That’s a bold statement I know and, to a degree, it’s an easy one to make. DC likes using the mantra ‘the next game is always the biggest’, the same could be applied here; the next signing is always important.
However, each summer Danny has made a signing that in my opinion has gone on to define the later success. In his first summer it could be argued he made two; Sean Raggett and Alex Woodyard. Both moved for bigs sums of money, but at the time we had a skeleton squad. We needed quality everywhere and no one signing could be rated as more important than another.
In the first summer back in the Football League, I believe Michael Bostwick was the big one. Matt Green was a superb capture, but Bozzy brought knowledge, organisation and a fighting spirit. At the time, he laid down a marker in terms of quality. Not up to that standard? Your shelf life is a year, tops. In fairness, that’s proven to be the case with few summer signings from that year still with us. They all served a purpose, but Bozzy was the one you knew was serious business.
Last summer the squad had the aggression, it needed threat from out wide and a way of attacking that didn’t tie up two strikers. The high press we play means that in order to be a success we needed a player who could hold the ball up, carry it forward and give us an out when we played away. Like it or not, that was John Akinde. Jason Shackell was a big statement, Bruno too given his excellent background, but John Akinde was the type of striker Danny had failed to get the year before.
His signing was a massive statement, not least because other clubs wanted him. It made us attractive in terms of other players but it also allowed us to play the style of football that brought us the League Two trophy. The problem was we still needed a ‘ten’.
That’s where we are today. I said at the beginning of the summer our success hinged on whether we could sign a suitable player for the role behind John. They have to be creative, they have to get shots away themselves and most of all, they had to be proven in League One. Tick all those boxes and we can firmly establish ourselves amongst the upper mid-table clubs in the division.
Jack Payne is, in my opinion, that player. He was eyed by Birmingham and Blackburn, coveted by a host of clubs in our division but he’s chosen us. I wonder if the ‘interest’ from Championship clubs was fleeting, but even to get ahead of the likes of Oxford is a massive coup. Budget aside, they’re the sort of club we want to emulate; they came out of League Two and have settled into an upper midtable position. This season they’re targeting promotion, which is our eventual aim, be it in one year or three.
On to Jack Payne. I’ve written a bit about him before and doubtless you’ll have already digested his background. The Southend connection is big and seeing Ben Coker congratulate him only reinforces what I’ve been saying all summer; Coker is surely close to becoming an Imp. I’d imagine Payne was well known to the scouting team for a while, given his background.
I’ve looked at his stats over the last season, as well as the year before to give you an idea of how he’s done since helping Huddersfield to the Premier League. In 2016/17, as we were winning the National League, he bagged a winner at St James Park against Newcastle, as well as scoring in a crucial game against Preston prior to the Terriers going up. He was loaned out in 2017/18, firstly to Oxford and then to Blackburn, whom he helped to promotion. Last season he spent the entire campaign at Bradford where he’s widely regarded as a class player on his day. Given the upheaval and disruption there, it’s surprising to find his stats stand up when compared to the season before.
Next Page – the numbers that back up my claim