Completing the jigsaw puzzle

Oxblogger’s only experience of football management was in Championship Manager. Playing an earlier, simpler version of the game (2, I think) I took Everton to the European Cup Final. My success was based on two things; millions in the bank (thus a hit and miss spending frenzy) and the chance discovery of a (fictional) player who was the Ronaldihno and Rooney of his generation. I had been idly trawling through the players database and there he was, 17 years old and all his attributes were 19s and 20s.

Is this how a real manager builds his squad? At the top of the game squad building is probably quite strategic. Alex Ferguson knows he needs a tough tackling midfielder to replace Roy Keane, but he’s been through many and missed out on more. Now he’s landed Michael Carrick, it’s possible he has his man, but it was hardly a one-shot job.

Close season at the other end of the spectrum is more erratic. Even as high up as the Championship there appears to be little science in evidence. Wolves’ signing of Craig Davies, smacks of a square peg in a who-cares-what-shaped hole. It seems to have more to do with the cessation of Premiership parachute payments and a late appointment of their manager than snipering that perfect striker.

Lower down friendlies are full of trialists desperate for a contract, which feels like the tail wagging the dog. Robert Duffy’s signing addresses an obvious concern but was Jim Smith looking for another centre back when Matt Day turned up given that the Gilchrist/Willmott combo feels as solid as a rock? Or did he simply think that Duffy was a good player and available at the right price so he’ll fit in somewhere.

Tom Winters, on the other hand, was given a three month contract over close season. Was he a make-weight just in case nothing better came along?

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Oxblogger is a blog about Oxford United.

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