Any hope the club had of signing Matty Virtue on a free transfer have been dashed, as the midfielder has had the option on his contract taken up by Blackpool.
Virtue fell out of favour with The Tangerines under previous manager Michael Appleton, and his future there seemed in doubt until our former boss left the club. However, after a strong season with us, and his parent club’s relegation, it did seem rather obvious that they wouldn’t do anyone any favours. If they didn’t want him, they’d still likely hold his registration so they could demand a fee.
Why would they not want him? He’s a box-to-box midfielder with a good engine and goals in him. Until his injury in January, he was one of our players of the season, and he ended the campaign on four goals, two of which came in the final two matches of the season. He was one player that Imps fans felt would fit nicely at the club were he to be released, but that now hasn’t happened.
It is a transfer blow, but with Ethan Erhahon signing in the winter window, it’s one that we can absorb. The midfield is an area we were always going to strengthen, and now with Virtue and Sanders gone, there’s work to be done. However, unlike last season, we have the anchor, the heart of the midfield, in Erhahon. When Virtue signed, that was the role I felt we needed. Up until his injury, it’s the role he filled, but since Ethan arrived, it has freed the Blackpool man up a bit. Perhaps that’s why some of his stronger performances came at the end of the season.
Do I think we could move for Matty on a permanent deal? Whilst there would be value in seeing him as part of the squad, I’m not sure we’ll be looking to spend another six-figure sum on a central midfielder, especially not one who is now 26. There’s little likely resale value, even at that age, so it would be a move purely with our squad in mind. it would be the sort of move we made for Regan Poole, and I’m not sure we’ll be looking to do that for an area of the park that, with the greatest of respect, isn’t a big money-spinner. Ethan, at 21, holds a lot of promise, but would a similar investment in Matty, at 26, be wise?
Blackpool’s retained list also features another former Imp, Liam Bridcutt. It was unsurprising that he moved to Bloomfield Road when Michael Appleton was there, looking to shurg off his poor injury record. Two starts and four total appearances in the entire season suggest he has not managed to do that, and it would be a surprise if we see the former Sunderland man get a playing contract for next season. If Michale gets the Milton Keynes job, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bridcutt on his staff.