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[Blog] Realistically, How Many Players Should ITFC Sign in the Summer?
Written by itfcjoe on Monday, 26th Mar 2012 15:34

It seems every time ITFC lose a game, there are dozens of threads on the Message Board and tweets stating that we need to sign seven players this summer, usually followed by something like this - 'GK, CBx2, RB, CM, ST'.

After the defeat on Saturday I got fairly sick of reading these as they do not seem to take into account what we currently have in our squad, who can leave and who we are stuck with… and in turn how this affects our wage bill.

It is always seen as ideal to have 'two players for each position' but realistically, a Championship club cannot carry senior players, so we cannot have 22 senior players, you just have to hope that serious injuries aren't picked up and if they are they need to be replaced by loanees.

Here is my analysis of what the squad needs over the summer break, to be able to compete with the play-off chasers in this division - while hoping to follow the more prudent financial plans that Simon Clegg has spoken about at length (ad nauseum?!)

At the end of this season, we will be left with only one contracted goalkeeper, Arran Lee-Barrett. In my eyes ALB is the perfect number two for this league, not good enough to hold down a first team spot, but does well enough when asked to cover.

He also doesn't seem the sort to aggravate for a starting position, as to the outside he has been treated fairly shabbily in places but still seems to love the club (Judging by tweets etc).

Cody Cropper seems fairly highly rated so I would offer him another contract with a view to him spending time on loan next year, and depending on how he did having him as the effective number two, ie if Number one gets injured for more than a couple of weeks he could come back in with ALB staying on bench - similar to how Stockdale was for Fulham.

This leads to the obvious conclusion that we need a new goalkeeper, another loanee will not suffice, we need to sign a relatively experienced goalkeeper (around 27-years-old) who can be our number one for the next five years. Continuity is a hugely important part of any defence and we need to look for a signing similar to when Kelvin Davis was signed. I don't have the answer to who this could be but I'd suggest someone who has played at least 100 games at first team level.

This is an area that has been highly criticised, and rightly so in a lot of respects. However, I think that for large periods of the season it was given so little protection that it really was lambs to the slaughter, this was particularly evident in the period that Jimmy Bullard was played as a lone holding midfielder.

Carlos Edwards has done an adequate job at right-back over the season, defensively he is still suspect sometimes but adds a lot going forward. I think he can still do a job next season, but only at a time when we are expected to win a game and aren't expected to be under pressure where his concentration and positioning lets him down.

I would be looking to sign a more defensive right-back, and one that can cover centre-half as well. This would be a player from Leagues One or Two who is looking to step up to the Championship.

At centre-back, I think Tommy Smith and Damien Delaney are both decent defenders at this level. However, they are both left-sided centre-backs and this hugely affects the defensive balance of the team. I think we need to sign an experienced right-sided centre-back to act as a leader defensively to follow in footsteps of Tony Mowbray, Jason De Vos and Gareth McAuley.

I have been hugely impressed with James Chester at Hull but think he may be out of our price range - he would be my number one target. While not a leader in style of three mentioned above, he is a very good defender and would be good paired with Smith or Delaney, who both win their share of headers, with the other as back-up.

The only potential spanner in the works is that I think it may be difficult to pin Smith down to a new contract without guarantee of first team football and I think Delaney slightly edges him at the moment, but I'm sure Smith is the kind of character to relish a battle to win his place.

Aaron Cresswell has had a promising first season at left-back, but errors have crept into his game in recent weeks. I think there are a number of factors for this: a long season in more physically demanding league, no competition for a place and hopefully not but could be fact that he has begun to be found out as weak in a one-on-one defensive situation (he doesn't block the cross enough in my opinion).

I think we'll have to rely on Joe Whight as back-up and hope he pushes on next year. If this doesn't happen then Whight will need to spend time on loan somewhere with a Premiership loanee brought in as competition for Cresswell - Ben Mee has done well at Burnley and may be worth a bid at some point.

In central midfield we need to have four players to cover here. I'd argue that we currently have that, so long as Grant Leadbitter can be persuaded to sign for another year.

This would leave Leadbitter, Andy Drury and Luke Hyam who have been impressive lately and the enigma that is Jimmy Bullard. I don't see how Bullard will fit into this new team and higher tempo game we are now playing, but I don't see how we will be able to get him off the wage bill.

I think Lee Bowyer has played well in recent weeks, but feel that at 35 unless he was to be on very poor wages next year (around £3,000-a-week) then he isn't worth keeping as the central midfield will already account for a large chunk of the wage budget.

It is vitally important that we get Leadbitter to sign and keep him playing how he is at the moment, to buy a 26-year-old player with his experience and quality will be a seven-figure transfer fee and a substantial weekly wage.

If Bullard is going to be as useful next season as he has been this year then we will need to get in a central midfield loanee if we are unable to get Bowyer to take a substantial wage cut.

In the system we have been playing recently we have used three attacking midfielders, usually Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Daryl Murphy and Lee Martin. I think that Josh Carson could deputise for any of these and haven't seen enough of Ryan Stevenson yet to know whether he can, although he does strike me as an attacking midfielder rather than a lone striker in the system we play.

I think it is important that we try to sign Daryl Murphy, he has been a key player in the recent good run and allows flexibility to move between 4-5-1 and 4-4-2. I think it would be useful to try and sign another winger who can play on either side, so on days where things aren't working out for JET or Murphy we have someone with pace who can get behind the full-back.

Andros Townsend seems to flutter from one club to another and may be worth trying to tie down on a permanent deal.

In Michael Chopra we have a very good striker at this level, I think Jason Scotland does a very good job too and him and Chopra are a very good substitution for each other as ask very different questions of a defenders, while being almost equally effective at helping the team. I would therefore try and tie Scotland down on a reduced contract for another year.

Nathan Ellington has had a poor first season and unfortunately I think we will have to retain him as third choice striker, with competition from Ronan Murray - realistically though if Scotland were to leave neither of those two would be able to step up to the required level. This would mean we need to sign a striker and again we need to look to someone in the Championship or a young striker from League One.

After watching Peterborough I think Tyrone Barnett could have been that player but we've missed the boat here so would look at someone like Marcus Tudgay whose hold-up play has always impressed me, or an out-and-out target man like Chris Iwelumo or even Kayode Odejayi at Colchester as an option to use from the bench to act as a battering ram-style player.

So I think for the squad next year, and trying to use realistic budgeting, we need to to look something like:

GK: New first choice, ALB, Cropper
RB: Edwards, New RB who can also cover CB
LB: Cresswell, Whight/loanee
RCB: New right sided CB with cover from RB above
LCB: Smith, Delaney
CM: Leadbitter, Drury, Bullard, Hyam; and Bowyer if on very low wages or a young loanee
Wingers: JE-T, Murphy, Carson, New signing who can play on both sides
AM: Martin, Stevenson
ST: Chopra, Scotland/New signing, Ellington

This means we need to sign a new first choice goalkeeper, right sided centre back and Daryl Murphy. We also need to sign two effective squad players, one who can cover right back/centre back and a winger.

This is assuming that Leadbitter and Scotland sign new contracts, however. If not, they will also need replacing and we risk going down the path of having a squad that struggles to 'gel' again and waste a few months of the season - five senior players is more than enough for one summer.

So in summary - "We need to sign five players - GK, RB/CB, CB, Winger and Daryl Murphy"!

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

SuffolkBlueSam added 16:04 - Mar 26
good blog, highly analytical, and have picked out some good potential targets. i agree wholly with you, no point wholesale changes...COYB

tractorboy2434 added 16:05 - Mar 26
We need 6 quality players but with finances as they are we are unlikely to get them, I expect 1 or 2 signings at best and 3 or 4 departures, the wage bill is a huge problem for clubs like us with falling gates.

JW_ITFC added 16:37 - Mar 26
So you don't like how people are saying we need 6 new players but then go on to critically analyse this (very well it has to be said...) and come up with 5 new signings and a loanee :D I agree a championship club must budget stringently but even a critical eye can see we need a good number of senior players to push for what we hope for next season....the playoffs. Out of your list I think we can get away with just a RB/CB, Daryl Murphy and a GK, depending on contracts.

itfcjoe added 16:43 - Mar 26

Think i just started with that theme before thinking about it, general point was that people think we need a GK RB 2 new CB's a 'creative midfielder' and a striker to play with Chops and think that we can afford to buy them all.

I agree we need to spend money on 3 new 'regulars' one of which is Murphy, but think we can pick up some decent squad players to fill rest of the gaps.

Contracts are the key though, better to pay a bit more on a transfer fee from a lower league if lower wages can be agreed rather than tying club to Bullard style contracts.

colchesterchris added 16:47 - Mar 26
After the defeat on Saturday I got fairly sick of reading these as they do not seem to take into account what we currently have in our squad, who can leave and who we are stuck with… and in turn how this affects our wage bill.

To be fair, he's criticising the way people are saying we need players, without thinking about the detail, followed by his suggestions, with plenty of reasoning and no hypocrisy really.

Really good blog :)

JW_ITFC added 17:31 - Mar 26
Yep, it just made me smile that's all. But yea a core of 3 players are needed, but added to that if we can somehow get rid of Ellington and use Ronan Murray a bit more perhaps there will be more wages to spend elsewhere. I have only seen him a few times but certainly seemed up for the cause with a smattering of quailty to him. I dont believe we need another midfielder if bowyer leaves as we would have 4 good players there plus Martin and Stevenson can fill in there too creating 2 in each position. I really don't think we are too far off, especially as the core of the team above are below 30!We just need to sort out the defence and keeper....

BlueITFC added 18:31 - Mar 26
Good Blog :)

davekl12 added 18:36 - Mar 26
Great blog, beautifully pieced together. I think we have to focus on the positives over the last couple of months, this set of players has been winning games... So why tinker drastically with a winning combination? I may yet be proved wrong with an awful conclusion to the season results wise. It's essential that we have a fairly settled team for the start of the season, we can't be lagging mindlessly behind after two months.

itfcjoe added 19:49 - Mar 26
We are playing well and don't need a complete over haul, to do so would put us back to square one, hopefully PJ sees that!

lawshallgirls added 22:59 - Mar 26
I would like to see us do 3 things:
1. Center back-such as pearce or Chester (or someonelike that)
2. A Goalkeeper-agree 27s probably about a good age
3. Leadbitter signed on-(don't think this one will happen though tbh

I'd also quite like us to get murphy but I'd want to see Carson ahead of him next year
And anything else(including murphy) is a bonus really! :)

Thanks, good blog keep it up!

MarkITFC added 00:23 - Mar 27
Gk: Brad Guzan
CB: Luke Chambers - Jason Pearce
RB : Ward
W/CF - Daniel Powell from MK dons
Mid/CF - Maybe try and sign Jamie Mackie ? QPR have to biggest squad in english football with 40 or something players and if they stay up there going to sign better named players which will leave some decent players from QPR next season , although i reckon Leeds and warnock would be in with a shout if he was avavlible .

the most important thing for next season is to sure up the defence , our back four on a bad day is shocking ! Pearce and Chambers would be 2 class signings and both leaders both at a great age .


Blue041273 added 08:47 - Mar 27
This is a very interesting topic and there are some excellent comments on here. It's true that over the last 4 or 5 years the message board reaction to a defeat tended to follow the line of bringing in new players to replace those perceived to have performed inadequately. Since Marcus Evans first started to provide financial support every manager has deemed it necessary to 'improve' the team by bringing in players. The result has been cumulatively disastrous. Results and performances overall have been no better than the pre Marcus days and the profligate use of the funds which have been made available to JM, RK & PJ has generally been wasteful.

The financial fair play guidelines will set a different challenge to the manager and will require a change in the mindset of supporters. Instead of bringing in loads of additional players on a whim financial budgets will have to be observed. The days of bringing in Premier League players on premiership wages will be over. As we have seen with Carlos and Jason the current wage structure is unsustainable and provides an insight on the difficulty PJ has in trying to keep Grant. We can't afford to keep him on his current wages.

The future therefore suggests that any new players will come from the lower leagues who will be relatively inexpensive in wages terms but will be incentivised to perform and indeed improve over time. I would think there will be a contraction of the numbers in the squad so I don't think that there will be many additions in the summer unless a good few are allowed to leave.

While the new guidelines are long overdue and will undoubtedly benefit the game as a whole, I think it will have a sobering effect on our short term prospects and the next couple of seasons could well be both painful and frustrating for our supporters as the reality of the difficulty of 'living within our means' becomes apparent.

Lightningboy added 10:41 - Mar 27
Excellent points..would agree with virtually everything said..can't say I know anything about James Chester though.

As for Leadbitter & Bowyer..most of you know my opinion on GL..just don't think he'll be missed for one second..has been below average for most of the 3 seasons he's been here and i'm sure there are far far better options out there..Bowyer can go too imho...would rather see us try and get someone like a Liam Lawrence in instead..even David Norris,we've missed his work rate at times.

IvorFeeling added 12:55 - Mar 27
Good Blog and agree with GK.

I think that CE gets too much stick and whilst sometimes he goes walkabouts he is a quality player at this level and defending is a team trait not just the defenders - i.e. he has suffered by those in front not covering. This has been identified by PJ and the new system gives the back four better cover.

I would go for quality rather than quantity and therefore, assuming Leadbitter and Scotland can be pursuaded to stay, have 3-4 quality signings. An established GK, a Championship level CB with pace, a young winger and take a punt on a goalscorer from the lower leagues.

Remember that we had too many changes at the start of the season and the balance was all over the place. PJ has now learnt that an established side is a winning one

rickw added 14:12 - Mar 29
GK - I'd go for Scott Loach (don't know how much they'd want for him though) he's 23 and been Watford's first choice GK for 4 seasons, he's also an ITFC fan!

Obviously we also need a RCB/RB those mentioned above seem to fit the bill, however the Portsmouth players have turned us down several times now, and I'd prefer not to have players who don't really wanna be here....

It doesn't seem like Scotland is willing to lower his wages and I'd let Ellington go (what's the point of having an experienced ex prem player, if you never play him?) so that leaves just Chopra and Murray, so I agree lets look for a lower division goalscorer
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