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Opinion: Transfer planning has begun in earnest

As news begins to rumble about player moves I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t also been thinking about the upcoming summer

Crawley Town v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet League Two
Dapo and Santos: Our key men are also wanted men
Photo by Rob Newell - CameraSport via Getty Images

The season is far from over and yet the talk of summer has already begun. In the last couple of weeks we have learned that Fulham are seriously interested in acquiring star winger, Dapo Afolayan, a host of Championship teams are interested in Ricardo Santos and Marlon Fossey is making his permanent move uncertain with every brilliant performance drawing the gaze of wannabe suitors.

The Dapo news really plays with my head and heart. My heart says that he is probably one of my favourite players of all time. A bold statement for someone who grew up idolising Stelios, Okocha, Campo and the like but I genuinely think he makes it up there for me. I love his attitude effort and intelligence on the pitch and its so rare to find someone as audaciously skilled as him with those attributes. I’d dearly love for him to stay here forever (give your head a wobble if you think his last 4 or so games are anything more than a temporary dip).

My head says that we’d likely get upwards of £2M for him as a conservative estimate (I’d be stubborn at trying to get to £3M). At League 1 level, even the smaller fee could completely change a squad. That sort of cash gets you 5 or so top, top League 1 players, more if you’re smart with it like we were in January. Even if you didn’t spend it all at once it covers the club for several windows. By selling one of the best players in the division you could make us the best overall team.

If the Fulham interest is legit, it would be a hell of a move for him. They’re a team who consistently play in the Premier League and boss the Championship when they’re in it. I couldn’t begrudge him that type of step up. One large caveat is his love of playing week in, week out. He might struggle to get that at Fulham and I don’t think he’d want to move to be a bit part player.

As for Santos there is less to say. He’s stated he just wants to focus on the season before starting renewal talks which I think is thoroughly sensible. He’d be a hard one to replace but the club must look after its financial future first and foremost. If it looks like talks will not be successful in the summer we MUST sell him whilst we can still command a fee. I dearly hope he stays but the days of this club letting their best assets leave for nothing has to be left in the last decade.

Enough of the outgoings, what about our business? Ian Evatt has already stated it will be a quieter summer thanks to the sterling business we did in January. Aaron Morley, Kieran Sadlier, Kyle Dempsey, Dion Charles, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Marlon Fossey and James Trafford all joined two months ago and have transformed this team from strugglers to play-off contenders (nearly). Certainly this amount of business will limit the amount we need to do in summer leaving only a couple of positions that require fresh faces.

To start with the obvious we need to replace those who are currently on loan. James Trafford has displayed what we want from a keeper and I think it will be simple enough to get him back for another season. I wouldn’t be against seeing if there is someone of comparable quality on a free transfer but I don’t see the need to get too clever with such an important position. Dixon is more than capable as a back up keeper at this level.

Marlon Fossey is going to be harder to keep every week he plays. I’d be very surprised if there isn’t a host of Championship clubs attempting to gazump us come summer. Fulham are well within their rights to sell him to the highest bidder as he’ll have a year left on his deal. I do hope he makes a point of coming back having enjoyed his football so much. In the very possible situation where he doesn’t, a certain Peter Kioso is still not contracted beyond this season. I’d honestly have both him and Fossey at the club as I think they could play in a couple of different positions each but if we can’t have Fossey I’d definitely want to try for Kioso. We’d have firm competition, make no mistake but he’d be brilliant addition. With Geth playing RCB we’d probably need another RWB if we couldn’t get Fossey and Kioso.

On the left side we could use a bit more competition for Declan John. Who? I’m not sure but I will say that I would offer Gordon a new deal. He might not be at the point where he can push John just yet but I think people forget how young he still is and that he’s only just entered the professional game. A bit of time in our new U23 team next year and League 2 loan and I think he’ll be an asset to this team in years to come.

The main focus of the window has to be at CB for me. We have good CBs at the moment but I don’t think the depth and quality is on par with the other positions. Santos is a brick wall but has shown to be far better with a defensive general stood beside him. Johnston and Aimson are both good but the former has had patchy form this year and the latter is probably not ideally suited to the system. As for Gethin Jones I’m still not sure if a permanent switch would suit him or us.

Bolton need to go out this summer and find their ‘Van Dijk’. A marquee CB who is one of the best technically in the league but also enhances those around him with his intelligence and leadership. Clubs seldom get the chance to go after a player like that as they normally have a host of other positions to fill but that is what our January has done for us, allowed us to focus on one or two big quality moves in the summer. I’d be genuinely happy to see the club spend the majority of their budget on such a CB because much like Van Dijk at Liverpool, I can see it being a transformative acquisition if we got it right. Some have suggested Ross Sykes at Accrington Stanley who is no doubt a fantastic CB. It’d be up to the scouts to decide if he had all the leadership and intelligence qualities we’re also after. I’d be interested to hear who people think would make a plausible target.

If we had some spare cash after 1 x LWB. 2 x RWB and 1 x CB. I wouldn’t be against trying to find some legitimate competition for MJ Williams as well. He’s the one midfielder who doesn’t have competition at the moment and that’s not good for anyone.

Time to bring it back to the here and now for now. The season’s not over yet and there’s still a slim chance this list might have to change depending on what League we’re in next year.