Transfer Window Watching

Last updated : 08 January 2008 By Firparkcorner

He has certainly shown restraint so far as he has refused to sign players for the sake of it. His two permanent additions to the squad, Hughes and Porter, have been excellent but then the cynical would point out that with Boyle's wallet backing these additions there is no excuse for them to be lacking in quality. It is impossible to tell what level of player we will be looking at just now as free transfer opportunities, from the winter leagues anyway, could be limited. Surely Boyle's new found generosity will not stretch to substantial fees as well. If not we could be looking at Scandinavia or loan players but what is clear is that almost every area of the side needs strengthened.

It has been no secret we have been looking for a new 'keeper for months but Graeme Smith has raised his game enough that this probably isn't the priority it once was. However, should Smith pick up an injury the prospect of playing Meldrum or an untested youngster for a run of games does not seem too appealing.

The situation in the defence is positively remarkable at present although it must be assumed we can recall Kinniburgh and Danny Murphy from their loan deals if we need them. Corrigan has already left and Brian McLean must also be looking for a way out given McGhee's repeated comments about him. Not only are we short for cover for the centre behind Reynolds and Craigan but when Paterson is suspended for the next league games we have an issue at left back as well. Fitzpatrick will surely stand in but with only five first team defenders being at the club on a daily basis it is apparent that bodies must be brought, if only in case of emergency.

The midfield is clearly a sensitive area. Keith Lasley is the obvious candidate to come in beside Hughes and McGarry in the short term but Mensing seems to have had his card well and truly marked already. If he remains out on loan, or is allowed to leave, we will be down to just Fitzpatrick as cover and, if he is forced into use at left back, an injury in the middle of the park could leave us incredibly short. This must be the priority section of the team to strengthen with two players required, one that is capable of starting regularly and one for the bench though that could be re-evaluated depending on the kids we have available.

The strikeforce is playing exceptionally well and is, in terms of numbers anyway, the least of our worries. Assuming Clarkson can cope with recent circumstances it would seem very ambitious to think we could improve on the partnership he has with both Porter and McCormack. While none of the trio has the scoring record of a real superstar so far, their combined work in terms of goals, assists and everything else needed is simply superb. Lewis Grabban can be written off but we have already added Martin Grehan from the juniors to join highly rated youngsters Jamie Murphy and Mark Archdeacon. Of course it would be silly to turn down the chance to sign a top scorer but we have to be careful of breaking up the rhythm of the side.

We also need to consider that some clubs will be sniffing about our players as recent performances will surely have forced others to take note. Another interesting twist is that we could look to poach those with expiring contracts elsewhere in preparation for next season - Aberdeen's recent trials and tribulations have been well publicised but there are players available for August up and down the country.

What is clear is that while our first eleven is strong, the depth simply doesn't exist to cover for injuries and suspensions should a few come together. We rarely have a side this good but it is also unusual that between United, Aberdeen, Hearts, Kilmarnock and Hibs no one or two sides look a stand out to take third or win the cup.

Given that an Old Firm cup win would give fourth in the SPL a UEFA Cup spot, this is surely the season to press home our advantage by showing some ambition now. If it goes wrong we can recoup our losses with sales in the summer because there is no point in attempting to build for too far into the future as we can't offer long enough contracts to make that plausible. For clubs our size glory is a rare thing and the next few weeks will make it clear if we are trying to grab it with both hands or if we might let it slip from our grasp.

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