What the owners have in mind for us in January remains to be seen, but expectations of transfer activity have been dampened publicly. So, assuming that no fresh funds are going to be made available unless we raise them first, here are a few things that we could do to strengthen the squad and continue to build for the future.
1) Sell a goalkeeper – Adam Legzdins’ emergence has left Frank Fielding kicking his heels on the bench and although cover in all positions is generally the aim, goalkeepers are different. Only one can play, the reserve ‘keeper is only called upon in exceptional circumstances and it’s usually easy enough to loan in a replacement if your number one gets injured. In an ideal world, I’d say keep both, but we don’t have the luxury when the wages could be used to strengthen elsewhere – plus, whichever keeper is left out is unlikely to be happy about it anyway.
We can manage the situation better than when Billy Davies had Camp and Grant, selling both and signing Stephen Bywater, but long-term, as Sean Connery once put it, ‘there can be only one‘.
2) Loan an experienced centre back – We have only kept four clean sheets in 24 games this season, which isn’t great. Now that Buxton is injured, the once allegedly ‘immaculate’ O’Connor is now ‘lacking in confidence’ and young O’Brien has played despite not really being fit, we simply need to strengthen in that position.
Barker will (hopefully) be back next season, but in the event that his rehab is unsuccessful, a good loanee now could potentially be auditioning for the role of his long-term replacement. In the mean time, we might stop conceding 1.5 goals per game and start to look like top six candidates.
3) Offer Ben Davies as a makeweight – Am fairly sure that this will already have been explored, but Davies could be offered in a deal for a younger prospect from League 1, say. Davies would certainly do a job in the third division, so maybe somebody could be persuaded to take him in an exchange deal.
However, it recently emerged that Davies has been offered the chance to leave on loan to other Championship clubs, but chose not to go because his baby child was having an operation. Which does highlight the problem of having older players in the squad – they are less likely to be ‘footloose’ and keen to move on if they can’t get into the team.
Nathan Tyson, I’ve heard, is the top wage-earner on the playing staff and although he is the joint second top scorer this season, it’s impossible to think that he has represented good value for money over the course of his contract. But how on earth could we move him on when he is on such good terms at the age of 30? Who would be prepared to match his wages?
This may also be a problem with Davies, but his current deal expires at the end of this season, which will presumably make him more keen to sort out his future in January.
4) Contract extensions – If my information is correct, Craig Bryson and John Brayford are both contracted until end of next season – 18 months away. It would be better to get new deals tied up for both before the end of this season, rather than run the risk of letting them get into the last twelve months of their current deals.
Both will presumably demand a pay rise and they should both get one, as they have both proved to be tremendous players for the club. Persistent paper-talk about Cardiff being interested in Brayford, wherever it has come from, needs to be put to bed.
5) Don’t sell Will Hughes – Unless the bid is astronomical by our standards – i.e. more than the Dirties paid for Seth Johnson way back when – there is no way that Hughes should be allowed to leave at this point. No loan-backs, no add-ons, no bullshit. If a Premier League club want him, they can give us an extremely fat wedge up front, or ‘off-be-fucking’. In my humble opinion.
And finally… Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone who reads the blog. Drink plenty of festive pints and let’s hope for six more points before the first home game of 2013!