Following a dismal performance at Morecambe and the series of thought provoking interviews that followed in the immediate aftermath, the spotlight on the planning for next season is now shining brighter than ever before, writes CambsIron.
The last few days have not inspired confidence for the months ahead. From the staff and squad there have been allegations of unprofessionalism, confirmation that some players simply aren’t good enough and leaks regarding contract talks. From the owner, there has been confirmation that the budget for 2021/22 will be the lowest budget of his tenure, repeated bemoaning of COVID and no real recognition that the blend of experience across the squad was not fit for purpose at the onset of this season.
However, assuming that the Iron survive in League Two this season and the club learn their lessons in respect of poor recruitment and blend of squad, there are reasons for all involved to have higher expectations than another relegation battle. The Iron have been very poor for long periods this season, but have at times still come within 6-9 points of the play off places. Arguably, the club have been a regular goalscorer away from an outlandish play-off push.
The standard of football in League Two is, on the whole, very poor and has been for a number of years. Often it is less about the quality of football and more about having that extra level of quality and experience in key positions on the pitch. This season’s late recruitment demonstrated that it is possible to bring in an experienced goalkeeper, defender and central midfielder to fit within a tight budget.
As a minimum, it is critical that these key positions are filled and that a winger and striker (preferably two) are added to the squad for next season. Given the more or less confirmed departures of Kevin Van Veen, Abo Eisa and Harrison McGahey; and rumour of League 1 suitors for Alex Gilliead, this should be very achievable.
A low budget isn’t the death knell of ambition if it is spent wisely. This season Morecambe and Cambridge have shown the way with an experienced spine complemented by energy, commitment and enthusiasm. By contrast, the Iron haven’t consistently had that experience and have lacked the basic attributes to win games in League Two, all of which boil down to motivation and pride.
Neil Cox and the club have had nine months to plan together for this summer. Last year Cox arrived on the 7th of August with a large chunk of the budget already spent. This year there should be more due diligence on signings, a full pre-season and signings which fit the tactics and ambitions of a manager.
Cox has just about earned the right to have a real crack at it this summer but needs support and collaboration from the club hierarchy. The fans are right to expect better this time around – it has to be better.
The first step to boosting positivity and season ticket sales should be to sign Jem Karacan for next season and make him club captain. The likes of Spence, Beestin, Loft, Onariase, O’Malley and Green will all be a year wiser, but still need support and a level of experience alongside them.
I have not met an Iron fan that is desperate ‘to go with youth’, but equally most understand that the club cannot sustain a squad packed with high earners.
The fans aren’t asking for ‘the Kev’s’, ‘the Paddy’s’ or ‘the Championship’, they are just asking for a more balanced and logical approach to recruitment which hopefully leads to more positivity and excitement on the pitch; and more money in the club’s coffers.