Free signings don’t always signal a lack of ambition, writes Andrew Frost.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never really been Lee Grant’s biggest fan. However, the fact we let go one of our better performers last season, to a rival club, is slightly concerning.
If Grant really has returned to Derby for personal reasons, then there was probably little Sean Dyche could do. However, the move did get me thinking and I asked myself: why do we never sign players on pre-contract agreements?
There has been much debate recently, especially on this site, over whether the club lacks ambition and I’m sure the term ‘free transfer’ will provoke further sighs from many of you.
But it shouldn’t.
There have been plenty of quality players who been released over recent seasons, yet Burnley have failed to take advantage of any for one reason or another. In fact you have to go right back to 2005 and the arrival of Wade Elliot to truly find a freebie that has gone on to play a major role for the club.
The club’s decision not to sign any free agents since – barring Christian Kalvenes – is staggering when you consider the gain other teams have resulted from. Take a look at Hull City, who won promotion last weekend. For large parts of the season they relied heavily on the creativity and goals of Sone Aluko – a free signing from Rangers. Another side within the top six, Brighton, have benefited massively from the form of right-back, Bruno – again, a free signing.
The Football League is littered with players who have been signed on free transfers. Other notable out of contract players who went on to have decent seasons last term include Danny Shittu, Luke Varney and Ricardo Fuller.
So with Dyche seemingly expected to operate with little financial leeway during the summer, it would be smart idea for him to take a look at some of the players available for no fee this summer.
After looking at the lists of players out of contract via Transfer Markt I’ve picked out five players who could be realistic signings and ones that would add quality to the squad. It should be noted that some of these players might well be offered new contracts with their current clubs.
Wales international Simon Church maybe an option to bolster our strike force should Martin Paterson leave the club this summer. Having not played a game for Reading this season, the 24-year-old is seemingly not part of Nigel Adkins’ plans and it has been reported he is keen for regular first team football. The forward was a key member of the Royals side that won promotion last year and despite his modest goal record, he has undoubted quality at this level.
What Burnley missed for large parts of last season was a natural holding midfielder. With Brian Stock seemingly not part of Dyche’s future plans, Bailey could provide a more than adequate replacement with his drive and ability to recycle possession. The former Charlton man is a proven Championship performer so he is bound to have a number of options upon leaving Teesside, but the 28-year-old could be one Dyche fancies due to his ability to play a number of different positions.
Blackpool crazily have 37 players out of contract this summer. One of those is Alex Baptiste and it has to be noted that the Tangerines are expected to offer the defender a new deal. Admittedly he is likely to sign, but why not try and tempt him like Derby managed to do with Grant? A solid performer at Championship level and with Premier League experience the former Mansfield man could prove to be a shrewd acquisition if he was to move across Lancashire.
Pivotal to Palace’s unexpected rise to the summit of the table this year has been the form of midfielder Owen Garvan. Having struggled in his first couple of seasons at Selhurst Park, the Irishman has flourished this year in a midfield three and has contributed four goals and six assists to the Eagles. The 25-year-old is reportedly a target for former manager Dougie Freedman at Bolton, but should Palace miss out on a return to the Premier League we could do worse than bidding for Garvan’s services for next season.
One player who has already been linked with the Clarets has been Brentford’s influential midfielder Harry Forrester. The former Aston Villa man is out of contract at the end of the season and is so far keeping his options open until after the Bees’ play-off final against Yeovil next week. Should Brentford lose, there is bound to be a number of higher division clubs trying to tempt the 22-year-old to leave Griffin Park. Blessed with tricky feet and an ability to score crucial goals, Forrester should be one Dyche is looking at to provide some much needed creativity to Burnley’s front-line.
Other notable freebies who may be realistic targets include Simeon Jackson, Marc Tierney, Lee Camp and Patrick McCarthy.
Do any of these take your fancy? Have a look at the database and tell us which free signings you’d like to see arrive at the Turf.