New arrivals need not cost a fortune

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Andrew Frost May 9, 2013
alex baptiste has bags of ... 2 years ago

Free signings don’t always signal a lack of ambition, writes Andrew Frost.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never really been Lee Grant’s biggest fan. However, the fact we let go one of our better performers last season, to a rival club, is slightly concerning.

If Grant really has returned to Derby for personal reasons, then there was probably little Sean Dyche could do. However, the move did get me thinking and I asked myself: why do we never sign players on pre-contract agreements?

There has been much debate recently, especially on this site, over whether the club lacks ambition and I’m sure the term ‘free transfer’ will provoke further sighs from many of you.

But it shouldn’t.

There have been plenty of quality players who been released over recent seasons, yet Burnley have failed to take advantage of any for one reason or another. In fact you have to go right back to 2005 and the arrival of Wade Elliot to truly find a freebie that has gone on to play a major role for the club.

The club’s decision not to sign any free agents since – barring Christian Kalvenes – is staggering when you consider the gain other teams have resulted from. Take a look at Hull City, who won promotion last weekend. For large parts of the season they relied heavily on the creativity and goals of Sone Aluko – a free signing from Rangers. Another side within the top six, Brighton, have benefited massively from the form of right-back, Bruno – again, a free signing.

The Football League is littered with players who have been signed on free transfers. Other notable out of contract players who went on to have decent seasons last term include Danny Shittu, Luke Varney and Ricardo Fuller.

So with Dyche seemingly expected to operate with little financial leeway during the summer, it would be smart idea for him to take a look at some of the players available for no fee this summer.

After looking at the lists of players out of contract via Transfer Markt I’ve picked out five players who could be realistic signings and ones that would add quality to the squad. It should be noted that some of these players might well be offered new contracts with their current clubs.

Simon Church

Wales international Simon Church maybe an option to bolster our strike force should Martin Paterson leave the club this summer. Having not played a game for Reading this season, the 24-year-old is seemingly not part of Nigel Adkins’ plans and it has been reported he is keen for regular first team football. The forward was a key member of the Royals side that won promotion last year and despite his modest goal record, he has undoubted quality at this level.

Nicky Bailey

What Burnley missed for large parts of last season was a natural holding midfielder. With Brian Stock seemingly not part of Dyche’s future plans, Bailey could provide a more than adequate replacement with his drive and ability to recycle possession. The former Charlton man is a proven Championship performer so he is bound to have a number of options upon leaving Teesside, but the 28-year-old could be one Dyche fancies due to his ability to play a number of different positions.

Alex Baptiste

Blackpool crazily have 37 players out of contract this summer. One of those is Alex Baptiste and it has to be noted that the Tangerines are expected to offer the defender a new deal. Admittedly he is likely to sign, but why not try and tempt him like Derby managed to do with Grant? A solid performer at Championship level and with Premier League experience the former Mansfield man could prove to be a shrewd acquisition if he was to move across Lancashire.

Owen Garvan

Pivotal to Palace’s unexpected rise to the summit of the table this year has been the form of midfielder Owen Garvan. Having struggled in his first couple of seasons at Selhurst Park, the Irishman has flourished this year in a midfield three and has contributed four goals and six assists to the Eagles. The 25-year-old is reportedly a target for former manager Dougie Freedman at Bolton, but should Palace miss out on a return to the Premier League we could do worse than bidding for Garvan’s services for next season.

Harry Forrester

One player who has already been linked with the Clarets has been Brentford’s influential midfielder Harry Forrester. The former Aston Villa man is out of contract at the end of the season and is so far keeping his options open until after the Bees’ play-off final against Yeovil next week. Should Brentford lose, there is bound to be a number of higher division clubs trying to tempt the 22-year-old to leave Griffin Park. Blessed with tricky feet and an ability to score crucial goals, Forrester should be one Dyche is looking at to provide some much needed creativity to Burnley’s front-line.

Other notable freebies who may be realistic targets include Simeon Jackson, Marc Tierney, Lee Camp and Patrick McCarthy.

Do any of these take your fancy? Have a look at the database and tell us which free signings you’d like to see arrive at the Turf.

  • Jamie Smith
    Jamie Smith

    I really like John Brayford at Derby. If we sell Trippier, he would be a good replacement on a free.

  • Iain Montgomery

    Personally think the Scottish leagues are littered with decent talent. All 4 of the PFA nominations available for free or small fees. Motherwell have 7 decent players available for free that have seen them finish the season not too far off Celtic including defeating them twice.

    Darren Randolph, Nicky Law, James McFadden, Tom Hateley, Michael Higdon, Henrik Ojamaa and Shaun Hutchinson have all had impressive campaigns for them.

    • Jamie Smith
      Jamie Smithin reply to Iain Montgomery

      Always very hard to judge though because the SPL is such a poor league. James McFadden has never really looked a good player in England and Michael Higdon has just had is first really impressive season in his late 20s, he’d be a gamble. Nicky Law is probably the standout player from the ones you mentioned for me.

      • Michael Connellin reply to Jamie Smith

        I watch a fair bit of SPL and I’m not convinced by any of the M’well players. I think they’re more a well organised outfit rather than having any special individuals. Higdon, for example, is little more than a lower league brute. He’s no better than Vokes imo. If we’re going SPL I wouldn’t mind us looking at players like Jonny Russell or Mackay-Steven at Dundee Utd. Cammy Bell might also be decent shout for Grant’s replacement?

        • Jamie Smith
          Jamie Smithin reply to Michael Connell

          “I watch a fair bit of SPL…”


          • Michael Connellin reply to Jamie Smith

            It’s a fair point that I can’t really defend. I just have a soft spot for the Scottish game.

        • Iain Montgomeryin reply to Michael Connell

          Higdon is similar to Vokes in physicality but he’s scored some incredible goals this season, including some from outside of the area. Think Motherwell, dare I say it have born a resemblance to our promotion side under Coyle.

          Cammy Bell is a good keeper but already signed for Rangers next season. Jonny Russell is looking to move outside of the UK.

          Andrew Shinnie, Niall McGinn and James Fowler non-Motherwell possibilities.

  • Andy W

    Why is Danny Lafferty on the list? I didn’t think he was out of contract…

    • Jamie Smith
      Jamie Smithin reply to Andy W

      I don’t think the list is entirely accurate.

  • Michael Connell

    Out of the list I’ve only ever really seen Simon Church and Alex-Baptiste play. Church looked to be a similar type of striker to Vokes so I don’t think there’d be much point in bringing him in. Alex-Baptiste looked a bit erratic from what I’ve seen, is he any better than Shackell, Mee or Edgar?

  • Doug

    If we’re looking at Scottish prospects we could do much much worse then Leigh Griffiths.
    Really like the article Andrew, Simon Church/Lee Camp for me look the more probable if any, but a good point about us being a team who hardly uses the free transfer system

    • Iain Montgomeryin reply to Doug

      Griffiths is a bit of a loose cannon. I’m not sure I’d want a character like him around the club.

  • Andy W

    Nicky Bailey would be a great signing but would his pay demands be too high coming out of a Riverside contract?

  • simon demaline

    Alex baptistse would be a good move ,,,

  • simon demaline

    SIMON church an alex baptistse would be good

  • simon demaline

    we need a keeper ,, myhill ,,,or am i dreaming

  • simon demaline

    alex baptiste has bags of expeariance ,,an on a free

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