CLARETS chairman Barry Kilby hasn’t ruled out making further player sales in January in an increased bid to balance the books at Turf Moor.
Chris Iwelumo, Tyrone Mears, Chris Eagles, Danny Fox and Wade Elliott have already been moved on to pastures new with a focus on dissecting the club’s wage bill while Steven Thompson, Kevin McDonald and Remco van der Schaaf, remarkably the Clarets’ highest earner during the Premier League season, were released following the announcement of a £4m loss in the last financial year.
And Kilby told shareholders at the club’s 114th Annual General Meeting, held in the 1882 Lounge at Turf Moor, that further measures could be taken in the New Year to drive the wage bill down from the £17.1m recorded in 2010/11 – £5.5m more than was accounted for in the promotion season of 2008/09.
“Everybody is for sale is the usual stock answer,” said Kilby. “We have to generate cash and bring the wage bill down. Players in general aren’t assets that are on your books forever, they are depreciating assets that can just walk away.
“It’s not an easy one but every player has his price. If you don’t realise the value of a player and they just walk out of the door eventually that wouldn’t be serving the club well. If the player wants to go then it’s difficult to keep them.”
But, despite feeling the loss of several key players, boss Eddie Howe has backed the board’s ‘calculated’ decisions. He said: “I think we all wanted to keep Chris Eagles, Tyrone Mears, Jack Cork and Danny Fox. I think the board are the same but I have to respect their decisions on the financial side of things.
“We wanted to keep them all. But we had to consider the age of the player, the money we received and the wages they were on before making a calculated decision and one that was in the long term interests of the club.”
Kilby stressed that the need to recover the loss was imperative though the board wouldn’t stand in the way of Howe’s recruitment process once the transfer window re-opens next month. And Howe is already planning to add to his young side: “We are looking and have identified targets for January,” he said. “We will just have to see what happens. I’m looking for the rest of the season to be a success. We’ve not given up on anything.”
Howe added: “When you build any squad you need to get the balance right between experience and youth. This is a constant battle and one we are facing all the time. Ideally we would like a young and vibrant squad full of ambition and desire to take this club forward but within that we do need experienced bodies and it’s getting that balance right that will be the key to our success.
“The key benefit of signing young players and bringing your own youth players through is that by developing them and improving them they can become assets for the future. I believe this to be a really important part of our ethos. Another benefit is the ambition, hunger and desire that comes with it. We want to build a young and exciting squad that serves this club for a long time.”
Meanwhile, Brendan Flood outlined the challenges faced by the club after being re-elected on to the board. The operational director, who joined the board in 2006, highlighted that the club were trying to contend with an increasingly competitive Championship league, stating that the division’s average squad wage bill from 2006 to the culmination of 2009/10 had trebled.
“Eddie and his team are excellent. If you (the supporters) can give him the support from the terraces I’m sure he can be successful.
“We do understand our limitations, but we want to do our best for you.”
He added: “Eddie has a massive task because at Burnley Football Club we are always trying to out-perform with lower wage costs which is tough in the Championship. In 2006 the average squad wage bill was £5m and we were just under that. In 2009/10 that figure rose to £15m. It’s a very competitive league.
“While financial fair play will bring in a more belt and braces approach for us we have got to be extra clever with how we buy and how we sell. It’s about employing the best possible people we can get.”
On his re-election, Flood said: “It is a great privilege to be on the board as fans. To try to make a contribution to the club is all that we try to do.
“I thank the staff around the club – I can assure you they are doing a fantastic job and they have got your best interests at heart. They all go the extra yard.”