With another action packed transfer window drawing to a close, Head of Player Recruitment Lloyd Kerry believes the side have reason for optimism in the season ahead.
Kerry said: “I think we have a really strong squad. Right across the board there is competition for places which is what we wanted to build at the start of the summer.
“The lads are starting to build their understanding of each other, coming in you can see those connections are building and I think we are in a really good place.”
With both Matty Daly and Matty Foulds making their loan spells permanent, Kerry is pleased that the club have managed to build on improvements made in the January transfer window.
“Last January was a great window for us. We strengthened in a number of key areas and our form from then showed just where we were at. The experience of guys like Anthony O’Connor, Tom Eastman and Levi Sutton was mixed with characters like Kazeem Olaigbe and it blended well.
“Coming into this window, we wanted to keep key players like Matty Foulds, Matty Daly and Tom Eastman. Thankfully we managed to get two of the those over the line unfortunately with Easty it just didn’t happen.
“We expressed our interest and did everything we could to bring him back here. However, he has a family and kids who are in school so there was a lot of things to be taken in to consideration.
“We always knew that it was going to be difficult, we were always preparing for in case it didn’t happen and thankfully we managed to bring in a top quality replacement in Rod McDonald.”
While pleased with the calibre of our new signings, Kerry admits the timing of our business could not have been any better.
“Part of my job is to plan ahead. I am always looking at who is out of contract, who could help improve the squad and then it’s all about identifying targets as early as possible.
“From there, we can make approaches to agents and players because we are always looking to get deals done quickly. That is something which definitely worked in our favour over the course of the summer.”
With summer signing Matty Daly shining in our last home match against Salford, Town’s recruitment chief believes this performance is a sign of things to come in the yellow & black.
“I think Matty is a really important signing for us. He proved last season with his eight goals that he can score goals at this level. Already this season, he has picked up a couple of assists and you can see that he is an intelligent footballer.
“When the opportunity came to sign him permanently we moved quickly. We have given him the opportunity to play and you can see he is enjoying his football. In our last home match against Salford, you could see the quality which he possesses and hopefully now he can kick on.”
Looking back at this time last season, Kerry believes the improvement is clear.
“I think we have a stronger squad than we had this time last season. We have more options across the pitch and the competition for places is great. I also think we have a good mixture of experience at this level alongside some promising talents who look really exciting.
“At left-back, we lost Jahiem Headley in January after Huddersfield recalled him. We had to bring a left-back in and Matty Foulds became available. He is a really good player and as a staff we really like his qualities.
“He was part of a really solid back four during the second half of last season and when we had the opportunity to make it permanent it just made sense. Of course, we have Liam Gibson who can play in there too but having that calibre of competition bodes well for the season ahead.”
Speaking further on the addition of Liam Gibson, the former Town midfielder said: “There was a lot of interest in Liam. We knew of clubs at our level who were keen but there was also clubs at the level above who wanted him. Location wise I think it played into our hands, he is a North East lad but he was also impressed by the vision of the club which the management had.
“We are all really pleased to have him in. He has shown his quality since the start of the season and I think he will be a really good player for us moving forward.”
With a resolute backline in the final months of last season, Kerry has revealed that the club were keen to build on that in the current campaign.
“We identified players who we thought who could carry that defensive solidity on moving forward and so far I think we are showing signs that this group can do that.
“That’s my job and I make a list of potential players to do that and with Rod we signed a player who had just won the Player of the Year award with Crewe last season.
“We knew exactly what we were getting in terms of ability. Off the pitch, he is a clear leader which is what we wanted to bring in. We are absolutely delighted to have him, as soon as we knew that he was keen to join the whole process moved quickly and thankfully he joined us.”
With the club adding several experienced players in the early weeks of the transfer window, Kerry believes this strong start allowed the club to continue to improve.
“We knew the positions we needed to fill and the players who we wanted to do that. I think it helped to get a couple of experienced lads in early. Looking elsewhere, I believe that helped us to attract more good players because they could see that we were serious in what we were trying to do.
“Someone like Dean Cornelius, we watched a lot of footage on him. I went to Scotland to watch him play in person so when we had the chance to get him in, we had to move quickly. Dean wanted an opportunity in England so I think we were a good fit for each other.”
With Cornelius being recruited from North of the border, Town’s Head of Recruitment has hinted that this could be a market which will be further explored in the future.
“We do look across a number of leagues. We knew that we wanted to add someone in that position and having come across Dean he ticked all those boxes. He has good energy, he gets around the pitch well and has leadership qualities.
“For me, that is a market we have to look into and I would say Scotland is an area which we will look at more often moving forward.”
Town’s recruitment drive continued with the likes of James Daly and Lewis Thomas being added to our ranks in quick succession. These are players who Kerry holds high hopes for.
“We had Lewis training with us at the back end of last season and he really impressed us. He is a big lad and has a lot of really good attributes. He has to buy his time because Mark Oxley is doing really well at this point but we feel he has real potential.
“James is another player who we watched closely last season. We watched him on a number of occasions and liked what we saw. He is quick, direct and has an unbelievable work rate. Looking at all his qualities he was definitely a Harrogate Town type of player. Those qualities are ones which can be utilisied in League Two.
“He adds to the healthy competition in the attacking positions. Like the rest of the forwards, he knows that he has to be bang on it when he plays or someone will take his place.”
With Abraham Odoh joining from recently relegated Rochdale, Kerry admits that he was pleased by what he saw in difficult circumstances.
“We knew Kazeem probably wouldn’t be coming back. Heading into the summer we wanted to add that type of player to the group. Abraham takes players on, he gets fans out their seat and excites so to bring him in permanently is a big boost for us.
“Abraham has a lot of ability and always stood out when we watched him for Rochdale. He played in a team which was low on confidence but he was always looking for the ball.
“We were impressed by the fact that he was always looking to make things happen and when he became available we wanted to bring him to the football club.
“We feel like we can develop him as a player. We want to give him the confidence to kick on and you can see from his goal against Salford that he is starting to do that.”
With only one of the club’s signings joining on loan, the former Town midfielder believes the club are in a stronger position to improve.
“Naturally, I think there comes a point where you hope that a group of players can stay together. We have been able to do that by bringing in players on permanent deals. Last year I think we had too many loans and now we only have one.
“Of course, we want to build a squad which can gel and be settled moving forward. Signing permanent players allows us to do that as we keep moving forward.”
The club’s final two transfers were completed on a busy deadline day as we looked set to lose Luke Armstrong. With this in mind, Josh March and Jeremey Sivi were added to the attacking ranks and Town’s recruitment chief believes these additions leave Town with a high quality attacking line-up.
“The situation with Luke was well documented, it wasn’t until the final day of the window that our valuation for him was matched. From there, we had to see what was out there in terms of quality which was difficult because he is one of the best strikers in League Two.
“Josh March is someone who we knew well, Jeremy Sivi is one who we had watched for a long time so we were really happy with those signings.
“Circumstances dictate that Luke is still with us and we now have a really strong attacking line-up which we are looking forward to seeing in action.”
While the current window may have just closed, the former Town midfielder has revealed that work is already underway to prepare for the January transfer window.
“I am still getting out there, watching players and trying to plan for the next two transfer windows. You’re always looking at players in every position to see how they could develop.
“We will see where we are at around Christmas, make a list of areas where we could potentially improve and from there look to move when the window opens.”