Whilst the January window may not have brought the shopping spree that many expected, this summer looks set to be an interesting time for both Latics fans and Dave Whelan’s accountant. The club posting an £8m loss isn’t the best omen for those hoping that we’ll finally see some squad strengthening, rather than rebuilding, but with a new man at the helm with a bit more of a reputation in this area, there’s every chance that the chairman’s yearly promise of cash may finally be tested.
What’s more, we’re seemingly approaching the first summer where we don’t have a raft of players either seemingly ready to jump ship at any moment or counting the moments until they get pushed. In short, we’ve actually got the core of a good squad, something to build on and a manager who looks prepared to do something about it.
Then again, just because a player isn’t looking for a move doesn’t mean that they won’t and, with reported interest in a few of the current squad, the one in, one out suspicions may get another run out over the summer.
So far, speculation about two of the key players in the Bruce turnaround has either been laughed off or ignored. Valencia’s links to both Manchester clubs were dismissed simply on the basis that there was not enough money in it for us, and whilst United’s interest in Palacios is slightly different (for start, it’s probably rubbish but three times your money after six months sounds just up our street) it shouldn’t be too hard to convince him that life in a premier league first team is preferable to one fighting for a place on their bench.
Less has been said about the other two first teamers rumoured for moves away. Summer’s approaching so Arsenal must be looking for a new keeper, reports a couple of weeks ago suggested that Wenger’s eyes had turned to the JJB (all the better to miss the latest penalty shout).
Kirkland’s form has really turned around in the back end of the season and he’s back to living up to his label as one of the best young English keepers. He seems a loyal sort of lad, but we’ve gone past the stage where we can argue that a move to Blackburn or Fulham, isn’t that much of a forward step, in some ways it’s great that the big teams are looking at our players, but in so many others it’s rubbish.
Lastly, and for some least, comes Paul Scharner and his twice yearly stab at convincing up that if deserves European football. I’ve said it before, and I stand by it now, but, for me, the improvement in the team’s form since he moved into the back line is more to do with what it did for the midfield than what it did for our defence, but it seems that I’m increasingly on my own on that front.
So it’s a ‘new Lee McCulloch’ tag for the Austrian as he heads into contract talks. There’s talk of interest from a few middling Premier League clubs, so expect talks to be protracted with him buggering off to Newcastle, or the like, sometime in August.
The upshot of all this has to be fairly worrying for us in the stands. The squad as it is needs some tweaking and a little pruning but if half the moves above happen then we’re in schtuck. Even with the was chest swollen with some healthy profit, we’re going to struggle to bring in players of the quality of those that we’ve lost, without paying through the nose. If Latics are ever going to take a step forwards then we need some stability. If we have to rebuild every summer then we’ll be doomed to dogfights, until the inevitable eventually happens, but at least it will keep the war-chest healthy.
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