Now that the twenty-something (reports vary on his age) French billionaire KLD has been confirmed as our new owner and chairman, he can get to work sorting out the mess we find ourselves in. Whilst there are obvious areas on his to do list such as the Academy, scouting and appointing data scientists etc, but there is also the small matter of 15 players whose contracts expire this summer (Not to mention the 3 loan players returning to their parent clubs).
So that’s a total of 18 current playing staff who could be ex-players when the 21/22 season kicks off. It is likely the players’ agents are also currently kicking off with the club wanting to get improved terms for themselves (Sorry, I mean their clients). Therefore, it falls upon Lee Johnson to decide who to try to keep and who to bin. As about as easy as answering one of Ted Rogers questions on 3-2-1 due to the fact we don’t know what league we will be in next season. Here’s a lowdown on the 18 and in my opinion if we should keep or bin/stick or twist.
DION SANDERSON: KEEP
It’s not going to happen unfortunately as he is one Wolves want to keep hold of. Has been excellent for us in his appearances in the red and white shirt.
JAKE VOKINS: BIN
Although he has only had a spattering of appearances so far, he has looked uncomfortable at times with the physical side of League One. As with Sanderson, he is one that the Saints have high hopes for in the future.
JORDAN JONES: KEEP
Despite Stevie G saying the door isn’t closed on him at Rangers, a fair cash offer from LJ may do the trick. Has looked lively and positive in the time on the pitch so far. With any luck he’ll bring Jermain back with him as a forward coach.
OUT OF CONTRACT:
GRANT LEADBITTER: KEEP
Hometown boy. Offer one year contract to cover for injuries, cup games etc, as legs have gone or offer him an academy coach role. A graduate of the academy for the younger age academy kids to aspire to (proof is in the pudding as it were).
JOSH SCOWEN: BIN
A lot of huff and puff and very little else. Surely the money men can find a better alternative for next season.
AIDAN MCGEADY: KEEP
An easy one this. Despite his age, a winner who is rewarding LJ with his performances for bringing him back out the cold. He admits he could have left but loves it here, it must be the cheesy chips and pink slices. I’d offer an 12 month contract.
MAX POWER: KEEP
Can be sloppy at times but provides a lot of focus and calmness in the team. Has shown recently he can play in a couple of positions if required. A good squad player to have next season.
CONOR MCLAUGHLIN: BIN
Prone to injuries and niggles in his time at SAFC. Not always convincing on the pitch when he does play and as with Scowen, money should be spent on a player who is better in his position.
CHRIS MAGUIRE: BIN
Controversial I know but hear me out, although we all know he can be a match-winner and steal the headlines, under LJ he has struggled for game time. He can go missing for large periods in games which might play in LJ’s mind for the pressing style he prefers his players to use. At 32, he is not the most mobile and the appointment of the data scientist/analyst may just point LJ to show him the door.
CHARLIE WYKE KEEP
The goal machine can’t stop scoring at the moment and just his goals to games record this season warrants offering him a new contract. LJ has clearly got the best out of him and with quality re-enforcements brought in over the summer window, hopefully he will do the business next season against the Boro and the Mags in the Championship!
REMI MATTHEWS: BIN
Error prone and simply not good enough. Surely LJ will either buy a new keeper for competition for Burge or promote Patterson to second choice and allow Matthews to find a new club.
LEE BURGE: KEEP
Could improve distribution and command of the box but hopefully buying in a better No 2 can help him on his weaknesses. Has proved an able keeper and worth keeping as one of the two main keepers with the option of Patterson as back-up if no keeper bought in over the summer.
JORDAN WILLIS: KEEP
A consistent player for us this season until his injury wrecked his season. The club should do the right thing by offering a new contract and look after its assets (as they should with reinstating Cookie). He’s only 26 so has plenty of time ahead of him.
LUKE O’NIEN: KEEP
Mr Versatility himself. Every club needs one. I’m sure if he was asked to compete in Strictly, Dancing on Ice or the X Factor in a band, he’d win the competition on his own. He does a good job most games and just needs to watch his disciplinary record. What is less talked about is his community and social media engagement with fans which is so important. When he was changing the seats on STID, not many of the fans in the ground knew who he was but we all know who he is now.
CALLUM MCFADZEAN: BIN
There’s always a player in any squad that divides opinion. Most seem to be of the opinion that Callum is often caught out of position leading to goals conceded, and others seem to appreciate his effort and attempts to get forward and help press. Maybe people naturally compare him less favourably to Denver Hume, and with the latter hopefully fit and well for next season, there should be better back-ups available in the summer window. This brings me nicely onto…
DENVER HUME: KEEP
He’s only 22 and enjoys bombing forward whenever he can. Ideally suited to LJ’s style of play. Denver is another player whose season has been ruined by injury. Hopefully once fit, LJ can work closely with him and get the best out of him as he has done with Charlie Wyke.
BEN KIMPIOKA: KEEP
The only player whose contract is due to expire who the club have an option for another 12 months. Yet again, another player’s promising season curtailed by injury once he got fit. Rated highly within the club and hopefully if our new owner can sort out the Academy, the likes of Kimpioka will sign their contracts without any fuss.
JACK DIAMOND: KEEP
Another youngster who has impressed so far when thrust into the spotlight of the first team. Full of running, and likely to get better with experience. He’s another who I can see fitting into the style of play LJ prefers. As with Embleton he may benefit from a loan move next season if LJ buys in and he finds himself down the pecking order.
So there you have it. 18 players for KLD and LJ to sort ASAP. It could have been easy to decimate the list and bin most, thinking LJ will have a war chest to spend next season with no salary cap regardless of which league we’ll be in next season. However, replacing a full team and bench with new players is not practical or logical as we have witnessed in our recent history. A combination of natural wastage, good scouting, player/agency management and promoting from within is surely the way to go.
In terms of our players currently on loan to other clubs, I’d keep Embleton and get as much money as I can for Dobson and Grigg and put it in the bank before there’s a knock on LJ’s door with a warranty in hand for selling faulty goods.