With United boss Chris Beech having added Nick Anderton, Max Hunt, Joshua Kayode and Elliot Watt to the ranks this transfer window (along with securing the services of Aaron Hayden and Gethin Jones) he spoke more this week about building healthy competition within the squad as he continues to look for improvements in all areas.
“I’ve got one or two selection headaches at the moment, but they’re nice to have,” he said. “It’s a competitive environment we need to create, you’ve got to get in the team and stay in the team.
“We’re still working hard to add more, but it’s back to those spinning plates I keep talking about. They keep spinning, but no more have dropped as we speak.
“Obviously we’re fully aware that we now have six loan players and we can only name five on the team sheet. That means that as on Saturday, Fela travelled with us and it was a late decision as to who was going be on the bench.
“With Kayode and Lofty on the bench, Jack Iredale was actually unfortunate to lose his place because he played very well on Wednesday. I felt we needed a bit more height in the defending elements, which I think was justified at the weekend but, of course, we’re looking at different opportunities for everybody.
“If the lads aren’t going to be playing I’m sure they don’t really want to be here. But at the same time everybody, while they are here, represents us, they get paid by us, and they have to do their jobs, so that’s where we are at the moment.”
And on the situation with some of the loan players who are getting limited game time at the moment, he commented: “It possibly would be in their interest to look at other options but these decisions, like I said about recruitment, they’re in contracts, it means clubs that own their contracts have to recall them.
“If they don’t recall them, that’s because they’re more or less saying they don’t want them, and they’re their players. We’ve got to try and find that balance between it all. I want any young man playing football, but I can only pick 11.
“In terms of the lads we’ve brought in this month, Nick Anderton’s a strong lad. You’ll know him from his Barrow days before Blackpool bought him. He’s desperate to get going. He’s trained three or four times at the back end after being injured, and he’s trained once with us. To put him straight in, it’s not fair on him or us.
“He’s a player who has League One experience, great non-league experience at Barrow, he’s been a transferred player, Blackpool paid a lot of money for him, he was excellent last season for 22 games at Accrington.
“They got promoted and it was the first half of the season when they were in the top half of the league, but he got recalled and didn’t get used. I’m really pleased we’ve got a player like that because he’s young enough to go again.
“He’ll need some time, he’s been out for a bit, he’s recovered from an injury, which has enabled us from a business perspective to recruit him. Again, we’ve done very well, worked hard with Blackpool to make sure a player of his quality could come to our club.”
With central defender Max Hunt starting the game alongside Byron Webster, he said: “He did quite well, but he knows he’s going to have to get better.
“I said that when I signed him – who is the finished article? That’s the whole point of signing a young, ambitious man, who needs to look in terms of taking on the challenge. His mentality and his personality to do that is bob-on. You forget, that’s his league debut, Oldham away, well done.
“We brought Josh Kayode off the bench and it took him 10 minutes to settle, but after those 10 minutes he started playing those centre-halves and utilising his body. He’s got pace and as a team we have to recognise and serve that pace.
“You can see he’s got a little bit about him. I’m looking forward to him being let off the leash. We were a little bit intricate too much in the second half, which meant we didn’t use him the right way.
“I thought we could play more basic football, get the opposition turned more, but I did feel confident and strong in the game, and I am disappointed we didn’t win it.”
Going back to the selection problems he faced ahead of the game, he said: “I was very tempting to put Mo Sagaf in, especially with the shift the lads put in on Wednesday.
“Every time it got to the point of possibly making the change, Mike Jones covered every blade of grass and Scougs came to life a little bit. I could have changed it, but I didn’t. Mo picked up that injury and that’s why he ended up losing his spot.
“Jack Bridge is another, and he’s fully fit, but you’ve got to make these decisions. I look at the goals we concede, the standards I’m trying to have. It’s definitely nothing personal. It’s 100 per cent up to him that he plays. That’s the player’s challenges, not mine.
“Same goes for Jack Iredale. He’ll be really disappointed but we will look for a response from him now. Eventually, one day, with a bit of luck and about three transfer windows, we can get to a point of having two players for each position and it’s really, really competitive.
“We’re getting there across the back when you consider that Jon Mellish was injured. He had a massive black eye from that challenge on Wednesday. It closed up, he actually couldn’t see through one eye. I don’t think you can get those flat irons out any more, slit them and let them bleed - I’m not too sure you’re allowed to do that.”
Next up for the Blues is the visit of Walsall at the weekend.
“It’s good time to recover and prepare,” he concluded. “And also it’s so vital for the players who aren’t playing. We’ve got a reserve game against Blackpool on Tuesday, which is brilliant, ironically Nick will play against his old club, and the lads who didn’t start today will get a proper run-out and we’ll take that seriously, because they’ve got to get those minutes in.
“A lot of the lads have played a lot of games in the last four weeks so they’ll get a little bit of rest, some good training sessions and we’ll get ready for our home game.”
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