CLARETS boss Eddie Howe admits he will have to dig for hidden gems this summer as budget restrictions kick in.
Burnley will go into a third season after relegation from the Premier League with their parachute payments cut almost in half from £14.5m to £8m, and Howe is going to have to go bargain hunting to bolster his squad.
He takes his side to Blackpool tomorrow for their penultimate game of the campaign, with Bristol City rounding things off at Turf Moor next Saturday, but thoughts have already turned to preparing for next season.
Howe has already generated more money in sales than he has spent, after the departures of Tyrone Mears, Chris Eagles and Danny Fox last summer, while most of the big earners have been moved on.
But these continue to be times of austerity at the club.
And Howe is realistic about the funds available – even if 21-goal top-scorer Jay Rodriguez is sold.
Howe said: “The parachute payments go down, and the reality is we’re not a wealthy club in the division.
“Without wanting to sound in any way pessimistic, we’re not.
“We can only survive with the financial fairplay rules coming in, yet we’re going to have to work very cleverly with what we do have available to try to get the very best out of them.
“That’s the reality going forward.
“As much as it pains me to say it, because I’d love to say we can spend a lot of money and really have a go for it, that’s not where we’re at.
“It’s a challenge for us to try to be competitive at the top end of the league with the budgets we’ve been given, but that’s what we’ll try to do.
“We’re going to have to work hard with the players we have.
“We’re going to have to hopefully be very clever with the players we bring in and try to get the best players for the best value.
“That’s the conditions we’re working with.
“It will be tough. When you compare the money flying around in the league, what some of the clubs are able to spend and the budgets they have, the reality is now, with the parachute payments being halved, we’re going to have to work accordingly.”
Howe will be scouring the loan market, free transfers and searching for bargains to be had abroad.
He said: “There will be a bit of that. The free transfer list, although you may not pay a fee, the wages, especially for the best players, are higher so sometimes that doesn’t always work.
“The wage bill is the most important thing – we’re trying to control that and make sure it’s at a level that the club can afford.
“We’re going to have to look for the ones underneath the ones everyone is talking about, because we can’t compete with the best players.
“Even the best players in League One will be out of our reach – at Huddersfield, Charlton, Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United – we won’t be able to afford their best players.
“It’s very much a case of maybe looking at some foreign markets, maybe looking at the lower leagues, and trying to find value for money in players that we feel potentially could better the squad that we have. “But it’s going to be difficult for us.
“I don’t want to paint a negative picture, but that’s the reality going forward for us.”
Only this week, however, Burnley have seen first hand that throwing money at promotion isn’t always the solution either, after drawing 0-0 at Leicester, who spent upwards of £15m over the last 12 months and have failed to make the top six.
He said: “Money doesn’t guarantee you success, as Leicester have proved.
“You’ve got to get the balance right, you’ve got to get as many facets as you can in the squad.
“We’ve got some really talented players who have really benefited from this season – their first season at the level.
“I think the level within our own squad will have gone up next year from the players that we retain, and then it’s about adding some quality to it.
“You’ve got the loan market which is something we’ll continue to use and try to get some good young players.
“That’s very much the formula we have to go down.”