Lots of credit to McClaren on his PR statements to date, but let’s be honest, much of it is guff.
However, out of the guff is one statement that stands out:
“Work in progress, 3 transfer windows to sort the squad out.”
Throw in cart and horse from Ashley, and what has happened so far in this transfer window, and I can see a semblance of a plan and a real opportunity after next summer.
In essence, during this window we have signed 3 quality players and been largely able to remove none of the dross. The squad is full, and in pure numbers, large enough.
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However, after the first 16 players, the rest are at best work in progress or in reality rubbish.
I see this summer’s recruitment as a holding position for this season. Clearly Ashley does not want to flirt with relegation again and signed 3 quality players to hopefully ensure we will not.
However, he is not going to invest any further in extra players as the squad is full.
Due to years of poor investment on cheap players he has realised that you do have to pay a little more for better quality and with the rest of the league also investing, we need some quality to stay up.
However, there is some real light at the end of the tunnel. At least 8 players are out of contract next summer, all picking up reasonable wages and have featured in the first team.
Let’s name them: Williamson, Taylor, Elliot, Obertan, Ferguson, Abeid, Marveaux, Vuckic.
What stands out about them as a group….frankly they are not premiership quality and in some cases that’s being generous. Would anyone be sorry to see all 8 just drop out of the club today?
Sadly we are paying them a good salary which means they cannot be sent back to France, or a Championship club, which is where their ability places them.
The players themselves are going to sit out their contract rather than take a pay cut, so we are in Catch 22, stuck with them for another year till they become out of contract.
Conversely, the people on the longest contracts appear at present to be those we can build a team and squad around, including the 3 new lads.
I just think an element of realism may have hit home that quality comes at a cost.
This does not mean ignoring bringing in younger talent, rather it being supplemented by some bigger names. Cheap and nasty has kept us in the league (barely) and years of under investment nearly came home to roost last season.
I would also argue that extending the Coloccini contract was part of the plan, until we get shot of Taylor/Williamson there is simply no room/wages for buying an extra centre back – we will next summer.
I also do not expect another centre forward, unless Cisse is moved on.
What it does mean though is that for this season we are still chronically short of good squad players; a fully fit team and we will do well, injuries and the standard falls even more dramatically than usual.
The gap between good and bad is gaping, at least till next summer and the third transfer window….and Steve McClaren knows it.