By Adam Ellis
If you have a social media account the chances are you have seen the video of Harry Redknapp overreacting to Sky Sports’ Rob Palmer using the term ‘wheeler dealer’ in a post-match interview.
Call it a wrong turn of phrase rather than a jibe, Redknapp had no problem in telling the reporter ‘I’ve not made my name by being a wheeler dealer, I’m a f***ing football manager’, as he stormed back to the changing room.
Drop out of the Premier League and into the more modest means of the Championship, and the ability to spot a talent in a vast pool of free agents every summer is as key to a manager’s credibility as the tactics they wish to employ.
Take a look at what Scott Arfield achieved last season; contributing more goals and assists than any other Burnley midfielder to help them win the Championship title.
Or Jay-Jay Okocha, the flicks and tricks master who became a Bolton Wanderers legend. Both he and Arfield were both free transfers who made an impact in their own right.
Looking forward, here are six current Championship players whose futures risk lying away from their current home come 30 June.
Cyrus Christie – Derby County
Not a great deal is made about the talent that is developed through the academy set-up at Coventry City, but Republic of Ireland international Christie is a certain sign of its pedigree.
The 24-year-old’s bustling runs down the right flank to provide a support line to team-mate Tom Ince or Johnny Russell have become a reliable source of attack for recent Derby managers.
January is always a busy time for clubs with a congested fixture list to contend with and transfer dealings to be meted out. Now that that furore has past, Derby should open talks soon with their current first-choice right-back.
Signed by manager Steve McClaren during his first spell in change, the former Newcastle United boss said of his recruit ‘there is no better right-back in the Championship’. So there’s no doubting the intent Derby have in retaining Christie’s services but they need to get a move on.
County only have the aging Chris Baird and the versatile Ikechi Anya to fall back on should a renewed contract not materialise with Christie.
He has Premier League potential and, after being reintroduced back into the first-team picture after two-and-a-half months out injured with a broken foot, there will be no shortage of scouts travelling through the EFL circuit.
Likely move: Derby County renewal
George Saville – Wolves
Saville’s Wolves career has not always been allowed to flourish after loan spells in League One proved he warranted a step up to Championship level.
Signed from Chelsea for an undisclosed fee after a highly impressive season on loan at Brentford, Saville remained limited in getting first-team action for the Championship side.
But after a spell with Millwall not as successful as the one at Griffin Park saw him gain more starts, Saville is yet to consistently appear for Wolves over the full 90 minutes.
The 23-year-old may have thought he would been given the chance to prove himself a player of Championship quality following the departure of Kevin McDonald to Fulham in the summer. But this coincided with Wolves’ takeover by Fosun International, and with their takeover came a substantial transfer budget.
Wolves are not short of competition in midfield with Jack Price, Romain Saiss, Conor Coady and Lee Evans all vying for the slightly deeper central role. As a result, Saville has made 14 league appearances this season under the management of Walter Zenga and Paul Lambert to leave an exit in the summer a possibility.
Though Lambert’s decision to start the 23 year-old in the FA Cup ties against Stoke, Liverpool and against former club Chelsea may be a sign that renewal talks are on the cards, as opposed to a dip in the transfer market.
Likely move: Signed on a free by another Championship club, as Wolves move to sign another central midfielder in the summer
Aaron Wilbraham – Bristol City
Very, very close to a loan move to Wigan on Deadline Day, the Latics instead opted to sign Grimsby Town prospect Omar Bogle in a £1million deal.
Perhaps undone by the fact he’s 37 and Robins strike partner Tammy Abraham calls him ‘Dad’, Wilbraham still possesses the technical and physical capabilities that saw him dubbed ‘Wilbrahimovic’ by Crystal Palace supporters and make him a player of EFL quality.
Praised by his City team-mates as someone ‘who brings everybody together’, Wilbraham held the captain’s armband during the club’s first season back in the Championship after winning the League One title in 2015 and has helped them stay in the division since.
However, recent poor form has seen their Championship status come under threat, leading to head coach Lee Johnson to bolster the attack with the signings of Matty Taylor and Milan Djuric in January.
Whoever is in charge at Bristol City in the months to come will be backed with funds by club owner Steve Lansdown and with the Robins recruitment turning ever more continental, Wilbraham is one player whose skills can be utilised away from Ashton Gate.
The likes of Charlton and Peterborough United are two clubs lacking in the target man department and use a system that plays to the strengths of the former MK Dons and Norwich forward.
Likely move: Signed on a free by a League One club
Charlie Taylor – Leeds United
A contract rebel who Leeds have tried hard to keep ahold of by offering an enhanced salary and rejecting bids from three different Premier League clubs.
All signs now point to Leeds relying on the Bosman ruling as they stand firm on Massimo Cellino’s assertion that Taylor would not be leaving the club.
A move to West Brom is looking most likely for the left-back, who has been recovering from an achilles injury he picked up in mid-December.
Leeds supporters have been sceptical about Taylor’s motives for wanting to leave his boyhood club – pinpointing that he is represented by the same agent as former team-mate Sam Byram – but the player himself has not detracted from his duties on the field, making 26 appearances this season before injury struck.
Regardless of Leeds United’s revival under head coach Garry Monk, that looks set to guarantee them a place in the Championship play-offs, Taylor looks set to be playing in the top flight next season for a different club.
Likely move: Signed on a free by a Premier League club, subject to Bosman ruling
Marley Watkins – Barnsley
Barnsley’s return to Championship football has been fascinating for the neutral as they go from strength to strength under manager Paul Heckingbottom.
The price of that success has seen star players Conor Hourihane, Sam Winnall and promising youngster James Bree secure moves to Championship rivals. But Heckingbottom has told The FLP that he does not want any more players to simply walk out of the club, as they look to consolidate on their current 9th-placed standing in the table.
With a need to ‘make every penny count’ in a high stakes division, recruitment has now become a key priority for Tykes chairman Maurice Watkins, who has yet to appoint a new chief executive to fill the void left by Linton Brown in January.
This may pose a dilemma in re-signing Marley Watkins and Josh Scowen, who the club risk losing in June.
Watkins has been one of Barnsley’s form players this season, scoring 6 goals and providing 7 assists, and looked set to join the January exodus when tendering a transfer request amid interest from Ipswich and Bristol City.
Turning his request down, Barnsley will now try desperately to keep ahold of the winger with their boosted revenue figures and competitiveness under Paul Heckingbottom making Oakwell a positive place to be currently.
But their efforts to keep the Welshman will not come without Championship clubs with more pulling power than Ipswich and Bristol City taking an interest.
Likely move: Promises of big summer recruitment plans should see Watkins stay at Oakwell
Danny Ward – Rotherham United
A wanted player in the past two transfer windows, but bottom club Rotherham have stuck to their guns by rebutting pursuits from QPR and one other Championship club.
Turning their back on a £2million bid in an effort to preserve the embers of their Championship survival, Ward has provided goals when the rest of the forward department haven’t.
The Millers top goalscorer has twice as many goals as the player below him – midfielder Tom Adeyemi (5 goals) – in the goal charts and has reaffirmed his commitment to the team’s cause.
“As long as I’m here and putting on a Rotherham shirt I’m giving 100 per cent,” the former Huddersfield winger told the Rotherham Advertiser.
In February last year, Neil Warnock took over at the New York Stadium and guided United to safety. But the task he faced is dwarfed by the challenge facing current boss Paul Warne.
15 points away from Bristol City in 21st, Rotherham face a rebuilding job in the summer almost certain to be without their no. 9.
Likely move: Signed on a free by a Championship club