BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Neil Harris reckons there will always be Championship sides who take a financial risk – but there is no danger Millwall will fall into that category.
The Lions could end up breaking their transfer record this summer if they do manage to secure a permanent deal for Ben Marshall.
But negotiations with Wolves over a switch for the classy winger are likely to continue in the coming weeks. The South Londoners are happy to be patient in terms of one of their top targets.
The challenge is for Millwall to get better. Not so easy after they finished ninth last season, an outstanding outcome after gaining promotion via the League One play-offs in May.
Harris reckons the quality of the division will be higher next time around with Darren Moore set to bring stability to the Baggies after being rewarded for an impressive caretaker stint by landing the role full-time, while Gary Rowett has been tempted away from Derby County to Stoke City.
Wigan and Blackburn, who snared the automatic promotion slots in League One, are also expected to significantly spend.
Millwall will once again have to recruit savvily without getting close to the financial outlay of many of their divisional rivals.
Aston Villa have hit the headlines recently as their financial problems have come to a head following failure to seal a return to the Premier League.
Newcastle did not conduct a fire sale of their playing talents following relegation in 2016 – even keeping hold of manager Rafa Benitez – and were rewarded as the Toon stormed to the Championship title the following season.
Harris said: “There is a lot of risk-and-reward in the Championship at the moment – it comes naturally because the prize to get in the Premier League is so vast.
“People will always take that risk – especially the ones coming out of the Premier League, because they have got parachute payments for a couple of years.
“If it doesn’t happen then it becomes really damaging within the club. Newcastle have been very open and it is well-documented what they did. It worked for them. There are a lot of clubs in our division where it hasn’t worked for them – some are going to need to get promoted next season and some needed that to happen this season and spent a hell of a lot of money.
“The Premier League is driven by the TV money. You earn the money and spend the money from that. As soon as you get relegated that money is gone.
“It is a gamble. Then you get clubs like ourselves and a few others who stick to the rules and play within them. Yes, you always want more. But we choose to do it with a stability factor and an owner who wants to be stable.
“You have to respect that and try to find another way of getting up – that’s by working hard, finding the right players and trying to build in small steps. That’s the way to do it for me. It might take four or five years to try and get a promotion campaign. There is so much money in the game that overnight success is very, very difficult.”
Sometimes it feels like the teams who come down after a sustained period in the Premier League find it more difficult to adjust.
Fulham have gone up now, but were initially dragged into a survival dogfight when they lost top-flight status. It took a longer process, past the point where they had the support of parachute payments, for them to rebuild into a Championship force despite the resources of American billionaire Shad Khan.
“It’s always difficult to judge on the three teams coming down,” said Harris. “I thought the three [last season] were going to be a lot stronger than what they turned out to be.
“Do they get their business done early? Sometimes with big clubs it is getting players out more than getting players in. Then it becomes about mentality.
“It’s more about the make-up of the club behind the scenes. Is it a settled club? Is it a happy club? Are the staff and players as one? Are the fans behind the team after relegation?
“We saw this season that the unrest from the terraces to the football club has failed Stoke and Swansea. Sunderland the same – they had a disastrous run.
“Darren Moore is an excellent appointment at West Brom. I know Darren well, he’s a really safe guy who loves that club. They will be a stable club.
“The reason I talk about West Brom is the fans love Darren Moore. He will get players there that want to play for him. It is quite a British-based squad.
“Stoke have Gary Rowett. He’s a top Championship manager who knows the league and will have them ready for it.
“Swansea have proven to be a good footballing team over the years.
“All three should do well. They will have the financial clout to have a competitive squad. How they use that will be the telling factor.
“Wigan and Blackburn had much bigger budgets than Millwall this year. They are certainly going to be competitive and tough sides to play against.
“The Championship will be stronger next year. For us to compete with those five clubs is going to be a challenge for us.”