Town facing summer squeeze over new signings

Che Adams was a transfer target for Town before joining Sheffield United from former club Ilkeston.
Che Adams was a transfer target for Town before joining Sheffield United from former club Ilkeston.

Neil Aspin admitted he has a fight on his hands over Town’s summer transfer targets.

The Shaymen are believed to be in negotiations with possible signings, but were frustrated at attempts to recruit a top-class striker at various points last season.

Barnet’s John Akinde, who was the Conference’s top-scorer last term with 31 goals, was Aspin’s first-choice to replace Lee Gregory last summer.

But Halifax’s loss was The Bees’ gain as the former Alfreton striker fired Barnet to the title.

Aspin conceded the there are more clubs than ever chasing players he may be interested in and said Town’s limited resources make it tough to compete.

“When we sat down at the end of last season to replace Lee Gregory, (Akinde) is who I’d have liked,” said Aspin.

“After speaking to him and his agent it was obvious we weren’t going to afford him.

“There’s a big difference between which players I’d want and which players I can get.

“That’s why people have to be realistic. It’s OK saying why are we not signing him or him, but in reality we can’t sign those players.

“What is a worry this year is that we’re even getting squeezed by teams who are competing at the top-end of the Conference North who are well-backed.

“Location-wise they can take players we’d like as well.

“So it’s becoming more and more competitive and our finances are not increasing.

“If anything our gates have gone down this year so it’s a difficult job.

“I realise I’m in for a difficult summer and it’s going to be a hard season next year.”

It was a similar story with former Ilkeston youngster Che Adams, who joined League One side Sheffield United and scored twice for them against Tottenham in the League Cup semi-finals.

“We made a bid for him after watching him for one-and-a-half games so it wasn’t like we were slow,” Aspin recalled.

“We didn’t go and watch him six or seven times, we acted straight away.

“But there were too many teams in for him - so that was disappointing.

“We needed a centre-forward and tried to bring one in on loan.

“The one we wanted first went to Barnsley and scored goals at that level.

“We wanted the lad who went to Yeovil (Gozie Ugwu). We had him agreed to sign but he changed his mind because he wanted full-time football.

“There was another lad at Middlesbrough who signed for Carlisle - there were numerous players.

“So you might start of with one player but it becomes who you can take and it’s not always your first choice.

“But you can’t knock players who want to go to a full-time club and we’re always going to have that problem while we’re part-time.”

Reflecting on last season, the Town boss was happy with the club’s campaign.

He said: “If you’d asked me at the start of the season would I have been happy to finish in the top 10, have a run in the FA Trophy and have a big game in the FA Cup then I would have said I’d be delighted with that.

“The second season is always tougher because you’re not an unknown quantity and we lost Lee Gregory and his 32 goals.

“But the way the season started and then having a lot of games in hand at one stage when we could have pushed on, obviously it’s ended on a disappointing note.

“I don’t want the the end of the season to cloud over the whole season but we certainly haven’t done well enough recently and that’s what’s freshest in people’s minds.

“You can’t stop people having expectations but there were no false promises from me or any of the staff because we knew how tough it would be.

“We got off to a good start but I was just grateful we had the points in the bag because when I looked at the fixtures I felt that if we didn’t we were going to struggle.

“I felt they were games where we could get points in the bag and that’s the way it turned out.

Town conceded fewer goals on their travels but more at home compared to the previous season, and Aspin believes this was a key factor in them finishing further down the table.

“I’m happy we’ve conceded fewer goals and we’ve been more solid overall, but I’m not happy with how many we’ve conceded at home,” he said.

“That’s been our downfall and it’s cost us a lot of points.

“Our away form has been better and our home form hasn’t been as good but to try and get a season like the one we had last season I don’t think will happen again.

“Not for a part-time team - to lose one game and score the amount we did I think was a one-off.

“You can pick out Barnet and Eastleigh as two really bad away performances but overall we’ve been competitive in the away games, which is an improvement.”

Aspin also feels the poor condition of the Shay surface played its part.

“The state of the pitch hasn’t helped,” he said. “Not just the fact the pitch was bad but we were getting games called off which we had to catch up with.

“That makes it difficult in this league and if we could have played those games at the time I don’t think we’d have dropped as many points as we did.

“It’s something that’s out of my hands but it has to be resolved.

“We can’t keep going with the pitch like it is, it’s just not suitable for playing football.”

Town will revert to training two nights a week from next season having held sessions on Monday mornings as well as Thursday nights during the current campaign.

The switch to training on a Monday morning was to accommodate players who didn’t have second jobs.

But boss Neil Aspin will now return to training two evenings per week and scrap the Monday morning sessions.

“That hasn’t worked out how I’d have liked,” said the Town boss.

“In some ways it’s been worse because if you’ve got some players with jobs and some who haven’t and you train during the day, you then have the ones who are working who can’t get the time off.

“So they then end up doing fewer sessions than when they were part-time because you can’t have two separate training sessions.

“We will be going back to just training in the evenings because if we want players to have jobs so they can supplement their wages with work, then you can’t have one rule for one and one rule for the others.

“The only way to get everyone there at the same time is to train two nights a week.”

The club currently train at Rothwell Juniors in Woodlesford, but may have to look elsewhere unless some floodlights are installed there.

Aspin added: “Rothwell is only fine until September because then you get dark evenings.

“At the moment they don’t have floodlights but there is talk that they’re going to get floodlights.

“If they do then it will be ideal. If not we’re probably going to have to find a new venue where we can train for longer on a night.”