Firstly, can I offer our deepest sympathies to the family of Sam Tonge. We were all deeply shocked at the news and our thoughts are with them at this very sad time.
We prepare for the season on a sombre note but remember him for his superb work within the club and community.
Moving on, the club has found itself in a slightly different position this season than the last few, with players moving on and changes taking place. For the last five seasons, we have built the team around our passion to get to the Championship and that still holds true, but we must take stock and re-evaluate our players, the way we play and how we can improve to reach our targets. Our team contained a few long-term injuries last season and 20-25% of our budget was taken up by players not playing due to these injuries, so looking back on it we did very well considering. However, we did not get promoted and a change is necessary to spark us going forward and we do that by bringing in new, quality players and giving a chance to the players who waited in the wings so patiently last season. What is the point of having those players if they do not get that chance?
We have had a good squad over the last few seasons, but probably carried four or five players too many and that needs to change, so we can give all our players an opportunity to play for the club. That is why we signed them and they deserve their chance. I am confident we will have a competitive and exciting team for 2018-19 and beyond, we shall invest for now and the future, giving players the opportunity not only to play at the top end of League One, but to follow their dreams of playing higher, either with us or by moving on. In both cases the club benefits alongside the player.
We have a new manager and assistant who will find it completely different now, building a squad, developing players and coaching the side for over 50 games of football and understanding what happens behind the scenes a little more. Nick and Andy have not been in this position before but I have full confidence in their ability and we will support them as much as we can, now and through the season, as they stamp their style and approach to management on this team. Previously they have been able to take the reins with all in place, however planning pre-season and having that ultimate responsibility will be challenging in many ways and I am looking forward to continuing the work here at Scunthorpe, with a fresh and new approach.
You may wonder why we haven’t just gone out and plucked eight players from the marketplace and I can understand the frustration, but we have a plan and one which will ensure we have the success of previous seasons. The targets we have are just that - targets, and we will not just sign players to fill the squad out, although I can't say we have missed out on anything as yet. The transfer market has been very slow and only now we find it actually moving, so I can assure you that signings are on their way and we are excited about every one of those players we bring in, whether they are experienced lads or ones we believe have the talent to bring excitement and value to the football club. Loans will be important to us and rather than bringing players in around January and giving them just half a season to settle in, we have approached this in a different way and will have these loan players in earlier and committed to the full season with us. This can mean a late arrival as their parent clubs make decisions later in pre-season, but the ones we have chosen will fit right in!
Several players have moved on. Murray has been an excellent player for us and wanted to play Championship football. A clause in his contract means we had to agree to him going, but the club had value from the player whilst he was here and on his transfer, and we wish him all the success going forward. He was a true professional when here and I only wish we could have got promoted with him in the side, he was a true warrior for us and owes us nothing. Hakeeb has moved on after not accepting a contract with us, on the table since October, which is disappointing as we believe all the work over the last six years had finally come to fruition. He played in 169 games and developed into the finished article this season only for someone in a higher league to benefit from that development which is disappointing. The only benefit to the club will be a substantial compensation deal, however we will miss his skill and the excitement he gave us when he was on the ball. He was the last player who was here when I first took over, so although I wish him the best at Bristol City I am disappointed we cannot see that here for a further season. Good luck Haks and rip it up!!
Sam Mantom, Luke Williams and Johnny Margetts move on after injury-hit careers and I really hope they stay fit and get the breaks they need as they are quality players who we could not tap into last season. Hopps and Bish continue their careers elsewhere and I would just like to publicly thank them and all the players who have moved on. We wish them all the best of luck.
So, we start to strengthen again, but with a fantastic base of players that I have full faith in. I cannot wait to watch the younger players and experienced players develop and play under Nick and Andy. We have players who are hungry for success and we are bringing players in who want exactly the same, with that attitude they will succeed and in that, so will Scunthorpe United.
Up the Iron