Danny is back from his holiday, and no doubt the first thing on his mind is to start tying up a few deals to prepare the squad for our first assault on league football for six years.
There is no need to panic given the lack of activity, we’re barely in to June and as I explained yesterday there are many benefits to being coy in the early part of the transfer window. However, we will obviously be bringing new faces in, and I thought I’d take a look at who we had, and what type of player we might be trying to attract to the club.
I believe that with three cup competitions and the league to contest, we will be looking at a squad of at least 22 players, two for each position on the field. Working on that assumption I’ve broken down what we need in each area, and whether I think they will be ‘First Team’ signings, ‘Back Up’ signings, and whether I think we’ll bring loan players into that position.
First up, who do we have, and who are we waiting on?
Players offered new contracts by the Club:
We have Paul Farman signed on this season and Richard Walton has been offered a deal which I expect he’ll sign (unless I missed that he did already). I’m not sure that will be enough for the Football League though. My thoughts are that Walton was not around the first team last season, and with us having to have a keeper on the bench he may not be considered ready as immediate back-up. I fully expect us to sign another keeper, a younger player to develop but with sufficient experience to act as back-up.
I would imagine we will either sign a non-league keeper who has played significant football for his side, or a ‘Ross Etheridge’ type who has been around professional football for a short while, but hasn’t broken into a first team on a regular basis. I would imagine that another keeper is relatively low on Danny’s wish list though, and if one were to sign it would be an underwhelming announcement given that it is more of a squad player coming in.
First Team: No
Let’s skirt around the elephant in the room slightly shall we? I (unfortunately) believe that we currently have two full backs at the club, Sam Habergham on the left and Sean Long on the right. Come the start of the season I don’t expect that to have changed, and therefore Danny will be shopping for one of two players. He’ll either be looking for a first team right-back and utilise Sean on both flanks as cover, or he’ll be looking for a versatile player who can cover both flanks.
Sam isn’t jut a seven every game, he’s also consistently injury free and has good recovery ability. If we were to bring a player in to push for the first team I suspect we would be focusing on his right-sided ability more than his left. No slur on Sean Long there, but I think Sam is a more proven player at present.
The other option is signing a centre half who can also play full-back, although this wouldn’t be a preferred option in my eyes. Lee Beevers slipped between the two, but my idea of a centre back is a big bloke, tough in the tackle and quick to distribute the ball. A full-back should be pacey, similarly sharp in the tackle but perhaps more mobile on the ball.
That said, we will need a centre back, and we may need two. I’m going to work on the assumption that Sean Raggett is going to move on, I think we have to come to terms with that. If Callum signs his deal that will give us two, so a pressing issue will be at least one more by the start of the season. Irrespective of whether Callum signs or not, I think Danny will be looking for a first team centre half to replace Sean. I would wager it will be a player with some Football League experience too.
Luke is nailed on to play every week, and when I’m seeing the odd disgruntled post about a lack of activity, I have to wonder if they are aware Luke could quite easily have accepted more money elsewhere. Capturing him was great early business.
First Team: Right back, centre back
Back Up: Centre back, versatile full back
Currently we have two players signed on in this position, Elliott Whitehouse and Alex Woodyard, and we’re waiting on Alan Power. Dependant on whether Alan stays or not, I think we will need at least two players. I would expect one to be a loan perhaps, but I’d also expect to see a player capable of holding down a first team spot.
The first team player will need to be of the Billy Knott variety, a hard worker with a different skill set that complements Alex properly. In an ideal world it would be Knott who joined us, I’m a keen admirer of skilful attacking players, and Knott got better as his fitness progressed. If we could sign him I would consider that a marquee signing, one to get the fans excited.
Away from that I wonder if another defensive type midfielder might be on Danny’s radar? Alex is fantastic and we will need some real luck to attract another player of his capability, but that is perhaps what is in the managers mind. To have the option of two battling midfielders would give us another dimension if we needed to switch things up in games, and an example of how it worked was with Brad and Alex early last season. It pains me to say this but we need a ‘Tom Champion’ style player. No, not a shit player (I know what you were thinking), but one who has a physical presence and is more defence minded that someone like Knott or Whitehouse.
First Team: One
Wingers or wide midfield, this is an area on which Danny and Nicky place grand importance. If you get a wide player willing to track back and work as hard as ours do, then you’re always going to be in with a shout of winning games. Currently signed on we only have Nathan Arnold, probably one of the first names on the team sheet. What we will be looking for is a left winger, and then two further players to bring the number to four. Most of last season we had three or four depending on where you put Jack Muldoon.
I fully expect at least one of those players to come in on loan, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they weren’t a face we’ve seen before. We know Danny places trust in players he’s had before (both Anderson ad Long played on loan for him at Braintree) and given the importance he places on wide players he will want at least one ‘trusted general’ on loan.
If rumours are true it seems Jordan Williams is on the radar, and that suggests Danny is willing to pay good money to get the right man here. I thought any marquee signing would be a centre forward, but the more I see Cowley’s Lincoln, the more I feel he considers this to be a crucial position. As an aside, how refreshing is it to regularly see quick, tricky and direct wingers playing for Lincoln? We’ve had so few after Puttnam and Ainsworth, perhaps N’Guessan was one of the last. Keith’s teams were successful but as 5-2-3 (or 3-2-2-3) there wasn’t many flying wingers on show. I love a good winger me.
Anyway, back on track. I think there will be one known name come in here, and at least one on loan. I ponder whether Danny might even be looking at bringing both loan players back? In my eyes Harry Anderson has a massive career ahead of him, he would be a well received signing by fans for sure.
First Team: One
Back up: Two
I’ve considered Elliott Whitehouse as a midfielder, so at present the only forward we have signed on is Matt Rhead. Adam Marriott and Jack Muldoon are both considering new deals, but whatever they choose I expect at least two arrivals in this area, and hopefully another ‘marquee’ signing.
Priority will be a tenacious, hardworking partner for Rheady. I’m afraid I can’t see Jack or Adam being first team regulars next season, although both are good squad players who will get cup outings. For the nitty gritty of league action though we definitely need someone to grab twenty goals a season. That’s such a cliché it almost embarrasses me to write it, but centre forwards score goals and to be successful that is what you need (unless you’re Huddersfield, then you win play offs without scoring).
We were stung by Lee Angol, Danny’s language after the Southport game suggested he thought we’d have Lee next season, and people who spoke to him after the Macc game might have believed it too. However, we haven’t, so it’s on to another target. I don’t expect anyone who came on loan last season to join us, I think this is one area Danny will really look for Football League players. Will it be a younger player from a team higher up? Or will it be a proven goal scorer from the league below, or (even more exciting) this league?
My gut feeling is we’ll see a relatively big-name heading to the squad. I don’t mean a specific high-profile player in the Ricky Miller mould, but I mean someone fans can get excited about having at City. It won’t necessarily be a ‘name’, but Lee Angol wasn’t and yet if we’d signed him it would have been considered a ‘big name’. You get what I mean.
Danny pulls off some real coups in the transfer market and he’ll have something up his sleeve here. It may not be who we get, but I’m thinking some like Stefan Payne, a proven goal scorer who had a big move go a little sour.
I imagine there will also be a case for finding a long-term replacement for Matt Rhead. I love Rheady, but he has one year on his contract and I’m sure he’ll be looking for security closer to home after that. Danny is a planner, and he’ll already be thinking about getting someone in, integrating them into the first team and eventually having them take Matt’s crown as the crowd darling.
First Team: One
Summer transfer business is crucial in many ways. Lots of teams want to make statements about their intentions (Mansfield, Notts County) after disappointing outcomes last season. Others need desperately to build after really bad seasons (Newport, Yeovil, Crawley). In both instances their signings are as much statements to their fans than new squad members. If you sign eleven players in ten days I wonder exactly how much those deals have been considered? I’m suspicious of bulk buying if I’m honest.
We’re different, we have the nucleus of a very successful side that not only won the league but also proved themselves against much higher opposition time and again. Whilst many sides rebuild from scratch, we already have the framework of a superb side. Fans are onside with us having won the league and Danny is under no pressure to start pulling big signings out of the hat to please a disgruntled fan base. Sure, we need to build. We know that and I’m damn sure Danny thinks of little else right now. We do have so much in our favour though, and now they’re back behind their desks after a well-earned break (speaking of which I might go to Lisbon in early July for a City break), I expect to see some transfer activity. We had a week of silence last week, but I fully expect to be bashing this keyboard with blogs about a player or two coming in this week. Or next. No panic.
All photos courtesy of Graham Burrell