Last night’s victory against a below-par Notts County has certainly given supporters plenty to celebrate, not least because the injury that kept Jaden Brown out of the side seems to have subsided.
The wing-back’s omission on the opening day disrupted the back three as well as the flank, and despite having a talented squad, we also have a wafer-thin squad. That said, 12 months ago we were waiting on the likes of Garrick, Diamond and Matty Virtue to arrive, all players we needed as core elements of the squad. This season, we’re in a position where we could do with strengthening, but our core 12 or 13 players are all sufficient quality to give us a chance of another top-half finish.
That said, I do expect players to be incoming. Which positions and from what sources? Find out below.
Firstly, let’s look at the positions I expect to see us moving for. The first is a centre-back. We usually carry two for every position, so you’d expect two for the right side, left side and central. Technically, with Lewis Montsma, we have five, so will require one. I’d imagine this is a priority for Mark Kennedy, so we have adequate cover in the event of one injury. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we don’t loan in a central defender rather than seek to buy one of our own. We’re looking for competition for places, of course, and we will want to make the squad stronger, but we’ll also be mindful of the outlays so far this summer. I would imagine a Scott Wharton or Rob Dickie style loan, and perhaps before we get to deadline week.
There’s a definite need for cover at wing-back, in particular on the left. We have Jay Benn, who can cover Lasse, plus TJ if we have a good number of centre-backs. On the left, Sean Roughan offers the cover from centre-back, but there’s no out-and-out left-sided cover, as there is with Jay Benn on the other side. I’m fairly sure we’ll be looking to get someone in for this position, likely a loan again, I’d imagine. I see this as a crucial role – Jaden Brown picked up a minor knock ahead of the season opener, and it impacted the back three. That’ll be something we seek to avoid.
It’s tough covering one of the wide attacker roles, given that Reeco Hackett and Danny Mandroiu will likely start, but we can also play Ben House there with Tyler through the middle, as on the opening day. Dylan Duffy looks handy as well, so any new signing will have their work cut out. I do think we might try to get someone in, but it’s not as pressing as the other two positions. In fact, I wonder if we might wait until the loan lottery on the final day of the transfer window.
The loan lottery, I hear you ask. What’s that?
What do I mean by the loan lottery? I mean the chance that we might bag a decent loan signing on the final day of the window.
It works like this. Right now, Lincoln City will have a couple of deals lined up for defenders. We might fancy one a bit more than the other, but the selling clubs may be in a chain. We don’t want to miss out on a defender completely, so we arrange two or three deals. The first one that becomes available, we move on, and the others are then freed up to move to another club. Anyone who has had the pleasure of talking to someone involved in the game knows that is how many loan deals are done. Not all, I hasten to add – some players move much earlier, but there is a whole section of the market which is based on ifs and buts.
Because those deals are subject to change, it means as the window begins to close, some bigger teams may find themselves with players they want out on loan but without clubs to pair them with. This is a bit like the sell-off section in your local supermarket – they’ll want to move those players out, and as the hours clock down, they may drop the price and players you don’t think you’d be in with a chance of suddenly appearing on your radar.
Think of it like this. If you want to eat steak tomorrow for dinner, and you go to the Coop and buy steak, it’s going to cost you (especially at the Coop, which is almost as pricey as Waitrose). If you want steak and you think you’ll wait and get a steak cheap in the sell-off section of the Coop, you’re taking a big risk – you might not get steak at all and end up eating pre-prepared salad and vegetarian sausages. If you’re open to eating anything, then you might be surprised and end up with a prime piece of fillet steak that the Coop hasn’t been able to sell. The loan market is a bit like that.
On deadline day in 2021, Sam Hughes and Daniel Jebbison joined Burton, whilst Will Forrester, now with Bolton, joined Mansfield. Last season, Will Osula, Jay Stansfield and Dan Butterworth all made late moves. These are good players; although Forrester didn’t make a huge impact at Mansfield, some of the others did. I’m not saying these were cheaper than they would have been earlier in the season, but some certainly would have been. Some clubs have done very well off the back of cheap loans on deadline day, but it’s a risk. It’s a risk we haven’t been positioned to take in recent seasons due to piling our trolley full of loans early in the window.
This season, we’re in a good position to take advantage of the loan lottery.
So, if a Premier League team has a star lined up for a Championship move, but it falls through, we could be waiting. If a Championship club decides a young defender can leave on loan with 24 hours to go, we’re in a place to grab that chance. If the loan lottery throws up a big basket of Jack Diamonds or Luke Planges, we can just quietly get on with something else. Like starving.
I’m not saying deadline day will be busy for us this season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t take a player or two on loan as the window closes, benefitting from having a squad full of our own talent and only needing quality to bulk out the match day 16.