Nagy's care, Turkish fright, online dating: The untold stories of Bristol City's summer window

By Gregor MacGregor

Bristol City aimed for five transfers this summer and the club brought in five. It's just that plans do change as shown by Nigel Pearson not insisting on a new striker this window, and rejecting several offered his way, including Sam Vokes and Michael Smith.

Pearson ultimately decided that he only wants a top drawer recruit in attack, given that Andi Weimann, Chris Martin and Nahki Wells are good players and finding form.

Indeed, with Antoine Semenyo, Sam Bell, Tommy Conway, Saikou Janneh and also Louis Britton behind that, the Robins do not lack for wanted options and you'd be looking at a huge fee for the likes of players who would undoubtedly strengthen City.

Which is why the final days of the transfer window were relatively quiet. And indeed Wells is so eager to force his way in to the Bristol City side, that Bristol Live has learned that the striker asked himself to play the recent Under-23 game against Hull City, when he hit four goals in a competitive game for the first time.

Pearson himself - once the deal for George Tanner was wrapped up - was not expecting any other late moves in the final days of the window, as he explained this week.

That's not to say the club weren't active in the final throes of an eerily quiet window, as senior club staff occupied the Robins High Performance Centre right up to the deadline, the intended movement from above to get deals done never arrived, and City only received a couple of cheeky late bids testing the water, believed to be whether a loan for one of the club's strikers would be feasible.

It wasn't. No late opportunities for incomings came. There were never any talks with Accrington for Dion Charles despite what some broadcasters out there may say, as agents touted their players across June, July and August.

"So I was offered lots of players in the window, and I'm thinking, 'why am I interested in them?' I keep getting linked with all sorts of players who other people don't want and I think, 'I don't want them either' because the players we already have in the house are better than lots of people being touted around," Pearson told Bristol Live on Thursday.

"When all this countdown to the end of the window is ticking down on TV screens, I'm thinking, 'well, we've done our business ages ago' so I don't watch it."

The Robins are committed to looking at the long-term, and will shell out fees for players of genuine promise between the ages of 23 and 24 but will only recruit older players on free deals, given the finances required to sign Championship players at their peak, both in terms of wages and transfer fees.

City supporters may not be aware of how the financial scene has really changed over the last two years.

Prior to the pandemic, the Robins increasingly leaned towards finding finished products to carry them over the line of making the top six. Not so much now.

Pearson has good history helping to buoy stricken clubs, including reducing their wage bills too.

And the former Leicester City manager has helped that to happen at the Robins, who have roughly been able to cut their wage bill by a third this summer. Despite that, there is unlikely to be room for spending in January, unless it is sell to buy. The club will always weigh up whether to trade players to become better, as it tried to do when selling Josh Brownhill and bringing in Nahki Wells.

There were no significant or credible incoming bids to consider late in the window, but City had to always see out the window and be watchful for any late strong interest from Premier League sides.

Bristol City sign George Tanner from Carlisle. (Rogan/JMP)

Only two sales were made, as young defender George Nurse joined Steve Cotterill's Shrewsbury Town, after Nigel Pearson made a final decision over the left-back following the pre-season draw against Portsmouth.

As for Adam Nagy, Bristol Live can reveal that the Robins are keen users of new transfer software platform Transfer Room, which has been jokingly described as similar to online dating: in essence it allows clubs across the world to directly communicate with each other on a single platform (access via an approximate £1,000 per month subscription service), cutting the need for intermediaries.

The Athletic has reported that the programme now has more than 500 clubs involved.

Nagy had asked to leave and City searched through and identified some 30 different clubs, across Europe, with a mixture of those in need of midfielders and locations that would suit the Hungarian. It helped the 26-year-old with a move abroad that suited both the Robins and the player.

Some at Ashton Gate saw the free transfer to Serie B side Pisa as best to be swallowed, despite a big fee and decent wages being shelled out originally, while Pearson had explained that little first-team football was to come for the former Bologna man.

Nagy was very thankful of the duty of care shown and although it was a free transfer, Bristol Live understands that the club will benefit from several conditional clauses, should they be met, such as appearances made.

That same duty of care was not taken up by Famara Diedhiou, however, and some people wonder if the former club record signing has ended up with the best possible outcome, given that the Senegalese had previously declared he was not interested in a move to Turkey and that some clubs there have defaulted on paying players previously.

From Diedhiou's side, the contract offers made by City were never deemed high enough, and so the football transfer market spins again.

Even the signing of defender Rob Atkinson for a reported £1.6m is a pretty huge fee this summer by Championship standards, with spending dropping by an estimated 90 per cent in the English second tier.

Bristol City are trusting in their ability to identify players for the future and so far there are promising signs, given Atkinson's start in BS3.

Contrary to some perceptions that he's rooted in old-school management, Pearson is a real believer in modern recruitment and has gelled well with head of technical recruitment Sean Gilhespy, who presides over a database of players tracking potential recruits all over the world.

The system was initially set up by Jon Lansdown and Ashton Gate Stadium Project and Asset Manager Pete Smith several years ago, with the chairman's interest in data - born out of his love of Major League Baseball - proving a catalyst. Atkinson and Tanner were two such individuals flagged as suiting City's requirements, before further scouting and research were undertaken.

Character references and traditional eyes-on scouting is still combined with modern spotting. For Tanner, the club spoke to several people at Manchester United for an insight on the former Red Devils youth defender.

"I get that as a fan, you want to be spending the most money, signing the most players and it's the most exciting bit. It's not how much you spend but how wisely you spend it. If anyone wants to look back and say we could have done better here or there, of course that's exactly what we'll do," explained Lansdown to us in June.

"But your real gains are by having a clear identity in what you want to do, how you want to recruit to it and being smart with your recruitment."

On to the main course then and where City's summer now takes the Robins next spring.

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