As work continues behind the scenes to secure up to nine more additions to the group (loan and permanent deals) United boss Steven Pressley revealed this week that a deal has already been done in principle with a striker from a Championship club.
Speaking first about the work done so far, he said: “We’ve been very active in the market, in fact we’ve been one of the most active teams at our level, but the reality is that there’s more for us to do.
“I have to say that I’m very comfortable with where we are. We have a number of situations in the pipeline and a couple of loan agreements which have been done in principle. These loan players may not join us possibly for two or three weeks because of circumstances with their clubs.
“We won’t name those players yet. We do have agreements in principle for the loan deals with them, but they can change based on what happens at the parent club. If they don’t quite get the players in they want, or if they hit an injury crisis, then it can affect what happens with us.”
“To be perfectly honest our main striker, who is at a Championship club and who we have an agreement with, is a loan player,” he explained. “We’re prepared to wait two or three weeks, as we have to in this situation, if it means we get a player who we feel will help us to push on and who we feel is worth it.
“I’m really excited by this player, if we get him, because he’s young and he has a huge amount of potential. He’ll definitely suit how we play, he’ll be a good fit.”
With five loan spaces available, he confirmed that he had always had it in mind that the bulk of that side of the business would be done in the forward areas of the pitch.
“I’ve said all along that the signings we secure permanently will be in the defensive and midfield areas of the pitch,” he explained. “That’s because of the budgetary situation and the fact that we aren’t one of the top spending clubs in this division.
“The free, out-of-contract players in striking positions who have good history are generally not going to come here. One reason is the geographic location, and secondly we can’t compete financially in that market.
“It’s a market where I feel we get much better value for money with a good loan deal. That’s why we need to be a little bit more patient. I’d rather have that approach and get really good value for money than rush into signings I don’t think will take the club where we need to go.
“With any loan deal we do we will definitely be trying to do full season loans. That is something we will try, but the problem with most clubs is that they want to put a clause in. I’m going to have to build a relationship with these clubs where it’s going to be a season long loan. That’s what we’d prefer, but there are no guarantees.”
In terms of the squad size, he commented: “I think when you include the three or four young lads it means we have nine outfield players at the moment.
“We probably realistically still need to sign another eight or nine players. I want a group of about 17 or 18 plus our young players on top of that. That’s the type of figure we’re looking at.
“I’ll stress again that we’re very comfortable with where we are right now. I know some people want to see more and more activity but, trust me, where we are right now is good in terms of quality and character and the type of players I want to have here.
“If we get the players fit enough and robust enough then I’ll be happy going into the season with a squad of around 23 including the four young players. If we lose McCarron, I would like to recruit somebody else that I would include in that number of four young players.
“What we have to remember is that if we have a squad which is too big, we’ll never get our young players through, so I want a situation where if we have any injuries then our young players will immediately be going into the group.
“If we get them fit enough and we get the right balance to the group, with several players who can play a couple of positions, then I feel that’s the right size of squad.”
And with declared interest in striker Hallam Hope from a number of clubs over the summer, we wondered if that situation had affected his thoughts on numbers and additions going forward.
“The club has already turned down three offers on Hallam Hope,” he confirmed. “I will stress that Hallam has spoken to me to say that if the opportunity arises for him to play in a higher league, he wants to be able to pursue that.
“I’ve told him that we won’t stand in his way if the club receives the offer we feel is fit for his level of player.
“What I will say, and Hallam has been very clear on this, is that he’s said that if it doesn’t happen there will be no question marks on his commitment to this football club.
“We have to understand that every player has a career ahead of them and if they have the chance to play at a higher level then they generally want to do so.
“I think we’re still looking at bringing in five attacking players, but of course when you lose a player like Jamie [Devitt], who had a big influence, you have to find the right replacements.
“If we don’t replace him with the right players, we won’t have the success. Losing Jamie was disappointing, but how our season goes will be based on the replacements. We have to be aggressive in that market and get players who we believe can contribute goals and assists.”
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