The shock sale of fan favourite Chris Hussey has kickstarted a fresh transfer policy with an eye to the future at Cheltenham Town.
Hussey, famed for crashing in an iconic equaliser against Carlisle United to propel Cheltenham into League One, has played a pivotal role in the success of the Michael Duff era.
His productivity had decreased drastically in League One and a new contract for the 33-year-old was not really a viable option. Hussey averaged 6.3 assists in each of his three seasons in the fourth-tier for the Robins, as opposed to just one assist in 23 League One appearances this term.
A return to League Two has seen Hussey already register two assists in just five appearances for Port Vale. It was a sensible move for footballing reasons but it also suited both parties financially too.
Cheltenham have the second lowest wage budget in League One behind only Crewe Alexandra and less than 2.5% of their income has been provided by cash injections. Therefore, Cheltenham operate on the principle of spending within their means and the five-figure sum amassed from his sale helped recompense the loss of funds from the signing of Ben Williams.
The Robins were reluctant to offer Hussey the terms he desired and he understandably returned to League Two after being offered a pay rise. The signing of Williams also illustrated Cheltenham’s youthful approach in the transfer market.
Michael Duff has a notorious track record for developing loan players such as Josh Griffiths, Jacob Greaves and Callum Wright. But Cheltenham have looked to sign promising young players of their own, who will then become a focal point in the side or earn the club a transfer fee in the future.
This is reflected in the acquisitions of not only Williams, but also Charlie Brown and Lewis Freestone. Williams helped Barnsley achieve promotion to the Championship in his breakthrough season and he retained his place in the side during the following season. A long-term injury hampered his progression but Duff will expect to unlock his potential again at Cheltenham.
This is also reflected in the cases of Lewis Freestone and Charlie Brown. Brighton & Hove Albion plucked Freestone from Peterborough United in 2019 but didn’t offer him a new contract and Cheltenham pounced to sign him. Brown had a very promising youth career and was being monitored by Manchester United, Arsenal and West Ham before joining Chelsea.
He finished as the leader scorer in the UEFA Youth League in 2018-19 with 11 goals but somewhat lost his way after moving to MK Dons in 2021.
This may give off the impression that Cheltenham are set to become a selling club, but their sustainable model will undoubtedly help them compete in League One.
Former club chairman Andy Wilcox predicted a loss in the region of £1m for the current financial year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although last season’s FA Cup run helped keep the club afloat, Cheltenham inevitably remain in the shadows of their League One counterparts in terms of finances. So a more cautious and long-term approach is naturally the way forward for the Robins!