When Fulham achieved promotion via the Championship Play-Offs in 2018, they went on to sign a whopping 12 new players at an eye-watering cost of $AUD171 million ahead of the 18/19 Premier League season.
The Cottagers were relegated in April and ‘Doing a Fulham’ was born.
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Next to follow suit was Aston Villa, who returned to the top flight via the same method as Fulham a year later.
Former manager Dean Smith oversaw an estimated outlay of $250 million on 12 players, but thankfully for the Villa Park faithful the club stayed up by the skin of their teeth and have kicked on to bigger and better things.
But if you thought those two clubs had spent big on loads of players, you haven’t seen anything just yet.
After beating Huddersfield Town in the Championship Play-Off final in May, Nottingham Forest have signed a whopping 22 players for the first team at an approximate cost of $AUD259 million.
To put that into context, that figure is the fifth-largest spending spree this season among all European clubs, per Transfermarkt.
That’s more than the likes of continental giants such as FC Barcelona ($226m), Paris-Saint Germain ($218m) and Bayern Munich ($203m).
The new arrivals at the City Ground consists of: Jesse Lingard (free) Dean Henderson (loan), Taiwo Awoniyi ($28m), Neco Williams ($28m), Emmanuel Dennis ($21m), Orel Mangala ($18m), Moussa Niakhate ($14m), Giulian Biancone ($14m), Remo Freuler ($13m), Omar Richards ($12m), Lewis O’Brien ($8.5m), Harry Toffolo ($8.5m), Cheikhou Kouyate (free), Wayne Hennessey (free), Morgan Gibbs-White ($72.5m), Orel Mangala ($21.7m), Renan Lodi (loan), Hwang Ui-Jo ($6.8m), Josh Bowler ($3.4m), Willy Boly ($3.8m), Loic Bade (loan), Brandon Aguilera ($1.3m) and Serge Aurier (free).
With a gargantuan amount of arrivals, most football fans were left puzzled at how and why Forest signed so many players.
But the reality does not require many jigsaw pieces at all.
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WHY FOREST HAD TO SPEND TO SURVIVE … AND WHY THEY AREN’T ‘DOING A FULHAM’
With the riches on offer in the Premier League, promoted sides must spend to compete.
It’s the unfortunate, brutal reality of the English top flight.
But as Forbes’ Steve Price noted, to spend is to survive.
“Put it simply, the amount Forest are spending is what it costs to build a team capable of competing in the Premier League,” Price wrote.
“It’s just rather than do it over several seasons, Forest have done it in a matter of weeks.”
History also shows that without loosening the purse strings, clubs give themselves next to no hope of staying up.
Since the inception of the Premier League, 22 promoted teams have spent $46m or more.
Of those 22, only five have been relegated: Fulham (18/19, $170m), Cardiff (18/19, $78m and 13/14, $64m), Middlesbrough (16/17, $52m) and West Bromwich Albion (20/21, $70m).
In that same time, 68 teams have spent less than the $46m figure and of those 68, 34 (50 percent) have been relegated.
It’s obviously worth noting that the recent deals for TV rights has allowed more money to be spent among the clubs, but the caveat with that is the clubs who are already established in the Premier League are spending even more.
Of course, spending big can work.
But in the case of Fulham in 2018/19, it was an approach that backfired in spectacular fashion.
Given Forest’s vast expenditure, there’s inevitable tags of them ‘doing a Fulham’.
But a further investigation proves the transfer approaches are quite different.
In Fulham’s famous 2018 summer window, they signed a total of 15 players, with a further three joining in January.
However, five of those were signed on deadline day: Luciano Vietto, Sergio Rico, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Joe Bryan and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa.
Calum Chambers was signed on loan just two days before the window slammed shut, with defender Alfie Mawson arriving a week before.
With so many players arriving without completing pre-season with the club, then-manager Slavisa Jokanovic was always facing an uphill battle to get his squad to gel.
He was sacked after a run of seven games without a win as Fulham sat in last place.
The shambolic nature of the window displayed a disconnected transfer plan within the club and proved once again that doing the majority of business late can’t bring much good.
By comparison, Forest had 11 players through the door before August.
Sure, some were late arrivals as Cooper must find his best starting line-up with the vast amount of players on offer.
But his experience of leading England to a U-17 World Cup title in 2017 is evidence the Forest boss can galvanise a squad in a quick amount of time and extract maximum success.
Granted, youth football is an entirely different kettle of fish to the professional game when the margins for error are paper-thin.
However, Cooper has a track record of success and with his transfer plan, it was clear he was after plays to fit into his intricate system with almost all of them providing sell-on value, should that situation arise.
THE NIGHT-AND-DAY DIFFERENCE THAT LEFT REDS WITH ‘NO CHOICE’ BUT TO RECRUIT
It’s no secret that a significant part of transfer business in the Championship comes down to loan signings.
Fulham, the winners of the 21/22 Championship, somewhat bucked the trend with just two loan signings throughout the season.
On the contrary, Bournemouth and Forest had six loanees each and every one of them had a vital part to play, as three loan players started for Forest in the Play-Off Final against Huddersfield with another coming off the bench.
None of those players have returned to Forest on a permanent basis or on another loan deal, leaving the club with a large hole to fill.
Furthermore just three Forest players from the Play-Off Final squad are still at the club: Sam Surridge, Alex Mighten and Cafu.
As for the rest, they have either departed permanently or moved on loan.
That left Forest manager Steve Cooper at the start of pre-season with just 11 first team players ahead of their first Premier League campaign.
It meant the Reds boss had “no choice” but to recruit players en masse.
Forest approached the window with the central idea of recruiting two players for every position to fit into Cooper’s preferred 3-4-1-2 formation.
Goalkeeper Dean Henderson, an England international who was frustrated with his lack of game time an Manchester United, joined on loan in what was a major coup for the club.
Several other early arrivals also joined, including star Liverpool youngster Nico Williams and Omar Richards from Bayern Munich.
However, Richards’ start to life at the City Ground got off to a disastrous start after he was ruled out for three months with a hairline fracture in his leg, an injury that was somehow not picked up during his medical.
The club also broke its transfer record to bring in Union Berlin striker Taiwo Awoniyi for $29m, but he wouldn’t remain the record for much longer.
The marquee signing of the window and one that sent shockwaves through the Premier League was that of Jesse Lingard, who was a free agent after leaving Manchester United.
Forest were in direct competition with West Ham United for Lingard’s services and reports emerged that the Reds offered the England international a weekly wage of $341,000.
beIN Sports presenter Richard Keys was astonished Lingard would choose a team set to battle relegation over one that had made the Europa League semi-final last season.
“Jesse Lingard is ‘bang ordinary’ to occasionally ‘good’ in a decent team – which Utd are not and he couldn’t get a starting place there,” Keys wrote on Twitter.
“It’ll be interesting to see how he goes in a struggling side. How on earth can he choose Forest over West Ham?”
talkSPORT’s Simon Jordan was equally critical of Lingard’s move and questioned the star midfielder’s “unhealthy obsession” with a social media app instead of playing football.
“This is what £200k a week buys…,” Jordan tweeted.
“Let’s hope that JLingz doesn’t Ming zz at #nffc … Time will tell if £10m on a player with undoubted talent, but not a lot of return in the last 3 years, alongside a unhealthy obsession with Tik Tok, is money well spent?”
However, The Telegraph’s Sam Wallace revealed Lingard was not on the amount of money that had been previously reported and instead claimed he was earning a weekly salary of $136,000 before bonuses.
Forest went on to break their transfer fee record two more times in the form of Watford striker Emmanuel Dennis and Wolves star Morgan Gibbs-White.
It’s evident that although a large amount of signings have arrived, it was necessary and there was a careful consideration and logic behind every player who joined.
It’s been a brutal start to life in the Premier League for Cooper and Forest.
The Reds lie in 19th place with four points and 17 goals conceded, the third-leakiest defence in the division.
But in their fixtures so far, they’ve played two Champions League clubs in Manchester City as well as Tottenham, along with a victory over Europa League semi-finalists West Ham United.
Lessons will have been learned for Cooper and his troops as they continue to get acclimated with the top flight.
Their commitment to playing an attractive and entertaining style must be admired, but at the same time, naivety at the back will prove costly, especially in a league as ruthless as the English top flight.
However, with 22 new players and $259m spent, they’ve given themselves the best chance of survival possible.
Not because they could, but because they had to.