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Manhattan Transfer

If only we’d signed up Mambo again, then I could have linked the headline so beautifully with this song.

So, barring any last minute major signings, it looks like our work in January is done (cue us making a signing as soon as I press “publish”). And depending on your point of view, it’s either been underwhelming or it’s been a carefully thought after one.

Some will feel we’ve taken a step towards the Conference this evening. There’s no new striker, no new centre back, the player we did sign today is from the Cardiff academy, and it feels like a month wasted.

The players are too young, a 21 year old, a 19 year old, somebody we used to have and Sweeney. Where are the battlers, the raw meat eaters? Where’s the Jason Goodliffe of League Two? Or at a push, Jamie Stuart…

Others will feel more like I do at the moment, namely we’ve actually done a lot without being explicit about it. We’ve got in a new left back (Hussey), we’ve signed two in midfield (Sweeney and Pell, who sounds like he can slide into a challenge…) and we’ve got a winger who while young (and should avoid Welsh nightclubs) actually sounds quite speedy and could be a better version of Jolley.

Additionally, we’ve got Sully for the rest of the season, ditto Meades  and we did actually have a centre backed signed today in the name of Mr W Antwi. So we’ve done a fair bit of work this January in truth. And they’re not all youngsters either.

Will it be enough? Well, it seems that NA is making a calculation here, or a gamble if you prefer. He clearly believes this squad is good enough to get out of the bottom two, in fact he pretty much hinted at it in the local Guardian today.

It’s clear he doesn’t see our ability as our big problem, but the fitness and players being in the comfort zone instead. And it’s worth remembering that we didn’t lose a game at all this month – and with a bit more of this wretched fitness (mental and physical) it could have potentially been four wins out of four.

What is clear is that we’ve seen the first proper glimpse of how NA thinks. There’s no churning of players, there’s no Byron Harrison-esque panic buys. It feels totally the opposite to how TB did it, which is probably why some of our fans appear quite deflated right now. It’s almost like we’ve got so used to new players almost every week…

Perhaps our boss thought that the players he could have got were not much better than what he has already?

This won’t be the last of the squad additions, if it comes to it. It’s often forgotten in the hype that the loan window opens soon anyway, and lest we forget that our season last year changed course when we got a loanee from Brentford called Pim Balkenstein.

We may well need to add, it’s also possible that we may not. And there’s been some bar-room talk about some players sans contracts being seen at the training ground in recent days.

Just as we’re bottom but still have a third of the season still to go – and there’s something infinitely unfair about our league position considering our recent form and the praise we’ve got from non AFCW fans – players can still be bought in until the loan window shuts. It’s possible that if somebody like Ajala moves on (and with KS-L coming in, maybe that’s the intention?), somebody else can come in to a position that is actually needed.

You can go through the squad list yourself, but it seems that we can now at least field a player in every position. And have a backup, which is what we need for this slog coming up.

We did get rid of three players this evening, namely C-Mac, Djiali and Ryan Hervel. I guess C-Mac’s card was always marked when he came back from injury against Morecambe, looked at fault and got shunted to Ks as soon as we could. Mind you, he never seemed to have the best of welcomes….

Djiali? Meh. I suppose he was cheap, and I guess he can now start training to be head server at McDonalds. As for Hervel, he did actually exist, right?

This all said, it is a gamble for NA – we cannot afford to have underestimated this. Loanees are as hit-and-miss as permanent transfers, they’re not yours anyway and you suspect that we didn’t get everyone we thought we could get. We still have to rely on Byron Harrison working out where the goal is again, there’s still a question mark or two about the central defence, and are the likes of Sammy Moore actually good enough or are they just talk?

That said, this month about to go has shown what we’re capable of. The last couple of months before has felt like we’ve had to restart pre-season training all over again, and as a result we’ve managed to slip to the foot of the table. That link to the local Guardian above made a startling observation – only three of the players who played in NA’s first game against Cheltenham started against Port Vale…

At least we can say we are on an upward curve and we are capable of getting out of it. I guess like teams at the top of the table, we simply have to ignore where we are and focus on getting more points on the board…

Burton on Saturday is yet another big one, and is one we can do well in with the right attitude and application, and for once a bit of luck. We’re certainly finally putting the effort in on the field, and as said on here in the past, if you’re going to finally hit form now is the time to do it.

It’s the business end of the season after all, and it’s time to do some business…