Here is the penultimate edition; I look at Swindon, Notts County, Stevenage and Forest Green. I have assessed each squad and have suggested a couple of additions that may improve the likelihood of them achieving their goals this season.
Defender(s)- Olly Lancashire, Ben Purkiss, Chris Robertson
Midfielder(s)- James Dunne, Amine Linganzi
Forward(s)- Paul Mullin
So far this summer David Flitcroft has done a good job at filling the gaps in the squad that he has inherited at the County Ground. The club were left scarce at the back after releasing ex QPR player Jamie Sendles-White and Nathan Thompson opting to join League One outfit Portsmouth. Thompson had only ever played for Swindon but the club were forced to face the consequences of finishing 22nd in League One, as their captain moved on. Flitcroft has brought in Olly Lancashire (Shrewsbury), Ben Purkiss (Port Vale) and Chris Robertson (AFC Wimbledon) in defence. The majority of Port Vale fans seemed absolutely delighted with Purkiss leaving the club. Unlike Portsmouth fans, who weren’t as happy about Amine Linganzi joining the Wiltshire club. Linganzi was released a couple of days ago and on the same day that the news broke he made his move to the Robins. This was a great bit of business by the club as Linganzi is a solid midfielder who made 19 appearances last season as Portsmouth won the League Two title.
The main position the club needed to strengthen this summer, was in attack. Nicky Ajose returned to Charlton after his loan spell and Jonathan Obika is now a free agent. The pair were Swindon’s top two scorers last season. The only signing made this summer that wasn’t a free transfer was an attempt to try and replace them. Paul Mullin signed for an undisclosed fee after scoring 8 goals for Morecambe last campaign. In order to push for promotion at the first time of asking, I doubt he will be enough. The club are going to need to move for another striker and options are slowly running out. Swindon were linked with Brighton striker Chris O’Grady following his release, but he has now signed for Chesterfield. Other options would have included James Collins, but he has now signed for Luton. If Swindon are going to bring in a striker, they are going to have to do it fast. Padraig Amond of Hartlepool is one of the better options; he shouldn’t cost the club too much. Should the club wish to splash the cash they could make a move for someone like John Akinde. It is a miracle that Barnet have managed to keep hold of their star man for so long and he would be the perfect replacement for Obika and Ajose at the County Ground.
I don’t expect the club to move for another first teamer in midfield, after the signings of Dunne and Linganzi. Fans may have hoped they could sign former loanee Michael Doughty from QPR. The 24 year old midfielder made 34 appearances in two seasons at Swindon, but signed a 3 year deal with Peterborough two days ago.
Midfielder(s)- Terry Hawkridge
Forward(s)- Lewis Alessandra
Kevin Nolan is having his first summer in charge of the Magpies and he is not exactly lacking financial backing. Chairman Alan Hardy has said he is willing to pay transfer fees for players and not just stick to free transfers. They have signed ex Plymouth striker Lewis Alessandra, who scored 9 goals in a struggling Hartlepool side last season. They also signed wide man Terry Hawkridge, who has been playing in the National League for the last two years with Lincoln. There is very little the club needs to do to strengthen in attack now, with these two signings joining Shola Ameobi, Jon Stead and Jonathan Forte. However, the club did release Adam Campbell who was deemed surplus to requirements and has since signed for Morecambe.
Alan Hardy has been very open about the transfer targets his club have been chasing in the off season. Jake Buxton turned down a contract at a Derby that was to make him player coach, in order to prolong his playing career. The club were aiming to entice the defender into a move to the fourth division, but he signed for Burton Albion yesterday. The fact that the club were even competing for a signing with championship clubs is astonishing. Another transfer target of Nolan’s and Hardy’s is former player Liam Noble. Noble is currently the captain of newly promoted sign Forest Green and Nolan has stated that he wants him to be the creative attacking force in his side. I expect County will be able to push this move through in the coming days.
The position that will still need strengthening after that signing is in defence. Hardy mentioned that the club have given a defender a medical and he has been training with the squad. This unknown player is expected to sign before Monday and will supposedly add strength to the back four. The Magpies are looking to improve their options at full back to strengthen their flanks, already signing two players who can play on the wings. South African Left Back Kgosi Ntlhe has been released by Darren Sarll’s Stevenage and would provide an attacking threat from the Left Back position. If Hardy is willing to provide the money the club may be able to bring Reece Wabara to the club, to provide the same attacking threat on the other side. Wabara is without a club after being released by Bolton and the ex Manchester City and England youth team player may require a move to League Two to sort his career out and start his climb back up.
Defender(s)- Joe Martin
Midfielder(s)- Blair Turgott, James Ferry, Harry Beautyman
Forward(s)- Danny Newton, Alex Samuel
It’s been a busy summer at Stevenage as Darren Sarll’s transition from the Graeme Westley days continues. The club have made some very good acquisitions, the signings of Joe Martin and Blair Turgott standing out the most. Martin has spent the majority of his career playing above this level, with the likes of Tottenham, Gillingham and more recently Milwall. Turgott offers the side something different and may prove to be a good addition from non-league side Bromley.
Last years player of the season at the Lamex, was striker Matthew Godden. Godden scored 20 goals in 33 appearances in his breakthrough season in the Football League. Boro fans will be hoping that he stays fit and continues to produce the goods next season. However, he is going to need help if Stevenage are to push on after narrowly missing out on play offs last year. Neither Newton or Samuel look like they have the quality to do this immediately. A good option to lighten the load on Godden is Barry Corr. He underwent knee surgery in January 2016 and his injuries severely hindered his opportunities at Cambridge. But, should he get fit again he has shown before that he knows exactly where the goal is. The striker was instrumental in Southend’s promotion out of this league and if he gets the game time, he will get the goals. It would be a risk, but one that could pay off. Jordan Slew was released by Plymouth and would not be a bad player to have as a back up, should he need to be called upon.
It is mainly in attack that the club needs to strengthen, as they look promising in defence and midfield. Luke Wilkinson and Fraser Franks is a good centre back partnership at this level and with the addition of Joe Martin they seem to be set. Tom Pett is a player I’ve personally been impressed by, having watched him on a number of occasions now. The midfielder featured in 40 of Stevenage’s 46 games last season and I look forward to seeing what he brings to the side next campaign.
Forest Green Rovers
Defender(s)- Lee Collins, Callum Evans, Scott Laird
Midfielder(s)- Reece Brown, Charlie Cooper
The main goal at the New Lawn this season would have been to bring in as many players as possible with Football League experience. So far, all five of their signings have this, despite some of it being very limited. Fans will be hoping that they are able to keep hold of the aforementioned captain Liam Noble, who has been linked with Notts County. Noble was the man who led the side out at Wembley for their play off final.
Defender Ethan Pinnock signed for Barnsley yesterday for an undisclosed fee, as the Tykes continue to poach some of the best players from the lower divisions. Pinnock played at both centre back and left back during his time in Nailsworth and the club will be hoping they can bring someone in with more experience at this level to give them the best chance of staying up. A player we included in a who to sign for the other day, was defender Niall Keown of Reading. He would be a good replacement for Pinnock at Forest Green as he goes in search of first team minutes. He would likely get an entire season of first team football and that will be exactly what Jaap Stam will be looking for.
Chairman Dale Vince has previously mentioned how he uses computerised statistical analysis in order to recruit players. He looks at a player’s history, games played, strengths and weaknesses. We are yet to see if he will continue to implement this policy now the club has league status on the line, but we cannot see why not. A similar policy is used at Brentford in the championship, so the evidence is there to suggest it can work. This may make predicting Forest Green signings harder than the majority of clubs, without all of the relevant statistics being easily accessable. Forest Green may not be the desired destination for a number of current league players, but money talks. Also, no one can deny there is a project going on at the club; there are plans of increasing the capacity, creating an eco-park and progressing through the leagues as quickly as possible. If players can buy into manager Mark Cooper’s ambition then I expect at least another three signings at the club to make them ready for their maiden League Two campaign.
Thanks for reading the fifth edition of this feature. Sharing the post would be greatly appreciated and if you have any opinions on anything in this article, tweet me at @FL2Blogger. As always, I look forward to hearing from you. The final edition comes tomorrow, where I will be looking at Cheltenham, Cambridge, Port Vale and Yeovil Town.