Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.
It’s natural to get excited over new signings, and the Danny Ward windfall has got fans pondering the potential for a Summer splurge by Gary Mills, but we should choose the path of prudence instead. After years of annual squad shake-ups we’ve got ourselves into an enviable position. We have an experienced manager and the basis of a side which, with his judicious adjustments, could get us where we need to be next season.
Mills certainly has the basis of a solid side already, and his most important business this Summer will surely be securing the spine of his existing side for next season. Rhys Taylor, Sean Newton, Manny Smith, Jamal Fyfield, Simon Heslop, Robbie Evans and Connor Jennings are a nucleus of a side as strong as any in the division. Throw in the versatility of Mark Carrington, Kayden Jackson’s exciting pace and the increased productivity of Wes York, and we’ve already got a side capable of challenging for the top of the table – if it hadn’t been for that dismal run of five losses at the start of the year we’d be preparing for the play-offs now.
The addition of three or four players of similar quality to those key men is what is needed, not the sort of radical overhaul we’ve seen in recent Summers. Indeed, although an injection of some key quality is required, I’m inclined to suggest that a fair chunk of the money coming our way from Jurgen Klopp’s largesse should be put towards paying off the first year of the Racecourse lease, an investment which will have beneficial ramifications for our ability to divert funds to Mills for transfers during the January transfer window.
A glance at the statistics tells the story of our season. Eleven players have played at least twenty five games this season, and Simon Heslop would have done if he’d been here long enough: he’s started all eighteen games he’s been available for. Yet despite that solid core of regulars, we’ve used thirty two players in total, thirteen of whom have made six or fewer appearances. Clearly we’ve got a solid spine, but the players around it have been youngsters and cheap loans who have been padding out the squad rather than competing for a starting spot. That’s the area of the squad we need to focus on, adding to the depth of the squad rather than replacing what is already there,
Of course, players are going to have to make way for new arrivals to come in. I’d be deeply saddened if Adriano Moke departs as I think he has genuine quality, and James Grey has the best goals per minute ratio in the squad this season, but their absence from the starting eleven suggests they may not be part of Mills’ plans. Similarly, Lee Fowler has belatedly shown his qualities, but I’d assume that letting this trio go would free up a chunk of the wage budget which could be used to tempt players to The Racecourse.
Maybe I’m getting old, but talk of transfers doesn’t excite me as much as it used to: stability is what I’m after.