Now the transfer window is closed it is proper to give an account to the fans on the basis of our dealings. From the outset, the Board determined that we would not accept bids for our players during this window. We have a young squad, one of the youngest in League One, and our oldest contracted player on the field at our last game against Swindon was Marley Watkins at 25 years and 3 months.
Recruiting experienced players from the Championship is extremely difficult because of the huge disparity of player pay between the divisions created by the way the Football League makes its distributions to clubs. Only players approaching the end of their careers are prepared to consider a step down on a permanent basis and they want contracts longer than is economical for the Club given the constraint imposed by SCMP.
The majority of our players (excluding loanees) are on contracts that extend beyond this season.
Bobby Hassell was brought in to help to assess the players we have been tracking at U21, U18 and Academy levels. We have made a number of recruitment decisions in these areas to strengthen the challenge for first team places, in due course, from within our own playing contingent. We have also sought to recruit those possibly missed by other clubs’ Academy systems who are playing successfully at National League level. These endeavours will be particularly important when the emergency loans market disappears next season. We are very grateful to Bobby, Ben, Tom and Brian who run our tracking and scouting operations for their hard work.
We have also decided to send our established U21 and U18 players out to League 2 and the National League, as they become ready, to become battle-hardened and prove their skills at those levels as preparation for League One. George Smith spent a loan spell at Crawley and has had man of the match awards at that level. Jack Walton at 17 years old went to help Stalybridge Celtic with a goalkeeping crisis and kept a clean sheet. Some players who have recently made our bench will go out to get competitive matches.
We now have two players in our Academy set-up that are in the England set-up. We need more. We have a major recruitment push taking place later this month, where 300 boys will take part in assessments at our Academy.
The results our first team gets now are important, but it is also imperative that we strengthen from within in all positions to get progressively competitive.
Our total list of January Transfer activities was as follows:
Kevin Long extended his Emergency Loan from Burnley until 19 February 2016
Josh Brownhill extended his Youth Loan from Preston North End until the end of the season
Jak McCourt signed on a permanent contract from Leicester City until 30 June 2016 with an option for the Club to extend until 30 June 2017
Ashley Fletcher extended his Youth Loan from Manchester United until the end of the season
Otis Khan was signed on a permanent contract from Sheffield United until 30 June 2017
Matthew Templeton signed his first professional contract until 30 June 2017
Shaun Tuton was signed on a permanent contract from FC Halifax Town until 30 June 2018 with an option for the Club to extend until 30 June 2019
Aidan White was signed on a permanent contract from Rotherham until 30 June 2016
Bradley Ash was signed on a permanent contract from West-Super-Mare until 30 June 2018
Josh Kay was signed on a permanent contract from AFC Fylde until 30 June 2017
Charlie Harris was signed on a permanent contract from Brighton & Hove Albion until 30 June 2017
George Smith on loan to Crawley until 4 February 2016
Paul Digby on loan to Ipswich until the end of the season
George Maris on loan to Lincoln City until the end of the season
Jack Walton on loan to Stalybridge Celtic until 21 February 2016
Harry White on loan to Kidderminster Harriers until 1 March 2016