The final day league 1 win of course meant that we are back into the Championship. The board are asking that we fight bravely against relegation, but I honestly think we should stay up relatively easy, although I do not think we are close to threatening the play offs. So, let’s go through the new players who will hopefully increase our chances of staying up.
Goalkeepers – No actual incomings this season in goal, but we do have a different goalkeeper than last year. Will Norris’ loan from Wolves finished in the summer and he was eventually released from the recently relegated Midlands side. I did weigh up bringing him back in, but instead gave the returning Bartosz Bialkowski (back from a season long loan at Millwall) a chance in pre-season and he impressed enough to be the number 1 going into the first game.
Defenders – The only change to the back line comes at reserve Left Back. Luke Garbutt was a really good attacking option for us last year on loan from Everton, and I could have bought him back on a free but instead went for Jordan Obita after his release from Reading. I did attempt to bring Ethan Ampadu in on loan from Chelsea but he chose to go to Wolves instead.
Midfielders – In my opinion, my midfield 3 of Dozzell, Huws and Bishop is the strongest part of my team, so no new centre midfielders were bought in. El Mizouni, Skuse and Downes offer good backup although I was keeping an eye out for a goalscoring midfielder on loan, but none caught my eye enough.
Wingers – This was the main area of the squad that needed attention. On the left hand side, Alan Judge was a settled first choice as an Inverted Winger, but I wanted some competition for him. In comes Liverpool youngster Ben Woodburn who had an unspectacular season on loan at Oxford last year but that was used as a lone striker, I feel he will suit our system alot better.
On the right hand side we definitely needed a solid starter. Last year we had Ariel Untana on loan from Man City for the 2nd half of the season, but decided against bringing him back when he was placed on the transfer list. There were plenty of good options on the free and loan lists and I couldn’t resist bringing in a player I actually rate in real life, former Hull winger and Poland international Kamil Grosicki, who is exactly the direct winger I need. Team leader Freddie Sears will stay as backup but it’s likely another body on loan could be added for better squad depth.
Strikers – One of our main negatives last season was a lack of a goalscoring striker, with James Norwood finishing top of our scoring charts with a meagre 13. I tried to bring in former Barcelona B striker Alejandro Marques but unfortunately he chose St Pauli over a move to Portman Road. With no other longer term strikers quite hitting the mark, and Norwood showing red hot form in pre-season I decided to go with a more short term option. Shane Long comes in for a year with the option of a further one, and his mental stats should really help the youngsters in our squad (more on those in the next blog), as well as being the right character for a relegation scrap.
Overall, pre-season went really well, with a decent showing in the Ajax tournament, and then a fantastic win in our self organised “Sir Bobby Robson Trophy” (The aim with this is one year having us, Newcastle, Barcelona and PSV compete).
So, with the transfers sorted (unless we have any last minute loans), we go into the season with plenty of hope to avoid the drop.