I’m surprised, although I’m not. I’m surprised Michael O’Connor has left the club, but we all pretty much knew what was happening over the weekend.
I refused to believe it. MoC was a good player for us, one of our most consistent performers this season. He’s locally based and when someone said the words ‘Salford City’ I laughed. it seems every transfer rumour this season has been made up of picking a player from our squad and adding the words ‘Salford’, ‘Huddersfield’ or ‘recall’. That’s how I’ve seen it and yet arguably the second-most disliked team in the Football League (behind Forest Green) have got themselves a diamond.
I’ll address the elephant in the room first; yes there was a Twitter disagreement with MoC in the summer. I thought, if we signed Mark O’Hara, his game time might be limited and he argued back he was League One quality and would prove it. He did prove it, before getting a move into League Two where he’ll be a big success. The likes of Bruno, Matt Green and even Nathan were expected (or in Bruno’s case will be expected) to be show ponies. They were brought in to score and to assist, but MoC has gone there to solidify and add structure. He’s going to be a huge asset to them.
I’m quite surprised though, especially with Joe Morrell’s comments after the game which hinted he could still be recalled. If he was, we’d be right up shit creek because we don’t have two midfielders that are regular League One quality. Ellis could play regularly, but if Joe leaves would Conor Coventry and Ellis be enough against some experienced professionals? I’m not so sure. Losing MoC is a blow in my eyes, bigger than losing Bruno and not quite as big as if we lose Harry Toffolo.
I suppose some might point to his fitness as an issue, but he’s played regular football this season and has impressed. I guess he’s approaching an age where he wants a bit of a payday and Michael Appleton wasn’t willing to put the money on the table going into next season. As we say an awful lot at this time of year; that’s football.
What else is there to say? The bulk of the title-winning squad is being sold off, replaced and (potentially) improved upon. It’s a new era we’re edging into and the push back from articles like this is a fear of the unknown. Changing too much in pre-season is not what I’d consider being a route to success, but I am a layman who comments on football, not someone at the training ground every day. Footballers are just people doing their jobs, albeit in the limelight, but they need to make decisions for their family and their own future. MoC certainly served us well across two spells and has a title winner’s medal to add to his collection. Will he get that at Salford? Not this season, but with Bruno and the likes of Tom Elliott going there, they’ve got to be in the reckoning next season, if they don’t come up in May.
We move on, turning over players, picking up fees for those going out of contract and expecting a few bodies to come in perhaps as well. There’s no doubt money from MoC, Bruno and Toff (if he goes) would be a substantial figure which Michael Appleton will have at his disposal which is a big benefit. I suppose my sadness at these players going is purely sentimental. I speak to them, interview them, get to know them a little and when they go I do feel a sense of loss to the football club; they’re not just names on a teamsheet or in a match report. The truth is, I liked MoC as a person. He was always great in interviews, available when he said, open and candid and willing to have a little joke as well. He’s a loss to this club, on the field and off it and I wish him all the best at Salford.