I believe the army lives by the motto of the 6 P’s – Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance, and that could very much be targeted towards our Pre Season.
I went into it with quite a scattergun approach to scouting players, which in reality overwhelmed our scouting team, meaning it took months to get reports on some players, despite me knowing the positions I needed to strengthen at the final whistle of the previous season.
We were not helped by the lack of funds provided by owner Marcus Evans, and hopefully this season will see him finally sell the club. I was fully aware that I would most likely need to sell one or two to bring money in to work with, but hoped that wouldn’t involve any key players.
It took until just before our last two pre-season matches to bring any players in, and with no money to spend it had to be a free transfer.
Centre Midfield was not a key priority but i did want to add a goalscoring threat for additional depth, and Conor Hourihane seemed a similar no-brainer to last years free transfers Shane Long and Kamil Grosicki. At 30 he still has enough years left in him and his wage demands were not too sharp, so all in all, happy to have the Irish international at the club.
After this signing, we finished pre-season with matches against Fiorentina and Celtic before bringing in two loan signings.
Jack Clarke comes back for a second season, after bagging 10 goals last year. He had a good summer with England U21’s and in all honesty I was surprised to get him back, although his wage is a lot higher than I’d like to pay on a loan player, but I had reached full on panic mode and knew he could deliver at this level.
A similar panic, and a 3 month injury to Shane Long forced me to go in for a striker.
Rhian Brewster comes in after a successful year at Huddersfield in the Championship last year. Again, wages slightly high for a loan signing but he has undeniable quality and also gives me extra depth on the wings.
We then started the season with a convincing 3-1 win at Rotherham, Clarke netting on his 2nd debut, leaving confidence high for a successful season.
Then came deadline day, which started with some much needed cash as Grosicki moved on to Steaua Bucharest for £1.8m. Whilst I would have liked to keep him, he wasn’t incredible for me last year and his contract was up at the end of this season, with the player wanting a large pay increase. At 33 I wasn’t convinced i would keep him on anyway so the money was way too good to turn down.
Annoyingly, I missed out on a player I had tracked for an entire season, with newgen Iain Young from Partick Thistle choosing Rangers over us, so I again looked to the free transfers for additional depth on the wings.
Rolando Aarons comes in after his release by Newcastle. At 25 he is a little older than you would like for someone who is still abit rough around the edges! However, good pace and flair means he could be a game changer from the bench and for a free with only £6k a week wages, he seemed a good option to take up.
I still wanted to bring a goalkeeper in, but after missing out on a couple of targets (Through waiting way too long to pull the trigger on signing them), I ended up having to go into the first half of the season with last years backup Thomas Holy in goal – Holy has never let me down but not an ideal situation, and a key lessen to learn from this is to make sure my sole focus until January is to have a list of candidates fully researched so I am ready to act in January if needed.
£1.8 Million pounds in did leave us with some money to spend (Not all of it – thanks Marcus!), and I still needed a left winger, who in theory would be a replacement for Ben Woodburn who returned to parent club Liverpool in the summer. I was keen to not rely too much on loans so dipped into the transfer list and spent £750k on a player who previously cost £14 Million!
Jose Izquierdo comes in from recently relegated Brighton at a bargain of a price. He becomes our top earner and at 29 is older than the board like me to recruit at, but he is the first permanent signing I have made who i feel has genuine quality at the top end of the pitch. I’m hoping for goals and assists in double figures from this man as he plays at Left Wing as an inside forward. If he achieves that, I have no doubt we can achieve a mid table finish (Despite the media predicting we finish 21st!).
Let’s see who is right on that one!