How Morecambe’s January transfer window played out

Derek Adams said he needed to revamp his Morecambe squad if they were to climb the League Two table – and the Shrimps’ boss was as good as his word.

By Gavin Browne
Saturday, 1st February 2020, 6:00 am
The arrival of players has seen the Shrimps pick up points in recent weeks
The arrival of players has seen the Shrimps pick up points in recent weeks

Supporters might have expected some new blood during January but seven signings – and the fact the last one came on deadline day itself – indicated the task Adams must have felt confronted him.

If nothing else, however, Adams’ shopping has at least given himself options across all areas of the pitch.

With Barry Roche’s playing career winding down after taking over as goalkeeping coach, another senior shot-stopper was needed to challenge Mark Halstead.

In Christoffer Mafoumbi, the Shrimps have an international keeper with a point to prove to his parent club Blackpool given Simon Grayson’s willingness to send him out on loan.

A relatively quiet debut against Cambridge United was followed by a key contribution to the win at Walsall with a first-half penalty save keeping the Shrimps on level terms.

In front of him, Ryan Cooney and Christian Mbulu have bolstered the defensive ranks.

Manchester United’s decision to recall George Tanner and then immediately loan him to Salford City raised the odd eyebrow, especially with Tanner enjoying regular first-team football.

However, Cooney showed enough in his early appearances to indicate that the Burnley loanee is a more than able alternative.

The only negative was the ankle injury that forced him off at Walsall, leading to Mbulu’s debut as his replacement – even if he normally occupies the centre of defence.

His arrival at least gives Adams the ability to play three at the back alongside Steve Old and Sam Lavelle if needed.

It might be true that Mbulu’s arrival triggered some less than stellar reviews from fans of his previous clubs but that was also the case 12 months ago with Richie Bennett and Aaron Collins – neither of whom did too badly in their spells at the Globe Arena.

The centre of midfield has also been bolstered with the arrivals of Adam Phillips and Toumani Diagouraga.

Of the two, Phillips initially took the limelight thanks to three goals and two assists in his opening four appearances.

That ability to get forward from midfield, arguably missing from Morecambe’s play for a few years, gives the Shrimps another dimension to their attack.

Alongside him, Diagouraga has gone about his work tidily but, in recent outings, has shown the form that saw him playing in the Championship not too long ago.

That ability to anchor the midfield, knit play together and – when required – get forward is something from which Tom Brewitt and Alex Kenyon can only learn.

Perhaps the most interesting arrival was that of another player Adams knows well; Jordan Slew.

The former Plymouth Argyle man was one of four signings announced in early January, having been with Ashton United in the Northern Premier League.

He’s started every game since joining but, whether it’s the step back up from non-league or something else, he hasn’t hit top form so far – but Adams clearly has faith in him.

Then, on deadline day, came the seventh signing with Millwall striker Harvey Bradbury arriving on loan.

He offers an alternative to Cole Stockton as the focal point of Morecambe’s attack with his team-mates able to feed off him.

On paper anyway, he may not look like the regular scorer Morecambe fans would have wanted but the fact he’s been at a higher level throughout his career suggests there’s plenty of ability with which to work.

However, while Adams may have done his bit in terms of recruitment, the fact only three players departed permanently tells its own story.

Tanner’s departure was a shame, especially as he’d been arguably the club’s best player in the first half of the season.

Of the others, Joe Lynch had barely featured since his summer move from Crewe Alexandra so his exit didn’t constitute a massive shock.

Then there’s the case of Lewis Alessandra, who joined Carlisle United come the end of his six-month deal.

His second spell with the club started so promisingly with five goals in his first nine outings but his displays began to mirror the team’s struggles.

No goals in his subsequent 17 appearances and a lack of first-team football in recent weeks made a departure almost inevitable.

Adams told the Visitor recently that the 32-man squad at his disposal was far too large and players needed to leave the club.

Nevertheless, if the club’s out-of-favour players can’t make the matchday squad of a team at the wrong end of the table, other clubs won’t be queuing around the block to sign them.

That shows the cut-throat nature of football, especially for someone like Kevin Ellison who finds himself on the periphery after almost nine years.

It may seem harsh but, if Adams can keep Morecambe up and avoid relegation in their centenary year, then it’s job done.

If that particular mission is accomplished, you’d have to think his work in January will have gone a long way towards achieving that outcome.