Gary Engel says...
We are at the point of groundhog day for the third time in four seasons. Start the season reasonably well, build up our fan’s hopes only for form to falter come October/November. Well, yet again, the HMS Piss the League has wandered off course and is taking on water. Once more we’re destined to play catch up for the rest of the season.
Every fan wonders why this has happened when we’re seemingly the most expensively assembled squad in the league and capable of playing the best football on the day. But there lies the problem, to most sides we have a target on our backs.
It only takes one or two sides to pull off a good result against us and the rest mimic the same game plan - frustrate or bully Sunderland off the park. Even Johnson summed it up recently when he said, it was ‘men against boys’.
If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.
We’re crying out for one or two physically and mentally strong figures in key positions to mould the young team around in January. We like a real spine - tiki-taka is not going to get us out of this league. Matching the opposition, fighting for every ball and being capable of winning ugly is what we need to do. It may not be quite part of our philosophy going forward but we must do what needs to be done to win promotion from this division.
Phil West says...
I’m looking forward to January, a window which will hopefully be set against the backdrop of the team sitting in a good position in the league - it will represent an excellent chance to fine tune and reinforce the squad for the run-in.
The squad does not need major surgery (that was largely completed during the summer) but some additions in key areas are certainly needed.
At the back, a rugged and dominant centre-back (or two, if I was to be greedy) are definitely on the list.
Until our major downturn in form, Callum Doyle and Tom Flanagan were doing very well, but with Bailey Wright seemingly on the fringes and Frederik Alves still not establishing himself as an automatic pick, there is definitely room for a frontline defender who can slot in and bring some stability to the backline.
Being able to field as strong a defence as possible during the run in will be key (remember the problems we had last season) and I’m sure that the recruitment team will do their best to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself.
Moving into the middle of the park, a tough, energetic box-to-box midfielder should also be targeted.
Physically, it is an area of the pitch that we do look quite lightweight in, and someone who can do the dirty work and provide some protection for the likes of Dan Neil would be a godsend.
We’ve often struggled this season when teams have dragged us into a battle, and if we can shore things up by adding some muscle, we’ll stand a much better chance in the rough and tumble matches.
Going forward, another pacy, tricky winger would be a very welcome addition.
Assuming that a Ross Stewart/Nathan Broadhead combination is the way forward (I certainly think it should be), someone who can provide them with good service is going to be vital. Leon Dajaku has yet to show any real consistency, and Aiden McGeady is clearly not the go-to man he has been in recent seasons.
Another issue is whether we can recall the raw-but-promising Jack Diamond. Would he be ready to make the step up, or is he not quite ready for League One football?
Regarding outgoings, I would expect Bailey Wright and Aiden O’Brien to depart, and depending on whether his first-team chances are still limited, perhaps even Denver Hume could be loaned out in order to build up his fitness and get some much-needed matches under his belt.
I don’t expect it to be a particularly frenetic January, transfer-wise, but it should certainly be an active one, as we try to make the final push towards promotion.
Andrew Smithson says...
We looked unplayable at times during the first couple of months, but we all knew a dip in form was likely given the make up of our sqaud and the way we are now trying to do things.
It would be a real shame to press the panic button and rip up the plans so soon, but I agree with a lot of what Phil says, and do think we have room for one or two really physical, get the job done type players in defence and midfield.
We have to stop being easy to play against and start being a bit tougher mentally, so somebody that is perhaps a little bit canny and has that extra level of nous could make a big difference.
I don’t think we need massive overhaul though so other than that I’m not going to be clamouring for a load of new arrivals; if we get a loan from another top club then great, but training up the talent we already have and involving somebody like Will Harris a bit more is just as important I feel.