After the promotion party has finished and the players depart to their various holiday destinations, for some of the fringe players this will be an uncertain time.
For the ones that are out of contract, their futures will be unclear, 34 year old striker David Connolly will see his existing contract expire in the summer, along with the likes of centre-back Radhi Jaidi, goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski, and winger Lee Holmes. These players have been part of the first team squad since the aphotic depths of League One, and who have by and large served the club well in the past two or three seasons. However, in recent months both Connelly and Jaidi have seen their playing time limited due to recurrent injury problems.
To be brutally honest I cannot see any reason why we need to keep any of these players for next season, Jaidi is almost certain to be released, at 36 years old he did not make a single appearance this season due to injury.
As for David Connolly, age is not on his side also, and he has seen his time at the club interrupted by niggling injuries. His late season goals helped to propel the club towards promotion from League One, and he started this season in a rich vein of form, helping the Saints to lead the table with 4 goals in the first 5 games. However, the goals soon dried up, and he found himself either dropped through poor form or through injury.
If we were still in the Championship for another season then he may well have been awarded a new contract, but our promotion to the Premier League leaves manager Nigel Adkins with a difficult decision. The only thing in Connolly’s favour is the fact that he is one of the few existing players in the squad who have experience of playing in the Premier League. Although I firmly believe that the club will be looking for new acquisitions in all areas to help secure our Premier League status.
Bartosz Bialkowski may well earn himself a new contract, but personally I’d like to see us sign a new goalkeeper, one who can learn from number one, Kelvin Davis and challenge him for a starting place. I have little faith in Bialkowski, especially after his “rabbit in the headlights” display in his one and only league start against Blackpool in December.
That was probably one of the dire goalkeeping displays by a Saints goalkeeper I have witnessed, and I have seen Dave Beasant play! Not only did he proceed to fumble the ball at every opportunity, like someone attempting to grasp a wet bar of soap whilst wearing boxing gloves, but he then gifted Blackpool a goal by letting an innocuous shot from distance, through his legs. All this live on television to boot, in fact so low was his managers faith in him that he actually got dropped from the bench, with manager Nigel Adkins naming five outfield substitutes for a considerable part of the season.
Lee Holmes has never been able to hold down a regular first team place, and this season he joined League Two side Swindon Town, where he helped them to win the League Two championship. I can see him making that move permanent in the summer if Paolo Di Canio liked what he saw from the winger.
That leaves one or two players who although not out of contract, may be shown the door anyway. Both had off the field problems during the season, and they are Lee Barnard and Dan Seaborne. Both Barnard and Seaborne were involved in disturbances in different night clubs, with Seaborne obtaining serious head injuries, and Barnard suffering a hand injury and being accused of a serious assault. Seaborne has recovered fully but not in time to make a comeback this season and Barnard was found not guilty but only made a couple of appearances this season and not one league start. The management may well decide to dispense with their services during the summer, as I doubt that either is really up to Premier League standard and they seem more trouble than they are worth.