'Ultimately we can’t compete with some clubs in this division,’ the Pompey boss insisted as he carried out the biggest squad overhaul seen at this club in recent seasons.
‘You’re looking at the top end of the division this year and it’s gone crazy. It’s gone crazy, financially.
‘I’ve lived this league with Lincoln just two years ago and the top teams are now paying double what they paid then.’
The topic was one the Blues boss returned to on more than one occasion, as he more often than not did battle with rival third-tier bosses for the same players.
The trouble being, the more the subject was broached the harder it was to avoid it coming off like the 43-year-old was whinging at his lot.
Now, though, we are finally afforded a little context over what he was talking about.
And the details over what was given to agents by League One clubs makes for some jaw-dropping reading.
Leading the way in the payments to get deals done were Sheffield Wednesday and Ipswich Town, with the Owls shelling out a whopping £796,224 to intermediaries to the Tractor Boys’ £779,739.
Those figures dwarved those paid out by the rest of the division, with Wigan (£355,774), Sunderland (£310,244) and Wycombe (£258,952) the next in line.
Pompey came in seventh (£194,079) just behind Charlton (£195,079), with those fees covering 23 deals in and out of Fratton Park.
Now for those not familiar with the spending at this level, the total spend in the division was inflated to £4.42m from £3.02m the previous season - an increase of 44 per cent.
Of course, agents’ fees aren’t the overall spends by clubs on players, but it certainly is a barometer of how things stand - and have escalated.
Pompey sitting seventh in the hierarchy is broadly in line with where it’s felt the club’s playing wage bill is in the order of things, too.
So we now begin to get a picture of how the League One financial terrain has been distorted by benefactors throwing money at their club’s recruitment, in the same week where
Pompey announced near £4m Covid-impacted losses after their accounts were released.
What we can also see is, in the case of the two biggest spenders on agents’ fees, success is still a long way from guaranteed.
That probably doesn’t ease Cowley’s frustration which was vented as Pompey were ‘blown out of the water’ by rivals, as they went after the likes of George Edmundson, Conor Chaplin, Sam Vokes, TJ Eyoma and Jayden Stockley.
But the Londoner can begin to feel a little more validated by the League One figures now in the public domain.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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