On behalf of everybody at Bolton Wanderers Football Club, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and I hope that you all have a wonderful time with your loved ones over the festive period.
At this time of year there is always a great deal of discussion about bringing players in to strengthen the squad.
Often this is placed in the media by agents who are trying to move their players on who are not getting a game, or are not happy at their current club.
Experience has taught me that January is not the best time to bring new faces in, as unlike the summer window when you have the pre-season to settle them in and become familiar with their new team mates, there is not sufficient time in January for this.
Basically, they have to be ready and able to hit the ground running and settle in immediately, which is not always possible if they have not been playing regularly and they need time to get match fit and sharp.
Unfortunately, recruitment is not an exact science and again experience has taught me to take your time in deciding on which players and positions to bring in, particularly in January when often you have not been able to scout them in recent matches, as more often than not they have not been playing.
Generally speaking, it is a case of not jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
In our current situation this has never been more important, as we already have an eligible squad of 33 players and l have to weigh up the ability of the manager being able to manage a squad of this size, let alone increase it and still keep the players happy when they are not being selected for the matchday squad.
A great deal of managers at all levels have commented on this over the years and generally speaking, the conventional wisdom is that 23/24 is a maximum ideal squad size.
I also have to take into account the great spirit and camaraderie that we currently have within the current group of players, which has been clear for everyone to see on match days and it is vitally important that we don’t lose this.
As l have previously stated the scouting and recruitment team have been actively scouting players for several months that the manager thinks will improve the squad and a short list has been produced.
I have set the ground rules running along the lines that any new player coming in has to be match fit and ready to challenge for a berth in the match day squad and to enhance immediately the quality we already have.
We don’t have the luxury of taking our time to acclimatise them or get them match fit.
I have also taken a great deal of time recently looking at the current squad statistics with particular emphasis on our recent recruitment and contract renewals to see if there is anything to be learnt.
The stand out statistic that l was looking for is the number of starts that each of these players has made.
To be honest, in several cases, the stats were generally disappointing and makes me realise that l need to take a long, hard look at future recruitment decisions, as in all honesty, a number of the players we recruited in the past 12 months have had very few starts.
Indeed, the actual playing time of a number of the players has also been very disappointing. We already have too many players who are regularly not making the match day squad and are on the periphery and we must ensure that we don’t add to this number when bringing players in.
I have made it absolutely clear to the manager that we need to have a balanced and manageable squad and before l can consider bringing players in he will need to trim the current squad size of those who have had little or no game time of late
Unfortunately, as it currently stands the reality is that we can no longer compare ourselves with the ‘big’ teams in the Sky Bet Championship, as we just don’t have their financial muscle.
For example, the average attendance at Championship clubs so far this season is 20,228 compared to ours of 15,343.
Obviously, the so called ‘big’ teams are getting even higher attendances than the average figure, which obviously makes the reality worse than the stats show.
To put this in to financial perspective, based on our crowds at the end of last season, we are missing out on circa £3million of potential income a season and it is this money that would help make the club financially sustainable and in a much better position to compete with these ‘big’ clubs.
As l have said in the past, my sole aim is get this club back to where it belongs. However, to achieve that, we need to first ensure that we retain our Championship status this season and build on it next season.
No one wants to be relegated and have to start the process all over again and that is why l am constantly urging everyone who supports the club to come along and get behind the team.
Marc IIes from The Bolton News made an interesting comment recently about the only way to get people coming back is by winning games. I cannot disagree with his comments, but it does bring to mind the old chicken and egg conundrum.
As has already been said, we have two important home games coming up and as always, the more of you who come along and get behind the team, the more intimidating it is for the opposition.
Let’s be loud, let’s be proud and let’s get behind the boys.