Recruitment expert David Webb has warned that the coronavirus pandemic will affect the way that all clubs below the top six trade when the transfer window reopens.
Webb has worked in recruitment for a number of years at both first-team and youth level, and has recently left his position as Huddersfield Town’s head of football following ten months in the role.
Prior to his spell with Huddersfield, he also held recruitment positions at both Tottenham Hotspur, where he worked closely with Mauricio Pochettino, as well as AFC Bournemouth and served as technical director at Swedish outfit Ostersunds, too.
The coronavirus pandemic has thrown up numerous challenges for all sectors, including football, with lower league clubs losing most of their revenue and League’s One and Two, as well as the National League, coming to a premature end, with no return date for next season agreed.
All games will have to be played behind closed doors for the foreseeable future, while clubs have also faced obstacles regarding out of contract players, with some, including the likes of Ryan Fraser and Lyle Taylor, refusing to sign new deals, meaning they left for free at the end of June.
With teams up and down the country losing most of their income, Webb thinks it may lead to a rethink behind the scenes ahead of the transfer window as well as more clubs relying on the loan market.
Speaking exclusively to talkSPORT, he said: “I think it will have an impact definitely with a number of clubs, probably from the bottom half of the Premier League and going all the way down.
“The conversations I’ve had with colleagues from other clubs, the feeling is that it’s a time for reassessment. It’s hit a lot of clubs financially as well, as no one ever envisaged this happening.
“Maybe not so with the top six because they’re at that level, but some of the ones underneath where certain fees are paid for players, maybe it gives the opportunity for clubs to redevelop what they’ve already got within their squad and look at that as a focus point, because sometimes it’s always quick to look outside and say, ‘We need someone else’.
“Maybe some of the transfer fees that were paid before are not going to be quite as substantial as they were. Clubs will look at refocusing their recruitment strategies to go and align with that and maybe look in areas or places that they weren’t looking before.
“I think the loan market is going to be quite prevalent with a lot of clubs, not just within the Championship and below, but even the Premier League clubs as well, especially with the markets now.
“When you look at the bigger clubs, they’ve got these great pools of talent that can’t get games like your Chelsea’s, Man United’s, Man City’s and Barcelona’s and these players will be able to get opportunities to play elsewhere.
“Not only those clubs, but the clubs lower down, some of the fringe players that are on the cusp of being first-team or Premier League players, [they will] probably get the opportunity to play at Championship level or even abroad because there is not going to be the fees or the money where there once was when you could maybe go out and have a gamble on a player.
“It might be structured in a way where it could be a loan with an option to buy at the end or different options based on the conditions of the loan that gets a chance for that player to progress forward.”
Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson joined talkSPORT last month and outlined his belief that the pandemic may force clubs to throw some of their youngsters into the limelight, a stance which Webb also agrees with, too.
“Palace is a club I know really well. Within their academy, they would have an abundance of talent. They’ve had some fantastic players come through over the years,” he explained.
“Palace, being where they are, they’re one of the safer clubs in the Premier League, so they might have that opportunity now, which will be fantastic for them to integrate more younger players.
“Maybe teams towards the bottom end or chasing promotion, not to say they won’t still look at those opportunities, but it might be more of a future plan for them rather than an immediate one.
“If you look at England’s age groups, there’s a real hotbed of talent and you can see that over the recent years by winning World Cups and European U19s and U17s etcetera. It will definitely open up opportunities for young players coming through.”
Crystal Palace owe a lot of thanks to Webb, too, as he was the person who unearthed a certain Wilfried Zaha when the winger was playing for his local team in Croydon in 2003.
Palace’s star man has been linked with a big move for some time, most recently when Arsenal came calling last summer, but no one has yet been able to meet Eagles chairman Steve Parish’s asking price for him.
Zaha has been one of the best wingers in the division for some time, with many yet to come up with a plan to stop the 27-year-old, and Webb says the Ivory Coast international is the most exciting young talent he’s ever seen.
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“Back in 2003, he was playing for a team called Whitehorse Wanderers which were in the Croydon. I think football at that time was going through a period of change,” he says.
“When I was an academy coach at Palace, having known the Croydon and surrounding South London areas, I knew there was an abundance of talent out there that probably wasn’t getting scouted. Wilfy was highlighted to me as one of those.”
“He was very raw, he played off the cuff and he was a street player. His raw talent was unbelievable because he was very tenacious. Even from a young age, he had strong characteristics and very good skills.
“You can never predict that journey from so young, because especially at U11, they’ve got to undertake some tasks to get to [first-team level] but Wilfy was a very determined young lad.
“It’s no surprise to see where he is now because he had that strength of character from a young age.”