Joseph Pope


Joseph Pope – @OffTheLineBlog

Joseph picks out more players who could be on Gary Johnson’s radar this summer

Good morning all,

Another weekend closer to the start of the new season and another transfer article.

The rumoured signings were not completed, or at least announced, as expected at the end of last week, and so gives me the chance to talk through the last batch of transfer targets, looking at where our squad is short, where we need to strengthen and who I would like to fill these gaps.

Personally, I think we need 9 players. Obviously, with Lucas Covolan moving on to Port Vale and Shaun MacDonald on trial at Dundee, we need 2 goalkeepers. With Joe Lewis the only recognised centre-half, and the loan for Sam Sherring potentially not coming to fruition given AFC Bournemouth’s potential desire to test him at a higher level, we also require two central defenders. I also think that we need a back-up utility full-back potentially capable of covering on both sides for Ben Wynter and Dean Moxey. With Ben Whitfield moving on, plus Aaron Nemane seemingly to do likewise, and only Jake Andrews left on the books, we also need two wingers. Finally, with Danny Wright getting no younger and Waters and Umerah both moving on, two strikers are also needed.

As such, that makes for 9 new signings, taking our squad to 17, 19 if you include Slough and Koszela. Here are the 9 players that I think we should target.

GK 1: Marek Stech (Permanent signing from Mansfield Town)

We start this list with a name that first came to light right at the start of the close season, one that hasn’t yet come to fruition, but one that I expect will do so over the coming weeks, perhaps even this week coming. He was omitted from Mansfield Town’s squad ahead of their game at Retford Town, and so his future clearly does not lie at Field Mill. He would require a fee to be paid, although we know all too well how Johnson is cute in the market in being able to get players to cancel their contracts and sign on a free, and this may well be another useful option here. Granted, he had a poor campaign for The Stags last term, but under a keeper such as Gary Johnson whom he has excelled before, I am confident he would flourish under Johnson. He has also good experience of gaining promotion before with Luton Town and of course Yeovil Town, and so as an experienced goalkeeper available to Johnson, Stech would perhaps be the most impressive and easily attainable.


Position: Goalkeeper

Date of Birth: 29th January 1990 – 31 years-old

Height: 1.91m

Former Clubs: Sparta Prague, West Ham, Wycombe, Bournemouth, Yeovil, Leyton Orient, Luton, Mansfield 

League Stats 20-21: Played 24, Goals Conceded 29, Clean Sheets 6

GK 2: Carl Rushworth (Loan signing from Brighton and Hove Albion)

Stech provides us with the experienced goalkeeping option, and so now for a younger goalkeeper to be his understudy. Rushworth is another that really impressed in non-league, and I think that he would transition well in being our back-up after a spell with Worthing. During his time at Worthing, he proved himself to be an able goalkeeper with an athleticism and was part of a Mackerel Men side that played an attractive, free-flowing brand of football under Adam Hinshelwood, and so is comfortable on the ball. We know all too well about what signing goalkeepers from Worthing does – with Lucas Covolan coming from there two years ago – and he would represent a really impressive addition in my opinion. Brighton and Hove Albion have a track record for bringing through good young players, and so I think he deserves a chance at National League level.


Position: Goalkeeper

Date of Birth: 2nd July 2001 – 20 years-old

Height: Unknown

Former Clubs: Huddersfield, Halifax, Worthing

League Stats 20-21: N/A 

CB 1: Jake Wright (Permanent signing, free agent)

One word: experience. Granted, Sam Sherring and Joe Lewis did a fantastic job for us last season in marshalling the back four in the absence of Cameron, and I would be happy to have Sherring and Lewis as our starting two defenders this time around, but I think that if we are to get promoted to the Football League and make that next step-up, then we need experience at the back; the impact of Gary Liddle at Hartlepool United just underlines the importance of that. Wright is a free agent after leaving Mansfield Town, and is someone with a good amount of experience in the Football League and in captaining sides, and so would also be a good leader to have at the back in organising the back-line. He is a calm and assured defender, and is a good option for us to explore.


Position: Centre Back

Date of Birth: 11th March 1986 – 35 years-old

Height: 1.80m

Former Clubs: Bradford, Halifax, Crawley, Brighton, Oxford, Sheff Utd, Bolton, Hereford, Mansfield 

League Stats 20-21: Played 2, Goals 0, Bookings 1

CB 2: Ed Francis (Permanent signing, free agent)

The second centre half and a name that is perhaps not the most well-known is former Harrogate Town player Ed Francis. While naturally a centre back and perhaps not the most physically imposing of players, the main reason he is included on this selection is for the versatility that he possesses in being able to play in a number of positions. Francis played across the whole back four for Harrogate Town last season, and also featured in midfield on occasions, and I think that he would be a really valuable addition in providing us with cover in a number of areas. He has a good grounding having come through with Manchester City, much like Nemane, and also has experience of captaining the Wolves Under-23’s and leading them to the Premier League 2 division title. I think he is one we should look at.


Position: Centre Back

Date of Birth: 11th September 1999 – 21 years-old

Height: 1.82m

Former Clubs: Man City, Almere City, Wolves, Grasshoppers, Harrogate 

League Stats 20-21: Played 20, Goals 1, Bookings 2

FB: Jordan Hunter (Permanent signing from South Shields)

On this selection, I was always going to put on the list someone from lower league, and that mantle goes to full-back Jordan Hunter. Hunter is one of the best full backs in non league outside of the National League, and very much like Jamie Sterry – who similarly went from South Shields to getting success higher up the pyramid – Hunter is another that currently plays for South Shields and someone I think is well above the level they are at. He came through at Sunderland, and is a really positive, attacking full back who possesses real pace and power, and the slight body shape and dynamism to get up in support of the attack and carry the ball well. He would demand a transfer fee, but I think he should be someone we ship out the money for. He is adept on either side, although naturally on the right, and I think that if we don’t sign him, someone at our level or above will.


Position: Full Back

Date of Birth: 6th December 1999 – 21 years-old

Height: Unknown

Former Clubs: Liverpool, Sunderland

League Stats 20-21: N/A

WING 1: James Dayton (Permanent signing, free agent)

The first name on this list who I have talked about in previous transfer target articles is former Leyton Orient winger James Dayton. He is an experienced operator, perhaps a more intelligent operator than Whitfield and Nemane, and given his experience of being promoted before from this division under Gary Johnson, it would make a lot of sense for Johnson to go back in for Dayton this summer. Dayton is perhaps better suited on the right, but his qualities are highlighted by good control of the football in providing good delivery into the box with his wand of a left foot, and so I think is equally adept on the left.


Position: Winger

Date of Birth: 12th December 1988 – 32 years-old

Height: 1.71m

Former Clubs: Crystal Palace, Yeovil, Crawley, Kilmarnock, Oldham, St Mirren, Cheltenham, Leyton Orient

League Stats 20-21: Played 12, Goals 0, Bookings 0

WING 2: Jordan Maguire-Drew (Permanent signing, free agent)

The second winger that features on here and the second to move to Plainmoor having been released by Leyton Orient at the end of the campaign is Jordan Maguire-Drew. He ended the season with Crawley Town and impressed for them, and it would perhaps not be a surprise for him to return on a permanent basis, but I would like Johnson to get him instead. Maguire-Drew has really impressed at this level before with Dagenham and Redbridge, and given that he was signed by a manager in John Still who has a proven track record in lower leagues of finding a proper player, I would be confident he could do a job. He has pace and trickery, and I think would be a good addition.


Position: Winger

Date of Birth: 15th September 1997 – 23 years-old

Height: 1.80m

Former Clubs: Brighton, Dagenham, Lincoln, Coventry, Wrexham, Leyton Orient, Crawley 

League Stats 20-21: Played 29, Goals 3, Bookings 1

ST 1: AJ Leitch-Smith (Permanent signing, free agent)

Another name that I have already talked about as a potential signing during pre-season, Leitch-Smith edges out possible additions Nicky Maynard and Jamie Reid in being the main forward to join ahead of the new season. As mentioned before, Leitch-Smith is someone that I have always classed as an intelligent and hard-working forward, with experience and promotions to boot, and I think that he would represent a smarter addition than a 34 year-old Maynard and a return to former Gull Reid.


Position: Striker

Date of Birth: 6th March 1990 – 31 years-old

Height: 1.73m

Former Clubs: Crewe, Halifax, Newcastle Town, ÍBV Vestmannaeyjar, Curzon Ashton, Yeovil, Port Vale, Shrewsbury, Dundee, Morecambe

 League Stats 20-21: Played 5, Goals 1, Bookings 1

ST 2: Danny Whitehall (Permanent signing, free agent)

The final name on this list is Danny Whitehall. He is a free agent having departed Scottish side Kilmarnock at the end of the campaign, and would be the second striker to move from Kilmarnock to the National League ahead of the new season, with George Oakley going to Woking. Whitehall was rumoured to be on his way to Woking, but I would be happy with a move for the former Maidenhead United forward. Whitehall is a good size, hard-working and energetic forward that suits the Johnson-press really well and I think that he has real potential to be a valuable player. He had a strong campaign with Maidenhead United to earn him a move North of the border, and I think that he could provide us with the extra qualities we need.


Position: Striker

Date of Birth: 8th October 1995 – 25 years-old

Height: 1.90m

Former Clubs: Rochdale, Southport, Marine, Prescot Cables, SIUE Cougars, Hastings, Chattanooga, Bugeaters, Maidenhead, Kilmarnock 

League Stats 20-21: Played 16, Goals 2, Bookings 1


COYY – Joseph


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