail-Smith and Paul Taylor have all left London Road for seven-figure fees. And Peterborough’s recent dip into the Premier League’s bargain bin for forwards Adil Nabi and Shaquile Coulthirst (from West Brom and Spurs respectively) with the cash from the Washington sale shows that they had already identified replacements with potentially high resale value.
Fans of other lower league clubs have been aware of Peterborough’s transfer prowess for a while, and the most commonly asked question among those I know is: “what are Peterborough’s scouts doing that my club’s aren’t?”
Peterborough are undoubtedly good at finding players performing well lower down the pyramid and giving them a more prominent stage. However, this isn’t new methodology and doesn’t answer the question above. It doesn’t take a super scout to realise that the likes of Marcus Maddison – a Newcastle youth product signed from Gateshead in 2014 – and tiny maestro Erhun Oztumer – plucked from Dulwich Hamlet – might have had a chance at making it on the basis of their form in non-league. You would expect every professional club in England to track players like this.
But a noticeable and important trend amongst the players that Posh manage to sell for big profit is the short amount of time they spend at the club.
Assombalonga only played 43 games before Forest came calling. Gayle only wore the club’s colours 20 times before Crystal Palace handed them a £5.5 million profit on their outlay.
Washington’s 81 games make him long-serving by comparison, but the widely-publicised text he sent to chairman Darragh McAnthony shortly after the move, thanking him for the opportunity to play “as high as possible”, contains a clue – as does manager Graham Westley’s invoking of Assombalonga and Washington to describe Coulthirst’s ambition.
There is clearly something in Peterborough’s policy which promises players that they will not stand in their way if a big move becomes a possibility.
What also shouldn’t go unnoticed is that Peterborough sometimes pay high prices for these players. There is a strong element of speculating to accumulate about their business, and they are playing along with (and benefitting from) the premium on the heads of home-grown players under 30.
They paid £1.25 million for Assombalonga in 2013 on the strength of one good season on loan at Southend, before which he had played just four senior games for Watford. That is a fair fee for a player who had played 62 lower division games at the time. Gayle cost them £500,000 from Dagenham and Redbridge in 2012 on the basis of seven goals in 18 games at Victoria Road.
The thing which really strikes you when looking at Peterborough’s business is its pragmatism. They knowingly target ambitious Premier League kids who have next to no chance of breaking into their teams and, more traditionally, those at lower levels who will see them as a club where there is a clear pathway to a higher level should you perform well.
Director of Football Barry Fry and his team are wily enough to know that Posh are not a big enough club to hold on to these players forever, so use this reputation as a finishing school as leverage to secure top dollar for the players when the time comes to sell.
While this might upset some fans, who bemoan that Posh are restricting themselves to being an eternal yo-yo club, what it does ensure is that they have a good chance of being constantly entertained by the conveyor belt of talent while ensuring their club’s sustainability.
Peterborough fans: Do you think your club’s transfer policy shows a lack of ambition? Or do you think it’s the only way for your club to be viable in today’s game?
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