We’re entering the decisive point of our season already. If Dean Keates can refurbish his squad quickly enough, we can set our sights on climbing the table; if the process takes longer, we’ll have to dig in for a long scrap against relegation.
I’ve no doubt Keates is the man to haul is out of this mess. His credentials for removing passengers and recruiting players with character is already well established. I can’t help wondering if he wished we’d kept hold of some of the players we allowed to leave in the Summer though.
While I have a lot of sympathy for Bryan Hughes, the truth is that twelve players arrived at the club during his tenure, and none could be described as an unequivocal success. JJ Hooper clearly has the potential to develop into a fine striker for us, but he has yet to get on the pitch consistently.
So what of the players we lost in the Summer? Plenty of them had to go, some of whom were failed recent recruitments like Kemy Agustien, Anthony Spyrou and Jermaine McGlashan. Others, I suspect, would have fitted Keates’ plans well.
Let’s forget about Kieran Kennedy for starters. He would have been a real asset this season, and Hughes tried to keep him. Keates, of course, is good at selling his vision to players and might have been able to persuade him to stay, but that’s far from guaranteed.
Kevin Roberts, however, is a different case. His form dipped badly in the second half of the season, but that doesn’t mean he should have been released. Roberts suffered three separate injuries during the season, all of which led to him losing rhythm and missing a couple of weeks’ training.
That was a factor in the deterioration of his form, as was our formation, which saw him being left exposed to wingers as we pushed our wide men forwards. As a result, a number of wingers got the better of him.
Keates would certainly have used Roberts in our current scrap. A strong changing room voice, he would offer cover at centre back and a robust option on the right. As we need to battle our way out of trouble before setting ourselves higher aspirations, Roberts would suit the profile Keates is looking for.
Perhaps Stuart Beavon would too. I totally understand the decision to let him go in the context of seeking a more threatening edge to our attack. After all, Beavon appeared in 40 league games last season, and managed just 5 goals. A front line that doesn’t score goals isn’t going to get you promoted, but a hard-working nuisance of a striker who makes it difficult for defenders to get the ball up the pitch quickly and accurately would be useful in our current predicament.
Chris Holroyd is an interesting one to contemplate too. Like Roberts, Holroyd was brought in by Keates, and flourished under his management. He managed 13 goals and 4 assists in 28 league starts under Keates, an impressive tally, especially in a side which struggled to make chances. Furthermore, he got 5 goals and an assist in his 7 starts on the left wing, which suggests we wouldn’t have to rely purely on our forwards for goals.
Last season, Holroyd had an unhappy time of it, but the number of injuries he picked up was the main reason for that. He accumulated just five league starts before March, and it was April before he managed to play 90 minutes in two consecutive games. Despite such a disrupted campaign, he was only 2 goals off being our top scorer!
I understood why we released him, but such moves are really only wise if the replacement is an upgrade. That’s not the case. This season Holroyd has managed seven goals already: not bad considering he’s playing for the side which is bottom of the league. He’s scored over a third of Chorley’s goals – 6 out of 15.
As Keates look to recruit players who can fight against adversity, I thinking he’d have welcomed inheriting some of the players we thought were of no use to us.