By Jason McKeown
For the second close season in a row, the who-stays-who-leaves uncertainty has become a drawn out affair. Whereas in previous years we pretty much knew the retained/released list within a week of the final game of the season, this time the futures of out-of-contract players has rumbled on with the dots slowly joining up.
The remaining questions surround Jon McLaughlin and James Meredith, with Rafa De Vita set to be invited back for pre-season training. Should the Italian wideman accept this offer, he will effectively start back where he was 12 months ago – on trial at Bradford City, with the jury still out.
Which seems appropriate for a player who barely made an impression during the first half of last season, but who enjoyed a couple of promising run outs during the final month. In particular, he impressed when starting in a narrow three-man midfield against Peterborough, playing a key role in an important 1-0 Good Friday success that banished lingering relegation talk.
Were it not for a bad injury that ruled De Vita out for some five months, Parkinson would undoubtedly have made up his mind on a player who clearly possesses quality on the ball but who can be guilty of poor decision making and drifting out of games. It seems likely that, should De Vita accept the trial offer and ultimately win a new contract, he would go into the season as back up.
Elsewhere, McLaughlin and Meredith are both pondering new deals with no inclination over whether they will stay (both are on holiday). It is curious why McLaughlin in particular appears to be taking so long to decide. The club’s longest serving player enjoyed a good season overall, where he started every game, albeit with no serious competition due to the playing budget not having room for two permanent goalkeepers.
During a sticky spell for McLaughlin last March, it is known Parkinson tried to sign Leeds keeper Paddy Kenny on loan. The deal never materialised, McLaughlin ended the season strongly and – in view of the budget cuts surely ruling out Parkinson bringing in a keeper to play ahead of him – we can assume that by signing the deal on offer the Scot will be first choice keeper again. Perhaps, as someone likely to be amongst the lowest paid, McLaughlin is unsure about the new terms on offer.
Parkinson is said to be keeping other options open in case, with a couple of sources telling Width of a Post that talks have been held with a Championship club over their keeper (we will do our bit to avoid risking scuppering any such deal by keeping the name of the keeper to ourselves for now).
Similarly, City are said to be looking at other left backs in case Meredith rejects the deal. His agent has been quoted saying Championship clubs are also in for the Aussie, although the T+A’s Simon Parker has thrown doubt over this claim.
The difficulties Parkinson experienced replacing Meredith, when he was injured last season, would emphasise the importance of keeping hold of him; although it should not be forgotten that – prior to his long absence – Meredith was not having a brilliant campaign. For me, he should stay at least another year, with the guarantee of first team football.
Meanwhile Parkinson will be continuing to target new signings and is probably in the market for two wide players and a striker. A source close to Adam Reach has informed us that the Middlesborough winger would be interested in returning to Valley Parade on loan next season, although understandably he is hoping to figure in Boro’s first team plans first and foremost.