Fan column: Still signs of promise as Stevenage bring in plenty of new faces in busy transfer window

Arthur Read his impressed Stevenage fan Will Pickworth after moving to the League Two club. Picture: DAVID LOVEDAY/TGS PHOTO

Arthur Read his impressed Stevenage fan Will Pickworth after moving to the League Two club. Picture: DAVID LOVEDAY/TGS PHOTO - Credit: David Loveday/TGS Photo

Another in our fan’s column for Stevenage sees Will Pickworth look at the now-closed transfer window and ponder whether the business suggests Boro can avert the travails of last year.

“When the fun stops, stop.” We’ve all seen the warnings on gambling adverts – never chase your losses.

If only that message was heeded at Stevenage last season.

Part of the systematic structure of last year’s disaster was the sheer amount of panic signings. A remarkable 29 players were signed throughout the season, contributing to an overly-inflated squad which did nothing for team spirit or performances.

The four managers, board and recruitment team have rightly received flack for their mediocre judgements, but June 18 provided slight respite in closing the chapter on a disastrous period in the club’s history.

That was the day of the retained list, with a copious amount of first-team ‘stars’ released, 23 to be precise. Perhaps indicative of the calamitous recruitment strategy, while Covid implications on clubs must be noted, is the fact that bar perhaps Andronicus Georgiou at Wycombe, albeit in their newly founded B-Team, and Paul Digby, at table-topping Cambridge, no player released seems to be playing at a higher level than Boro.

Many are still without a club, including former fan favourite Dean Parrett.

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Just seven senior players were retained and Saturday’s starting line-up against Leyton Orient featured only Scott Cuthbert, Luther James-Wildin, Elliot List and Danny Newton from last season’s squad. This was a blessing for Alex Revell and his staff, presented with an almost blank canvass to shape the future direction of the club.

Now eight league games in and despite signs of potential, it has been a slightly underwhelming start from Boro. While it is too early to make any impactful assessments on the side, there are trivial murmurings of discontent amongst the fan base with Stevenage having failed to score in 503 minutes of league football.

Following a huge turnover of players; Stevenage made 15 new signings in the transfer window, it was always going to take time to adapt and most fans are patient and thoroughly behind the project that Revell is building with his young squad.

There seems to be sufficient depth throughout the squad, with many promising players from non-league recruited along with shrewd use of the loan market and some established professionals to supplement. It must also be acknowledged that the squad has been disrupted with injuries and positive Covid tests, with Charlie Carter’s thrust from midfield a particular big miss.

Despite the club’s perennial recruitment of strikers indicating as if Revell is stockpiling in that position in anticipation of a no-deal Brexit, there is no doubting the talent. Inih Effiong has impressed while the pace and dynamism of Elliot List and Tyrone Marsh, the swagger of Jack Aitchinson and the skill of Marcus Dinanga and Femi Akinwande provide plenty of reason for optimism.

Similarly, despite Danny Newton’s recent struggles, it is easy to forget this is a player who lit-up League Two in his debut season at the club and has struggled with injuries over the past year.

The relatively watertight defence that has been evident so far is positive, with Remeao Hutton, the Birmingham City loanee improving week-on-week and Jamie Cumming demonstrating that Chelsea do indeed have some impressive goalkeepers on their books.

The arrivals of the energetic pair of Arthur Read and Elliot Osborne have shown signs of promise in midfield. However, one area where the club are lacking is a dominant defensive midfielder, with Romain Vincelot having failed to shine thus far. Nevertheless, he did miss nearly a year of football due to a severe hip injury at his previous club Shrewsbury and it will take time to regain full fitness.

While it hasn’t been the easiest of starts, Stevenage fans should stay positive in what is an unprecedented season. The town has a team that seems united, is willing to work hard for each other, with a likeable and impressive manager behind them.

Saturday’s performance, although disappointing, included 14 shots and showed signs of progress in the first half with Newton and Osborne culpable for missing gilt-edged chances. The recent run has also seen the club face Newport County, Salford City and Forest Green Rovers, three formidable sides in this league.

If the team can find their creativity and start scoring, the backbone of a proficient League Two side is there and most fans would accept survival in this most bizarre of seasons.

Nothing can surely be worse than last year’s debacle.

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