A lengthy post, but i have time to kill this morning...
So, with the season end almost upon us, I believe below is the situation regarding players out of contract:
Ricki Lamie (pre-contract signed with Dundee)
Mark O'Hara (pre-contract signed with St Mirren)
Liam Shaw (end of loan)
At this stage, I'd absolutely look to retain Lamie if he's willing to stay, possibly Morrison as a backup keeper, and O'Connor purely to see if he has anything to offer. The rest could go as far as I'm concerned.
Contract-wise, the rest of the squad looks something like this:
Liam Kelly - May 2024
Scott Fox - May 2023
Stephen O'Donnell - May 2023
Jake Carroll - May 2023
Max Johnston - May 2023
Bevis Mugabe - May 2024
Juhani Ojala - May 2023
Nathan McGinley - May 2024
Sondre Solholm Johansen - May 2024
Barry Maguire - May 2024
Callum Slattery - May 2024
Dean Cornelius - May 2023
Ross Tierney - May 2025
Sean Goss - May 2023
Kaiyne Woolery - May 2024
Kevin van Veen - May 2023
Joe Efford - May 2023
Connor Shields - May 2024
Robbie Mahon - June 2023
I think we can all agree that the squad is pretty bloated at the moment, although that was intentional due to potential Covid suspensions and us needing cover for that. The same applied to other clubs in the league. With that said, I'd look at things this way:
It's pretty obvious that Kelly is going to be our number one, so that's not in doubt. I did notice that the past few games we've had young Matthew Connelly warming the bench for us, which is a good sign, but I think if we're going to renew PJ Morrison's contract there has to be some sort of progress made there. He's been at Alloa this season, and has bounced around on loan at various clubs. But he's 24 now, so he's not a kid. If we're not going to offer him a concrete position as the club number 2 behind Kelly, then let him go.
For me we either go with Kelly, Morrison as a solid number 2 and Connelly being brought into the fold with a possible loan in January while Fox is there to see out his contract and assist with coaching, or we go with Kelly as number one, Morrison moving on and a combination of Connelly and Fox backing us up on the bench.
Verdict - I don't think we need a new body in for this position. If Morrison moves on we can cover with Connelly and Fox for this season.
A position of much contention this season. With Liam Grimshaw's contract ending we lose an option for that position, but with Max Johnston returning we gain an option as well, if the management team see him as being good enough.
If we don't bring someone else in during the window we will start with O'Donnell, Johnston, and also Mugabi as options for this position. Personally, I'd go with O'Donnell if he's fit, and try to phase Johnston in occasionally and at least see what he can do in the last year of his current deal. If he isn't up to the job then we can let him move on next May. In an ideal world we'd be phasing Max in as a replacement for O'Donnell over the next few years. If O'Donnell performs this season I could see him getting another year or two extension, which would hopefully be enough to allow Johnston to come in as his eventual replacement. If he's good enough, of course.
Verdict - O'Donnell, Mugabi and a returning Max Johnston should be enough to cover this position.
Although not everyone's cup of tea, I think we're going with Nathan McGinley as our first choice left back next season. He signed a new deal until 2024, he's 25 years old, I think the manager likes him.
Jake Carroll has another year left on his current deal, and I think he'll be the one challenging for that starting place with McGinley. I don't see much changing in this position.
Verdict - I don't see any changes in this position
We go into next season with Bevis Mugabe, Juhani Ojala, and Sondre Solholm Johansen on the books at the moment. We could potentially retain the services of Darragh O’Connor and Ricki Lamie as well depending on how things go over the summer.
My preferred defensive pairing would be Lamie and Mugabi. I'd keep O'Connor at the club for another year if he was open to it, as I quite liked what I saw of him. Ojala isn't working out in my opinion, and if he was agreeable I'd look to move him on. Johansen is a weird one, as he's looked okay at times but dodgy at others. He's only 26 and has another year to run, so I guess we'll see how he does this season coming.
I'd go with Lamie, Mugabi, and O'Connor as my three centre-backs of choice, with Johansen in fourth and looking to prove himself, while Ojala would be a distant fifth choice if we couldn't shift him.
If we can't retain Lamie then we need someone else in I think. The idea of Mugabi and any combination of Ojala and Johansen gives me the fear. We've seen that combination enough this season. If Lamie knocks us back I'd get O'Connor tied up for another year and see how he does early season alongside Mugabi, with a new signing coming in also.
Verdict - If we can keep Lamie and possibly O'Connor I think we'll stick with what we have here. If Lamie goes then I think we'll need a new signing. I doubt we can shift either Ojala or Johansen before their contracts expire, but if we can that would obviously free up wages for a new player.
As of now we head into the summer with Barry Maguire, Sean Goss, Callum Slattery, and Dean Cornelius on the books.
I'm not as anti-Donnelly as many are here, but I wouldn't mind seeing him move on. I have a sneaky suspicion that unless St Mirren come calling he'll get offered another year with us though.
O'Hara is offski, much to the delight of some. Again, I'm not all that fussed at losing him.
If we go into this thinking that Donnelly is for the off, then we effectively have four midfielders in the squad. If we lose O'Hara and Donnelly we could maybe use some of the funds freed up there to bring in someone else. If Alexander is serious about utilising a smaller squad then this is a good place to implement that.
Barry Maguire, Sean Goss, Callum Slattery, Dean Cornelius and a new signing would work for me.
Verdict - A new midfielder coming in would be needed I think.
As of now we go into the summer with Kaiyne Woolery, Kevin van Veen, Joe Efford, and Connor Shields as recognised forwards of varying positions. We also have young Robbie Mahon, who seemingly plays up top and on the right, and also Ross Tierney who's played up front for us of late, but can also drop back into an attacking midfield role as well unless i'm mistaken.
Van Veen and Shields seem like the two out & out strikers on the books, while Woolery can play down the right and left, while Efford plays down the left and also through the centre.
I'd let Jordan Roberts and Justin Amaluzor move on at the end of their current deals. That would free up the wages needed to sign one relatively proven striker if available.
I think if we can head into the new season with Van Veen, a new striker, and Shields as options through the middle, supported by a combination of Woolery, Efford, Tierney and Mahon we'd be in decent shape.
Verdict - A new striker should hopefully be on the cards to add to what we have.
In my opinion we'd be looking to shift at least seven, and maybe even eight players from our current first team squad (PJ Morrison, Victor Nirennold, Liam Grimshaw, Mark O'Hara, Liam Donnelly, Liam Shaw, Jordan Roberts, Justin Amaluzor), with one returning from loan (Johnston) and two potentially being re-signed (O'Connor & Lamie).
I'd look to sign a new midfielder and a new striker if O'Connor and Lamie sign again, with either of them needing replaced if they leave.
So that would see maybe as many as eight out, two in from loan, and two new signings (three if Lamie isn't coming back), meaning a three-man deficit from this season, which seems about right.
Of course, what we'll actually do is release the seven mentioned, lose Lamie and end up signing eight new players no doubt