I once heard David Pleat say that, when he was manager of Luton Town, he would go through a list of his squad at the end of the season and divide them into winners and losers. As the play-offs ground on, I found I could make that decision with increasing ease. Playing a sequence of matches against the top teams provides a good test of a player’s quality and mentality.
Many of the players were approaching the end of their contracts. As we neared the end of the play-offs I started offering termination by mutual consent. I dealt with the remaining bunch the day after our final match.
It’s been quite a clear out. Eight players out in all. Three more will follow when their loans, which can’t be terminated, lapse. I wouldn’t normally clear out so many. I know that risks a loss of togetherness and continuity. But I had my reasons. They were
Players declining as age took its toll
Having to let go of a player who had aspirations of higher earnings (he refused a contract)
Releasing one player who was suspected of susceptibility to injury
Letting go of players I’d inherited but never been keen on
I also had to admit two mistakes. In January I’d signed Paul Gomis as a back-up striker. But he single-handedly cost us a match that we could have won away against Maccabi Tel-Aviv. History might have been different if he hadn’t missed two sitters. He’d also proved resistant to criticism and reluctant to train hard, so we agreed to terminate his contract a year early. I hate the player and also myself for signing him. But when you make a mistake it’s best to lance the boil early: at least he’s off our books early.
In December I’d renewed the contract of Amar, a right-back come utility midfield, back in December, but he’d proved a disappointment. High aggression + low composure = cards. He didn’t feature in the play-offs – he doesn’t like big matches. At the end of the season I noticed a club was interested in him, so invited and accepted the offer.
That makes 9 out in total (plus the three loanees when they return to the club). We live in interesting times.