The new League One season is just weeks away, with the earliest ever start seeing teams back in action before July is out.
Finally, after two years of Covid-affected finances it seems clubs are getting towards better financial health, although it is once again likely to be a summer of teams mostly restricted to loan signings or free agents.
But clubs in the division haven’t been afraid to splash the cash in the past. Here, we run the rule over all 24 clubs in the third tier and look at their respective record signings, according to respected industry site transfermarkt, to see whether their big-money deals worked out and where they are now.
Midfielder Ian Craney enjoyed numerous spells at Stanley, with his move in 2008 seeing the club fork out a reported £117,000 fee.
He would eventually leave for Huddersfield before moving back to Stanley another two times. Craney dipped into non-league before joining Paul Cook’s coaching staff at Wigan and then Ipswich.
Gjorgji Hristov joined from Partizan for £2.03m in 1997. He scored eight goals in his debut season, in the Premier League, but struggled with injuries before departing in 2000. He famously said of Barnsley: “The local girls are far uglier than the ones back in Belgrade or Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, where I come from. England is a strange country and I found it hard to adapt to living here.”
Hristov managed Metalurg Skopje for a brief period in the early 2010s.
Johan Elmander cost Bolton a whopping £11.34m during their Premier League stay. The Swede was recruited from Toulouse and spent three years in Lancashire.
His best season proved to be his final campaign, when he netted 10 top flight goals before joining Galatasaray on a free transfer. He retired in 2017.
You have to go back 30 years for Bristol Rovers’ most expensive signing. They recruited Andy Tillson from QPR for a fee of £400,000. He proved a canny signing and was made skipper, going on to appear more than 250 league appearances in eight years at the club.
The Brewers’ record outlay was the signing of Liam Boyce from Ross County for £513,000 in the summer of 2017.
Despite arriving after finishing top of the scoring charts in the top tier of Scotland, he struggled in England and scored just 22 in 78 league outings before moving back to Scotland with Hearts.
Another transfer record that was set 30 years ago, Cambridge’s most expensive signing was when they paid out £252,000 for Luton striker Steve Claridge .
Claridge actually left the U’s for Luton in 1992 but their financial problems meant he was heading back to Cambridge five months later for a club record fee. Since retiring he has worked in the media, most notably for the BBC’s Football League Show.
Jason Euell is a club legend at Charlton and remains their most expensive signing after the Addicks paid £6.75m to sign him from Wimbledon in 2001.
He would spend two separate spells at Charlton before joining the coaching staff. This summer he left the Valley and is now a part of Nigel Pearson’s staff at Bristol City.
The Robins have three players who are tied at their most expensive signings, all at £50,000. Grant McCann initially set the record when he was signed from West Ham in 2003. A year later Stoke’s Brian Wilson equalled that feat before Jermaine McGlashan was signed from Aldershot in 2012, also for £50,000.
McCann is now manager of League One Peterborough, Wilson went into non-league management and McGlashan is player/assistant manager at Leatherhead.
Matej Vydra signed for Derby from Watford for £8.46m in 2016.
He scored 21 goals in his second season at Pride Park, leading to a transfer to Burnley in 2018. He remains with the Clarets, used mostly as a back-up striker having scored just two Premier League goals last term as the club were relegated.
The Grecians’ record signing comes in at £97,000 when they sanctioned the arrival of Jayden Stockley from Aberdeen. He proved a huge hit too, scoring 36 in 66 before Preston North End forked out £750,000 to sign him in January 2019. Now at Charlton.
The Cod Army spent £410,000 – almost double their previous highest fee – on Kyle Dempsey from Huddersfield in 2017. He’s since spent time at Peterborough and Gillingham before a move to Bolton last January.
Forest Green Rovers
Adrian Randall joined Rovers for £25,000 in 1999 having arrived from Bury. He also played for Burnley and York.
Hermann Hreidarsson was Ipswich’s marquee arrival in the summer of 2000. He joined for just over £6m from Wimbledon and would spend two years at Portman Road, hardly missing any games. Now in coaching, he briefly worked as assistant to Sol Campbell during his time in charge of Southend.
The Imps’ record outlay was the £338,000 they spent on Rangers’ forward Dany N’Guessan in 2006. He bagged 17 goals in 99 appearances for Lincoln before he moved onto Leicester City.
Mo Eisa’s purchase from Peterborough ensured the Dons set a club transfer record, when they spent £1.35m in the summer of 2021. He scored 12 league goals in his maiden season at Stadium MK.
Neil Sorvel’s arrival from Shrewsbury saw Morecambe pay out £158,000 in January 2007. He is now assistant at non-league Altrincham.
Marvin Johnson, Oxford’s record signing, is now at League One rivals Sheffield Wednesday
Marvin Johnson’s arrival from Motherwell exceeded £680,000 back in 2016. He would spend just over a year at Oxford before moving to Middlesbrough in August 2017. He is now at Sheffield Wednesday.
The Posh smashed their club record last summer when they forked out £3.69m for Shrewsbury’s Oliver Norburn . The 29-year-old made 36 appearances last term as Peterborough were relegated after one season in the Championship.
Simon Walton’s move from QPR in August 2008 saw the Pilgrims pay a fee of £878,000. He spent four years with Argyle but was loaned out numerous times before leaving in 2012.
Speaking in 2020 about the move, he said: “Everyone expected the world of me and there was a lot of pressure. I was a record signing, they paraded me… They expected too much and I expected too much of myself maybe and I just didn’t have a good time that first season.”
Pompey’s record outlay came in July 2008, when they were in the Premier League, as they spent £11m to sign Peter Crouch from Liverpool.
He lasted just one season at Fratton Park before being sold to Spurs. Crouch went on to represent Stoke and Burnley before retiring, since becoming a popular pundit and hosting his own podcast.
Gareth Ainsworth arrived at Vale Park in 1997 from Lincoln City for a fee of £500,000. He spent just one season with the Valiants though, moving on to Premier League side Wimbledon for £2m in 1998. He is fast approaching a decade as manager of Wycombe Wanderers, who he famously led to the Championship in 2020 and reached last season’s League One play-off final.
Jordan Rhodes was linked with a move to Sheffield Wednesday in almost every transfer window over the course of a few years. They finally landed their man in early 2017, initially on loan before the deal was made permanent for a whopping £10m.
But Rhodes never got going at Hillsborough and scored just 18 times in 101 league outings before leaving on a free transfer for former club Huddersfield last summer.
Lionel Ainsworth was signed for a fee of £383,000 from Huddersfield in the summer of 2010. He left for Rotherham just two years later and is still playing, aged 34, in non-league.
Darren Currie’s arrival from Barnet is listed as costing Wycombe £270,000 back in 2001. The winger impressed at Adams Park during three seasons there before going on to enjoy a nomadic career which took in the likes of Ipswich, Brighton, Luton and Boreham Wood.
He is now assistant manager at Southend.