The Conveyor Belt
Last summer Clough mentioned the concept of a “conveyor belt” of players a couple of times. The idea that young players progress and other players move on. A nice idea in theory but in practice, one that could cause upset as players are either sold or declared “not part of the plans”.
The concept of the conveyor belt can operate at several levels, especially with the introduction of the under 21s team. Our young players can become victims of it (e.g. Gallinski has slipped down the pecking order since signing Gjokaj) and the team creates a young understudy for every first team spot in a way the reserves never quite did.
By my reckoning, we currently have at least seven players coming through who are looking for a regular first team spot in the next season or two: Jacobs, Freeman, Gjokaj, Doyle, O’Brien, Legzdins, Ball – with Bennett and possibly Hoganson (haven’t seen enough of him) following behind.
People might scoff at Doyle, as he’s not taken his chances when given, but he’s a young player who edged Ben Davies off the bench for the first few months of the season – and that is exactly the concept of the conveyor belt in action.
Last summer, Paul Green and Miles Addison were classic examples of victims. Although we signed Coutts, Clough was clear that the emergence of Hendrick and Hughes had already made Green surplus, whilst OB and Tom Naylor were named as players ahead of Addison. Both Green and Addison were popular players and had we not had the production line coming along, may well have stayed.
Ironically, Tom Naylor is in danger of becoming a victim himself as the addition of Gjokaj and Freeman have nudged Naylor out of favour. Along with the aforementioned Ben Davies; Naylor and James Bailey make up a trio of players who have found themselves outside the squad at the expense of developing players.
There have been grumblings about Bailey (myself included last season), whilst Green and Addison also had a lot of goodwill from Rams fans. However, the controversial moment will be when we make a big sale and replace from within. Not necessarily Hughes but the likes of Bryson, Keogh or Brayford. Players who could play in the Premier League, deserve to do so, but may not do so with The Rams. Players who will attract a decent fee.
The concept of an in-house replacement is an ideal one and certainly beats scrambling around for loan cover (think – the Rasiak sale). So we either wait for players to go off the boil and get nothing (nothing devalues a player like being out of the team) or we sell a player when we perceive the bid to be a good one. Either way, the likes of Jacobs, Gjokaj*, Freeman and OB* won’t warm the bench for ever.
*Obviously the “Keogh’s partner” slot is there for the taking for one of these two!