It is always preferable for any manager to get his squad as near finalised as possible at the earliest opportunity, and Chris Powell is no exception. If, as seems likely, there is minimal investment into the club over the close season, the only way the manager can refresh the squad is by moving players on, and he has certainly wasted little time in doing that. With Mambo and Sullivan deemed surplus to requirement last week, this week sees the release of Fuller, Kerkar, Taylor, and Wagstaff.
Wagstaff had openly stated that he was not going to be around next season, and although it is always sad to see one of the former youth players leave, it is absolutely the right decision. I suspect the two biggest wage earners at the club are Fuller and Wright-Phillips, and with the former on his way, I would be surprised if Wright-Phillips is not shown the exit as well. The release of these two will free up some significant wages for new signings, albeit that any new arrivals may well have to be free transfers in the first place.
The release of Kerkar is no surprise, as he is at best a squad player, and with Powell under pressure to run with a smaller squad, Taylor is also no surprise, although I believe we do need four centre backs at this level. Could Feely be considered ready to be given that fourth man role? I am sorry to see Taylor go, as he was a stalwart of the third division winning team, but although he would never let anybody down, it was fairly obvious that he was not considered up to the job of Championship level football.
So, what of the rest? Of those players who will be out of contract at the end of this season, the surprise package to some extent is Hughes. His presence during the final run in, and the results the team achieved with him in it, made a very big statement in his favour for a new one year deal. If that transpires, then any interest Powell may have harboured for Gower will surely evaporate. I would expect Cort, Dervite, Evina, Harriott, and Haynes to be given new deals. I would not be surprised, however, to see Evina go. An unguarded comment on Twitter that he stepped back from rather rapidly, did seem to lend weight to his leaving rather than staying, and if he did go, is Cousins considered ready for the step up to be Wiggins understudy as Evina himself has so patiently been for the last two years?.
Of those in the squad with contracts that don't expire this summer, I think that Green and Hollands may well be on their way if any club comes in for them, a suspicion confirmed for me when Green almost joined Swindon on loan in January, and Hollands did. I am also not convinced that an offer for Stephens would be rejected in the same way it was in January, Indeed, if Jimenez had not been so bullish shall we say, as to the players value, he would have been gone already.
Let us hope that if we are to lose Solly this summer, Jimenez will show more commercial finesse than the Stephens episode showed. Jimenez efforts aside, I think we probably do have to resign ourselves to losing our double winning player of the year. As with just about all clubs bar four or five, we are a selling club, and if we are able to gather in circa £4m, then that would fund a lot of the strengthening work that the squad needs, albeit I suspect that cash up front is likely to be nearer the £2m mark.
Contract End - June 2013
Contract End - June 2014
Contract End - June 2015