Keane’s Christmas wish-list as window prepares to open
“OUR squad is simply not strong enough, and we need to find a way of scoring more goals – or we’ll get nowhere.”
Roy Keane’s blunt message on the eve of Ipswich’s confidence-boosting win in the snow against Leicester City summed it up perfectly – expect the January transfer window to be busy.
This of course brings with it some fear. David Norris and Gareth McAuley are both nearing the end of their contracts and Premiership scouts continue to circle Connor Wickham.
But the club captain has talked of “unfinished business” in Suffolk, while the injuries suffered by McAuley and Wickham this season might have inadvertently taken them off the radar.
Assuming the trio all stay, something that is completely plausible, Keane can turn his focus to strengthening his squad.
He has more than hinted that a new striker will be top of his January sales list. Regardless of the fantastic three goals plundered past the Foxes, Keane’s eternal quest for someone who could challenge the league’s top scorers has again fallen short.
Jason Scotland has teasingly looked like the man in parts but Wickham and Tamas Priskin have had their own stop-start seasons, and while Rory Fallon’s work rate and hold-up play has surprised many, neither of these attributes are going to score goals.
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Signing the right striker in January is key to ensuring Town do not fall into a relegation dogfight and indeed look towards a top six that they remain just seven points off.
Keane must decide whether to delve into the deep squads of a Premiership side and try and tempt someone to step down. Leon Best has struggled with Newcastle, James Vaughan has returned to being on the fringes at Everton from his loan spell at Crystal Palace, while Kevin Phillips would always be an exciting short-term option – even at the not-too-sprightly age of 37.
The days when Ipswich could entice someone from a Championship rival might be a little way off while they flirt with the lower regions, so that could exclude Watford’s Danny Graham for example. But the same might not apply to Leicester’s Matt Fryatt, who has been pushed down the pecking order by Sven Goran Eriksson, or former Arsenal forward Jeremie Aliadiere, who would be available on a free transfer after being released by Middlesbrough in the summer.
Then there are the obvious talents from the lower leagues.
Step forward Adam Le Fondre (Rotherham), Charlie Austin (Swindon), Craig Mackail-Smith (Peterborough) or Bradley Wright-Phillips (Plymouth). These are not names merely plucked out of the air, but players who should be genuine targets for any forward-thinking Championship team.
And there is room for improvement in other areas, especially if the likes of Jake Livermore and Jack Colback do not extend their loan spells.
Andy Reid, a man signed by Keane at Sunderland, could be available to add some much-needed creativity to the side, his loan spell at Sheffield United is up next month.
The right-back spot has been a particular bane for Town this season and the latest incumbent, Gianni Zuiverloon, is set to depart next month. If he cannot be convinced to extend his loan spell, then a new man has to be brought in.
Expect Keane to look to bring in a proven defender, someone like Stuart Parnaby from Birmingham City.
It seems Keane will be looking for characters, streetwise players, call them what you will. But a Lee Carsley or Robbie Savage might be more hard to find at this stage of the season.
MY VERDICT: I would like to see Keane go for someone young and hungry. While maybe now is not the time to take a chance, Town fans need something to get excited about, and raw potential can do that. Though the manager has history in delving into the reserve teams of the Premier League, I think he should look below the Championship at either Austin or Le Fondre. In this current footballing climate, neither would cost the earth.
- WHAT do you think? Should a striker be top of Roy Keane’s wish-list or is there other areas for improvement? Should someone like McAuley or Wickham be sacrificed to bring in more money and therefore more players? Tell us your thoughts at email@example.com.