Eddie Howe has worked wonders in the transfer market, writes Adam Haworth.
This time last year, we were all fearing the worst. Danny Fox had not yet left for Southampton, but reports of a move for both Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears to Bolton Wanderers were filtering through, signalling – if not reaffirming – the notion of a very frustrating summer for Eddie Howe in his first summer window. But this year it’s been different.
Last July, Jamie Smith hoped that the signings would start to flood through. That never happened. Ben Mee and Kieran Trippier joined on loan from Man City and Keith Treacy, Zavon Hines and Junior Stanislas signed to bolster the attacking options. Despite these arrivals, Howe was seemingly unable to capture his first choice targets, while losing some of his best players to other clubs – and this does not make for a very successful summer transfer window for any manager of any club.
Howe had vowed to correct his mistakes (or Club-wide mistakes) this summer and so far he’s done just that. Jason Shackell, who was one of his top targets last summer, joined the day before pre-season started, with Luke O’Neill and George Porter coming in before that. More recently, Joseph Mills has joined the ranks, bringing Howe’s back-four recruitment drive to an end. All of these before the start of August – and seemingly being first choice targets – reflects very well on Howe.
There seems to be a better vibe about the Club this summer. Obviously there are still the stubborn nay-sayers who are unwilling to dream, but generally Howe’s recruitment so far can hardly be questioned. In fact the only thing that can be questioned is his acquisition of George Porter, who seemingly has a bit of an attitude problem (although what fans say and what players are really are often poles apart and in this case may be more of an image problem), but even then, he’s a young player on a reasonably low fee who presents little risk for the Club.
Shackell is sure to be a leader at the back and with young players alongside him this is a vital role (one that was adopted by Michael Duff last season, who has to stop playing at some point!). O’Neill presents cover at right-back and should develop into a replacement for Trippier if he leaves next summer. Mills can be explained by Ben Mee preferring to play in the middle, which means Lafferty and Mills are the only two real options of left-backs at the club. It remains to be seen which one will be first choice. Overall, the defensive bolstering leaves me happy. We have two specialist full-backs for each side as well as David Edgar, Duff, Shackell and Mee for the middle. Competition for places is what we always want and now we most definitely have it.
Now, as we look to the rest of the window, Howe can round off this transfer window successfully by doing three things. The first is to sign a midfielder, which he appears to be doing in chasing Brian Stock (although he missed out on Adam Clayton, we’ll conveniently forget about that). Stock would be a solid signing if he doesn’t get injured as he has been at Doncaster in his time there.
As well as this, he needs to sign another striker. We’ve been linked with Brett Pitman of Bristol City and while we’ve heard nothing on that front for a while, it could still happen. Another option is Sam Vokes of Wolves. He impressed me (with what I saw of him) whilst on loan here and could be a solid addition to the squad, providing another attacking option should we need it. Vokes is currently on tour with the Wolves squad and his future hasn’t yet been made clear by new Wolves boss Ståle Solbakken and he’s likely to take a look at all nine strikers currently on Wolves’s books before coming to a decision. ((Update on 23/7/12 at 17.35: New Wolves boss has now cleared Sam Vokes to leave the club.)) The future of ex-Claret Steven Fletcher might also have an impact on that possible Vokes deal.
The third thing he needs to do is to retain his current squad. We cannot be losing players once we have strengthened, but I am confident the board will acknowledge this. After all, they’ve publically declared they don’t need to sell any more players this window, although Chris McCann has been linked with a switch to Norwich City. Another thing people will hope Howe has on his list is a new first-team goalkeeper, but that’s unlikely to happen with Brian Jensen and Jon Stewart signing new deals to join Lee Grant in the club’s goal-keeping lineup.
Howe has been a credit in the transfer market so far and while fans criticise some moves for young prospects, it’s a good thing that Howe acts as he wishes and is assertive yet patient in his efforts to land his targets. But there’s still some time to go and we all know how quickly things can change. As of now, though, Howe’s done brilliantly this window in identifying weaknesses and acting upon them professionally and with extreme patience.
Who would you like to see Howe bring in? Comment below.