Two weeks on and the elation of securing promotion still reverberates around the parishes of Bolton. On that Sunday night, following the demolition of Peterborough, there was a real excitement for what next season may have in store. How far can Parky take us? Can we make a serious playoff challenge? Is this a genuine new 'era'? All those possibilities still entertain my own fantasies however, the less optimistic do have a focus on a) getting a squad sorted b) off-the-field problems being sorted c) avoiding relegation... at best. Well, I've decided to look at the potential summer for The Whites which could dictate where our club lies in 5-10 years.
So far, Wanderers have announced a list of 5 players that will definitely be leaving the club at the expiration of their contracts: Will Jaaskelainen, Lewis Buxton, Reece Wabara, Liam Trotter and Tom Walker. The announcement also confirmed that other out-of-contract players will be in discussions with the club 'in due course'. That list of out-of-contract players would be worrying if we weren't absolutely massive but anyway, here it is:
Dean Moxey, Lawrie Wilson, David Wheater, Dorian Dervite, Jay Spearing, Jem Karacan, Mark Davies, Filipe Morais, Max Clayton and Gary Madine. As well as that, we will be losing Adam Le Fondre, Andrew Taylor, Chris Long, James Henry, Tom Thorpe and Viv Solomon-Otabor to their parent clubs. Le Fondre, Taylor, Henry and Thorpe are themselves out-of-contract too, however. So, obviously, the most pressing thing at this moment is to get those negotiations done.
As it stands, the current squad includes just three of those that started a fortnight ago (Howard, Beevers & Vela). Arguably, these next couple of weeks could be the most important of the entire 2017/18 season. Opinions obviously differ but I do believe the essential players that Wanderers should focus on Wheater, Karacan, Morais and Madine. Morais and Madine, for me, will be good, solid squad players in the Championship while Wheater and Karacan would be starters. Many will call for Spearing to be a priority but I think we might have to be realistic. He is simply on way too much at the minute and if another club comes in to match his current salary then he may well be off, I don't think we should waste what will be a huge chunk of our wage budget on just one player, no matter how crucial he has been. That is, of course, unless his wage demands drop. Other players that I believe we could look at signing, depending on wage budget and quality of other targets would be Dervite and potentially Moxey. Moxey gets an unbelievable amount of stick but should we sign a decent left back, he is good enough cover. I think Max Clayton's time may be up, however, it's very unfortunate because there has been a glimpse here and there but his fitness and consistency just is too much of a liability for the 2nd tier. Hypocritically, I do believe that a pay-as-you-play deal for Mark Davies could be of use for both parties. It is unlikely he will get a contract at any half-decent club again and let's be honest, he can offer a lot when fit. I'd be surprised if Wilson signs on but I wouldn't have anything against him being our right back cover, especially with Reece Wabara and Lewis Buxton being released.
So, there you go. It's great how simplistic a blog can make complex negotiations and club organisation.
WHO SHOULD/WILL GO
Also part of the club announcing five players being released was the confirmation that Conor Wilkinson has been given permission to speak to other clubs. Wilkinson is under contract so his departure could result in a small fee but I highly doubt in any money will be exchanged. Chris Taylor and Jamie Proctor are the obvious candidates for the transfer list but there is no real interest at the moment for anybody else, Scunthorpe had a fleeting desire for Mark Beevers in January but that's about it. There are plenty of the under-23 squad I could see being sold this summer. I think the obvious minor sales will probably include George Newell. Hyuga Tanner is also expected to leave.
I think the obvious early summer targets should be those that were on loan last season. Andrew Taylor will be more than capable in a higher division, James Henry's technique and awareness is far more suited to the slower nature of the Championship, although the high intensity of pressing has improved. Adam Le Fondre is finally a free agent, it's got to be done. I think Thorpe misses out on a Trotters contract but he probably would've got one at a different stage of the season.
Another avenue that should be explored is Sammy Ameobi. A free agent as of Saturday, the one thing our squad lacks is pace. That's lacking all over the pitch. Ameobi didn't contribute with an overwhelming amount of goals and assists but his attributes were crucial to out style of play. It was evident how difficult it was to adapt without him over January and February.
I do believe that the transfer plan will include not only a broader scouting network, branching out overseas, but will also start to look more at young players released from top 6 Premier League clubs. The success of this strategy can be shown by Reading and Huddersfield Town to a certain extent, the best example being the Leicester City side of 2013/2014. Players like Zeki Fryers (hopefully not), Lloyd Isgrove and a longshot; Yaya Sanogo are examples.
Wanderers have been linked, already, with Erhun Oztumer of Walsall and Niall McGinn of Aberdeen. Oztumer scored 15 from attacking midfield for the Saddlers last season and was responsible for the best opposition goal scored at the Macron Stadium last season. McGinn is perennially linked with us so that rumour can be completely dismissed. Amari'i Bell (Fleetwood Town) is another early rumour.
HOW OUR SQUAD SHOULD BE SHAPED
As per, I know 'should be shaped' is completely subjective. My belief is that Parkinson will revert back to a 4-2-3-1 next season, at the beginning at least. So, if we were to do an early XI. It needs work.
Right so, let's start at the back. We currently have Ben Amos, Ben Alnwick, Mark Howard and Jake Turner on the books. Amos will hopefully be shifted off them but I don't believe either Howard or Alnwick are good enough for Championship football. Either one of them is a capable back up but I don't believe the shakiness on crosses or ability to make silly mistakes is something we can rely on in goal every week. I think two for every position is something we have been crying out for so long. Taylor*, Moxey* at LB is good, Beevers, Wheater*, Derik, Dervite* with Brockbank, Honeyball or Lavelle just in case is enough and then Wilson* as RB cover to someone ideally pacy. Possibly a position that could benefit from the fringe youth player loan market. Central midfield looks at Jay Spearing*, Jem Karacan*, Darren Pratley and Josh Vela. I think with the 4-2-3-1, there has to be a depth of 4 players for the holding positions and 2 for the number 10 role. So, another midfielder as cover for Spearing and Karacan alongside cover for Vela (Oztumer, perhaps) would work out nicely. Then, looking at the wide positions, 4 out and out wingers with a player that can play up front/out wide is ideal. In a perfect world; Ameobi*, Henry*, Morais* and another winger (Mark Marshall, perhaps) fits that position. The player that can play anywhere across the front 4 positions would again be something too look at in the loan market. Then up-front, you need 3 out and out strikers that all offer something completely different to suit different gameplans: target man, poacher, pace. Madine*, ALF* and again a good, fast Premier League loan.
GK: *new GK*/Howard or Alnwick/Turner
RB: *loan RB*/Wilson
CM: Spearing/Pratley/Karacan/*new CM*
Wing: Ameobi/Henry/Morais/*new W*
AM: Vela/*new AM*/*loan attacking utility man*
ST: Madine/Le Fondre/*loan ST*
Now, of course, the simplicity of this article will irritate a few but it is important to remember that these wishes are simply that. Wishes. It's a fairly realiostic breakdown of something far more complicated than a position-by-position blog. All I can confirm is that I am confident in the new club structure for getting deals done.