With the season opener now less than two weeks away, Chesterfield manager Dean Saunders finds himself with a severe dint in the squad inherited from Paul Cook and has limited time to source replacements.
The simultaneous departures of Gary Roberts and Jimmy Ryan, and most recently the sale of Sam Clucas to Hull City, leave Saunders with gaping holes in his midfield and with Tendayi Darikwa and Sam Morsy reportedly unsettled following interest from Championship clubs, the Welshman has his work cut out to assemble a side capable of challenging for promotion in the coming campaign.
All mainstays in the side which achieved a sixth place position in the final play-off berth last season, Roberts, Ryan and Clucas provided Chesterfield with a combined total of 24 goals in the last campaign – just shy of 30 per cent of the Spireites’ 83 goal haul in all competitions.
But the new boss has previous experience of assembling a squad late on in the summer that would go on to be crowned League One champions.
After a summer exodus of 18 players at Doncaster Rovers following relegation from the Championship, Saunders’ squad was depleted to such an extent that the former Liverpool striker was forced to play in a warm up game against Cleethorpes Town in late July.
Saunders scored off the bench in that game at the age of 48 and along with his assistant Brian Carey went on to recruit 12 players, ten of which were free transfers, as they successfully compensated for the losses of influential players including defender George Friend to Middlesbrough, midfielder Brian Stock to Burnley and James Coppinger to Nottingham Forest.
Though Chesterfield’s squad has undergone a far less radical change, Saunders will still have the challenging task of unearthing players who match or exceed the ability and influence of Roberts, Ryan and Clucas under the operation of a similar transfer policy to that used at the Keepmoat Stadium.
The sale of Clucas will add significant weight to the amount Saunders can offer in wages to his transfer targets, with Saunders comparing his summer spending to going from Lidl to Marks and Spencer in the midst of a figure of £1.3 being agreed with Hull City for the former Mansfield man.
Saunders is looking to snap up the off-cuts of trialists who fail to seal a contract at Premier League and Championship clubs and Chesterfield will now be seen as a more attractive destination to potential suiters, offering hope of further stellar signings to Chesterfield fans following the arrival of Sylvan Ebanks-Blake.
Saunders faces a pivotal month in his fledgling Chesterfield career to maintain the club’s momentum of recent seasons but his success in the face of pre-season adversity at Doncaster should provide hope to players and fans alike at the Proact Stadium.