The excitement over the summer is always provided by the possibility of new arrivals coming in to freshen up the playing squad, and Paul Cook has certainly done that.
We saw straight away that he was prepared to make big decisions about the futures of the players out of contract this summer, with a mass exodus preceding an inevitable recruitment drive, to put his own stamp on a squad that badly underachieved over the previous two seasons.
Jed Wallace leaving early was good for everybody. It was quite clear based on his virtuoso displays last term that he was going to be playing at a higher level come August, so to have that sorted quickly has definitely helped us plan for life without him.
Losing Wallace will also force the rest of the quad to produce the match-winning moments, and hopefully there will be a better collective effort in his absence, rather than the rest of the players always looking to him for inspiration.
The additions of Kyle Bennett, Kal Naismith and Adam McGurk are all positive and even though McGurk may provide Tubbs with competition for what many expect to be the lone striking berth in Cook’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, I think he can offer something in a slightly deeper, supporting role, so I am hoping he will create as well as score.
I’m very happy with the attacking options available, although I would be surprised if we started the season without a big, physical striker added to the squad. I am completely on board with the manager’s intention to play a passing game, which if deployed successfully would negate the need for a target man. But, sometimes we will find that we need a presence up front and at the moment we don’t really have that. I am not suggesting I’d rather watch a more direct brand of football, but I think it would benefit us to have the option available in certain games away from home.
The thing that encourages me the most about the arrivals is the experience added. Gary Roberts provides plenty of cunning potential in attacking positions, and Michael Doyle will not be someone many opposition midfielders will relish going in for a tackle with. I had thought that the spine would be relatively untouched, but there is no question these two strengthen it further.
It’s great to have an experienced head in each of the main areas of the pitch, with Paul Robinson marshalling the defence, Doyle anchoring the midfield, while the expectation will be for Roberts to step up and provide the spark that can unlock defences and feed Tubbs.
There is still one gaping hole however, and we need to sign a right-back urgently. Adam Webster looks set to be used as a central defender which is great for him but at the moment he is probably the closest thing to a right-back that we have. I was really disappointed to hear that Josh Passley had joined Dagenham, because I think he will make an excellent signing for them and could have definitely been a success for us.
There are some right-backs who are currently unattached and could be realistic possibilities, and Alan Dunne, who Paul Robinson will know well after many seasons together at Millwall, would be an excellent addition. Also available is Reece Wabara, team-mate of Kyle Bennett and Enda Stevens at Doncaster last season. He’s currently on trial at Rangers but if that were to fall through I’d love us to give him a call.
Whoever Cook has in mind, I don’t feel we’re too far away from having a very balanced squad with some excellent pros and some less experienced players with real potential at this level.