As we head towards mid-January, focus turns to the Winter Transfer Window. The Blackpool board will surely have targets in mind who have been analysed through the summer and over the season so far. But as well as looking at new faces, it’s also time to start looking at the summer transfer business – namely keeping hold of the existing players who are going into the last six months of their contracts.
Below, we take a look at which players are currently due to leave on a free transfer in the summer, and consider whether they should be kept or let go, as well as considering the context around why they may not have signed new deals – as Matty Virtue has – already.
Joining on an 18-month deal last January, Gary Goals started pre-season under Neil Critchley out of favour. But seven goals in all competitions this season has helped him form a formidable partnership with Jerry Yates and he’s one of our key attacking threats at the moment. Whilst the deal last season didn’t involve a transfer fee, it’s well documented that Madine is one of the highest earning players in the division and the club will be aware of the significant wage associated to him with this deal. It’s not just a consideration of whether Neil Critchley wants to keep him, but also if he’s worth the investment. With the backdrop of a global pandemic, which has cost Simon Sadler millions of pounds, can we afford to significantly back him again next season? And if not, will Madine be open to a wage drop?
Husband also signed an 18-month deal last January having initially joined in the previous summer on loan. That, bizarrely, makes him one of our longest serving players. Having had a nightmare start to the season with two sendings off – one which arguably cost us three points from a winning position at home to Lincoln, and the other in the first minute against Charlton – Husband has found some consistent form at left-back in the side. Husband is also likely to be one of our higher earning players though, given he joined Championship side Norwich from Middlesbrough on a three-year deal in 2017 and has played consistently at a higher level for the majority of his career. In the same bracket as Madine, there’s a financial consideration here as well as whether Critchley wants to keep him around. Potentially one attribute which will aid Husband’s cause is his ability to play in more than one position, which will be key next season when we have a reduced squad of 20.
Our longest serving player, Turton has made nearly 150 appearances for us – 23 of which have come this season as he’s become one of the first names on the team sheet under Critchley – impressing in his natural right-back position but also helping plug gaps at centre-back and centre-midfield. The 28-year-old signed a one-year extension in the summer on reduced terms, and has ultimately done enough to earn a further extension if he’s happy to do so. But he’s also earned the right to play the market and see what other options are out there, having shown his loyalty last season. He’s more versatile than Husband, and has played right-back, centre-back and centre-midfield this season, while has also covered at left-back in the past too which suggests he’s well worth an extension.
Joining on a one-year deal in the summer, Garbutt is likely another high earner having recently joined from Everton for whom he was on a five-year deal. The 27-year-old has impressed in his 11 appearances so far this season, but the board will be considering whether the finances are right on the deal to extend it to next season. Much will also depend on how we finish the season, as Garbutt likely has one eye on a move into the Championship.
If his deal is extended, I will eat my hat. Having never made a competitive appearance in tangerine, this signing will go down as an expensive mistake from the interim board. Devitt has spent the whole of the first 18 months out on loan in League Two – first at Bradford last season and more recently with Newport. His Newport loan expires this month and the club will surely be looking to move him on permanently this window given it’s clear his future lies elsewhere.
Shaw impressed in a number of positions in the summer and is one of our hottest young prospects in the youth team at the moment. Currently on loan with AFC Fylde, the 20-year-old has featured semi-regularly for Fylde in the National League North and will surely sign an extended deal in the summer as the club looks to tie him down.
Ward signed an 18-month deal last January alongside Husband and Madine, which expires in the summer but does have a one-year extension. Having initially struggled to have an impact on the side, he’s become a regular in centre-midfield this season under Critchley and was a stand-out performer against West Brom in the FA Cup. As with the others signed last January, it will also be a financial consideration as to whether we look to extend or let Ward go.
The only remaining player from last summer’s disastrous recruitment window, Sullay Kaikai has worked his way back into the side following injury in the early part of the season. That coincided with Blackpool’s upturn in form as he impressed in the first few appearances. More recently, his consistency has been pulled into question as his flashes of brilliance are becoming less frequent and he has a tendency to drift in and out of games. With a one-year option, it’s likely this deal will be extended through next season – though again there will be financial considerations associated to this decision.
Williams hasn’t featured in the league since October following an injury, having initially impressed in the side during his nine appearances in League One. A steady performer, and a different option to our other midfielders, he’s able to shore up our side – particularly against sides at the top end of the division when we’re away from home. The 12-month deal he signed in the summer has a one-year extension and you’d expect that to be extended if he can prove his fitness over the remainder of the season.
Young keeper Fojticek also joined on a 12-month deal last summer which contains a one-year extension. The jury is still out on whether Critchley and the board rate him, given he’s barely featured in the first team and clearly isn’t in consideration to compete with Chris Maxwell. It’s a coin toss on whether this one gets extended or if he gets let go when his existing contract expires.
As well as the ten players in the last six months of their deals – four of which have options for a further 12 months – there are also four players currently in the side on loan. Dan Ballard recently gained a loan extension to his deal whilst Ben Woodburn looks set to expire later this month. Dan Kemp and Jordan Gabriel are also on deals which run until the summer and we’ll need to consider whether we look to extend these further. All in all, that leaves us with just 15 players contracted for next season – something Critchley and the board will surely have one eye on during the January window.
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Image: Blackpool FC Official Site