By Andrew Baxter
It is that time of the season again, where the rumour mill goes into overdrive over potential new signings. But this summer, could the picture be more settled for City?
For the first team in six or seven seasons, the squad does not require a major overhaul. Last season saw 15 departures, and 11 new signings. The season before saw 15 permanent signings, and six loan signings, between July and September! Such need for change only disrupted the squad, possibly contributing to their lack of success. This current crop of players, however, appears to have a special bond.
“Quality, not quantity” is Phil Parkinson’s transfer ideology, as opposed to Peter Taylor’s “He looks good, I’ll buy him” philosophy. A tight-knit squad endured a marathon season, with only limited players coming in on loan (six altogether, although this includes Tom Naylor who hardly played, and John Egan who unfortunately broke his leg just a few games into his loan spell).
With Mark Lawn saying that only “2 or 3 signings” needing to be made to improve the squad, this squad unity will continue. Parkinson has the opportunity to buy two or three quality players, rather than 10 or 12 average players.
In my opinion, a goalkeeper is needed to challenge Jon McLaughlin, and give him some competition. With Matt Duke leaving for Northampton, we only have one recognised first-team keeper at the minute.
In defence, with the return of Luke Oliver, and with Stephen Darby and James Meredith still improving, there is a settled outlook. If I was Phil Parkinson, I would loan out Carl McHugh to a League Two, or upper Conference, side, as first-team football is crucial for his development. With four quality, proven, centre backs in Michael Nelson, Oliver, Rory McArdle and Andrew Davies, I think McHugh may struggle to break into the first team this season.
In midfield, there will be tough competition for the central midfielder positions, with Nathan Doyle, Gary Jones, Ricky Ravenhill and new recruit Jason Kennedy battling it out for a place in the starting line-up. Kyel Reid looks to have secured the left-wing position, and on the opposite flank, Garry Thompson will have stiff competition from Mark Yeates. Yeates’ capture shows intent by Parkinson, as he is a proven Championship winger and could be a key figure in the City side this season.
Up front, there were calls midway through the season to find a replacement for James Hanson, who looked out of form. However, an impressive end to the season (and a Wembley goal) for the 25-year-old has put to bed those claims. Should the club accept a “silly money” offer for Nahki Wells, then a replacement would be needed, but with the money that a potential Wells sale could bring, City would have the financial muscle to attract many proven strikers.
Overall, then, it is clear that this summer might be a bit quieter than previous seasons, but then again, surely this is a good thing? With Zavon Hines and Will Atkinson the only first-team players to be released, there is no need for the mass influx of players that we have seen in previous seasons at Valley Parade, as the quality required is already there.