When rumours began to circulate of Conor Coady’s impending transfer to Wolves for a fee in the region £2 million, my initial reaction was one of denial. As far as I was concerned there was simply no way that a player with as much raw potential as Coady could be sold to a divisional rival just one year into a three year contract – especially at the price being quoted.
As you’ve probably already surmised, I rate Coady extremely highly. Although Jacob Butterfield was Town’s Player of the Year last season by some distance, the performances of the former Liverpool youngster were undoubtedly one of the bright parts of Town’s inconsistent season.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his youth career at Liverpool and performances for the England youth team, comparisons were quickly made with Steven Gerrard. Although it would be overdoing it to say that Coady has the same potential as a young Steven Gerrard, it is easy to see why the comparisons were made. With a physique and confidence that belied his relative youth and inexperience, Coady quickly established himself as one of the first names on the teamsheet last season, whilst also demonstrating the leadership qualities that had seen him captain his club and country at youth level.
Indeed, one of my most vivid memories of Coady was when he came on as a second-half substitute in the opening day debacle against Bournemouth. Town were already 4-0 down when Coady was brought on, and you could have forgiven an inexperienced player – making his debut for his new club - freezing amidst all the chaos that was surrounding him.
As soon as Coady came on, however, he instantly began to organise his more experienced team-mates, and looked every inch a natural born leader. On a thoroughly miserable opening day which saw Town end the day 24th and managerless, the new man from Merseyside was perhaps the only bright spot in one of the most abject Town displays I have ever seen.
Although Coady is far from the finished article, for example he does not possess the attacking threat or creativity of Jacob Butterfield, or indeed the defensive capabilities of Jonathan Hogg, his departure still comes as a bitter blow. A box-to-box midfielder with excellent stamina and energy, if he continues to develop at the rate he did in 2014-15 then he will prove to be a very shrewd acquisition indeed for Wolves.
Indeed, as I have already alluded to, I feel that the alleged £2 million fee is a bit on the low side from Town’s perspective. Given that Coady still had two years left on his contract and the potential that Coady showed in such abundance in his debut season, I would personally have been looking at keeping him for another season before cashing in at a potentially higher price.
What is more, the transfer seems to fly in the face of comments made by Chairman Dean Hoyle, who at the end of the previous season clearly stated that:
“Every club sells players but we continue to be in the fortunate position that we don’t need to sell or plan to sell anyone to pay our bills or repay investors or loan companies.”
Nevertheless, the fact remains that Town are a comparatively small club, with less resources and financial clout than virtually every other team in the Championship. The direct consequence of this, is that without investment from another benefactor, the club has to sell its main assets in order to survive at this level.
On the plus side, the club has always sought to use the money generated from player sales to bring in more bright prospects. Furthermore, Town have gained a reputation as a club that can provide a good stepping stone for young and talented players to go on and achieve big money moves i.e. Jordan Rhodes, Anthony Pilkington and now Conor Coady.
This reputation means that Town should be able to continue to attract young, hungry players to the club - the only downside is that the main attraction for these players is often that Town will not stand in their way when the time comes for them to move on to bigger and better things.
The sale of Coady to Wolves, therefore, is the archetypal example of Town’s current transfer policy. Bring in young, hungry players for a relatively small fee, with the promise that they will be sold when the time and price is right. Although I would argue the fee we have received for Coady is a bit on the low side – especially when you factor in the relevant sell-on clauses that Liverpool will be entitled to – the fact remains that Town have turned a profit of circa £1 million on a player in less than 12 months.
Though it is somewhat frustrating that Town will rarely reap the benefit of developing players like Coady, as once they hit their peak they will likely move onto pastures new, the blow is cushioned by the fact the board has generally reinvested funds from player sales into bringing in another 2 or 3 "young, hungry players" who will hopefully be sold for similar profits later down the line.
Although it is a model that is unlikely to see Town challenge for the play-offs in a league with such financial disparity, it is one that will at least see Town continue to be sustainable at this level. I thoroughly wish we could keep hold of players like Coady, but the stark reality is that without further investment – and this is not a dig at Dean Hoyle – the club cannot really do much more than this.