Stick or twist?
Should Championship managers block bids for their star turns or cash in and use the funds elsewhere?
By Chris Burton
Last Updated: 04/01/13 1:53pm
With the January transfer window having swung open its doors, the conundrum now facing Football League bosses, especially those in the Championship, is whether to stick or twist.
Those fortunate enough to boast saleable assets within their ranks will be perched anxiously by the phone, praying that no calls come through from Premier League suitors.
Turning said phone off may be the best idea at this stage, with the mad scramble for talent likely to intensify as deadline day looms ever closer.
Managers in the top flight will be desperate to bolster their ranks, allowing them to build on a positive first half to the season, or claw their way to safety in the games which remain.
Finding that elusive final piece of the jigsaw will not come cheap, but most clubs would acknowledge that it is difficult to put a price on a place at English football's top table.
Such a situation offers something of a transfer poser for those currently in possession of sought-after property. Do they look to sell at an inflated price, with January more of a seller's market than the summer, or stubbornly cling on to their stars in the hope that they will fire a promotion push?
For most of those looking upwards in the second tier, there is no need to sell. Bringing in funds is not a necessity. Given, most clubs could do with the money, but can they do without their match-winners?
Those who succumb to temptation will want to do so early, giving them as much time as possible to find suitable replacements.
It could be that one sale provides an opportunity to bring in multiple additions, with the funds generated from one astute piece of transfer business allowing the manager involved to strengthen his playing staff in the long run.
Leaving it too late could spell disaster, with a season which promises much suddenly left in tatters.
Premier League bosses will also be looking to get bodies on board early, but should they be drawn into a bidding war then days, possibly weeks, will pass in the blink of an eye.
Take a Derby, a Blackpool or a Crystal Palace for instance. At the moment they are all playing it cool when it comes to reported interest in their star men.
Ask Nigel Clough, Michael Appleton or Ian Holloway what the future holds for Will Hughes, Tom Ince or Wilfried Zaha and they will offer a similar reply: 'They are not for sale and we will not be welcoming bids'.
That is the official party line and they have to spin it. Why would they come out and admit that there are deals to be done at the right price - that would only serve to heighten interest and disrupt those involved.
The fact that those mentioned above are all young players of potential means the last thing you want is for their eye to be taken off the ball. Focus is the name of the game and distancing them from gossip columns and endless rounds of rumour and counter rumour is essential.
Eventually their hand may be forced. Big money may be put on the table, the kind of money you just can't say no to. The player may become convinced that the grass is greener on the other side and push for a move elsewhere.
In that case, there is no choice but to move to the bargaining table, while still holding out for the best possible fee.
It is, however, important to note that the noises coming out of those clubs drawing unwanted attention suggests they are in no mood to haggle.
Sales are inevitable at some point, but just because Premier League clubs are showing an interest does not mean deals will be done. The big boys can no longer cherry pick the cream of the Football League crop as and when they see fit.
It is also worth pointing out that the history books suggest that few high-profile agreements are reached between Premier League and Championship clubs in January.
Looking back as far as 2007, some six winter windows ago, there are only a handful of standout transfers to have been completed.
Ashley Young moved from Watford to Aston Villa in 2007 while Matt Upson left Birmingham for West Ham in the same year. A year later and Marlon King's goal return at Watford earned him a switch to Wigan and Chris Gunter moved from Cardiff to Tottenham.
In 2009 Ben Watson was snapped up by Wigan from Crystal Palace and James Beattie opted to leave Sheffield United for Stoke.
In 2010 the last of the really big deals took place, with Victor Moses linking up with Wigan after attracting plenty of interest during his time at Crystal Palace - with inevitable comparisons now being drawn with Zaha and his current situation.
Since then there hasn't really been anything to get excited about. Maybe the talent hasn't been there. Maybe clubs have chosen to look abroad before turning their attention to the lower leagues. Maybe prices were too high or maybe players realised that they could get to the Promised Land by staying put and earning a shot at the big time via a successful promotion bid.
Whatever the case, recent transfer records make for encouraging reading for Championship coaches.
History is precisely that though - history. Who is to say that the form book will not be ripped up in 2013, with there a sudden flurry of activity between the top two divisions.
There certainly appears to be a deeper pool of talent causing a stir, with players from Brighton to Burnley, Bolton to Birmingham currently providing plenty of transfer copy.
Of course none are for sale if you believe what you hear, but it may be that a few managers are forced to relax that stance before the window is out, deciding that twisting and rolling the dice is actually a more productive option than sticking, missing out on the big bucks and seeing a player leave in the summer for half the price.
It is a tough call to make and there promises to be a few more uncomfortable hours spent by the phone before managers the length and breadth of the country can breathe a collective sigh of relief and get down to business with those still at their disposal.