Alloa Athletic are currently in the midst of the most important month of their season. The January transfer window always brings its opportunities for club’s to transform their season, however, with that it can derail a team with too many changes. We enter the halfway point in the season in the best possible fettle. Alloa are now six games unbeaten, all from losing positions and some considerable scalps on the way emphasises the bottle, character and ability of this Alloa side. For us though, this month and what we can do, as well as our rivals, will define our outcome come May.
Alloa have been defying the odds so far in our first season back in the Championship and Jim Goodwin and his team have been rightfully gaining all the plaudits. With every managerial position that becomes available, Goody is immediately thrown into the mix. Wasps fans are under no illusions that one day he will move on to greener pastures, however, half way through the season is not how we envisage that. So with that in mind, we have dodged bullet one in the month of January. Allan Johnston being sacked from Dunfermline, at effectively the hands of Goodwin’s side, brought the question back as to whether or not we would keep our man in charge. Pars fans were keen on the idea but thankfully, Stevie Crawford was given the gig and the ‘Goodwin express’ can roll on. The gaffer has a certain draw that attracts players to the club and maintains them here as well. His fresh approach to the game and attractive style of play makes us a great place for players to come and learn, so long may that continue.
January also spelled the end of various loan deals. With a budget of our size, the way that Goodwin can utilise the loan market is of paramount importance. Of course, not all loanees hit the ground running, such as Liam Burt from Rangers who has since returned to the club after limited game time. But for every Burt, there is a gem in there too and that has proved the case with Dario Zanatta, Sam Roscoe and Jake Hastie. Three young players who have come into our side and really changed the dynamic. Come the end of their initial six-month deal, you have to compete with the parent club who may want their player to return after impressing or ‘bigger’ clubs coming in for a second-half of the season loan swoop. Keeping the turnover as low as possible will be key for Alloa this month so retaining the loaness was no doubt the top priority. Unfortunately, Motherwell deemed Hastie part of their plans and recalled him which is a massive blow for us. A player who can collect the ball in his own box and drive it to the other, as seen in the draw up in Inverness for our last minute penalty, is a rare commodity. However, as one goes another one stays. The extension of Aberdeen defender, Roscoe, is a great coup for the club. Having never played senior football before, Roscoe has come in alongside Andy Graham and has very rarely put a foot wrong. To split up a solid partnership at the back mid-January would have been disastrous so keeping him is a great boost. As well as Roscoe’s stay being extended, the club confirmed that Sunderand striker, Connor Shields, will be here for the season too. Even though he has struggled to hold down a first team place, the impact he can make off the bench and the strength in numbers will only be an asset as the games come in thick and fast for Alloa. He’s a player that on his day can make a significant difference as seen at Palmerston in the 3-3 draw. The man who has been stealing all the headlines also looks set to extend his stay at The Recs according to reports. Zanatta notched three goals in December as his fine form finally saw the rewards of hitting the back of the net. His constant movement and killer instinct has won us many points this season but with Levein impressed by his form, as well as Dundee United and Queen of the South, keeping hold of him was a major doubt. It is not done till the fat lady sings with a few complications to overcome yet, however, if the story that broke about Zanatta sticking around a bit longer are true then it is a fantastic piece of business by the club that could make the world of difference.
Retaining the core of the squad this month is key, no doubt about that. We are still aware that we will need to add some more quality though. This is when it becomes tough for Alloa, the teams that we are in a relegation scrap have already flaunted their financial power with multiple new faces in their ranks. Falkirk have a tally of nine new players and Partick Thistle aren’t far behind with five. They have the backing from the board to transform an entire eleven in a last ditch attempt to save their season. Even though our season doesn’t need saving, we do not have this pot of gold to add the few more. A lot of changes are far from needed but we are slightly light in certain areas of the park. Goodwin has brought in one man so far this window and I speak on behalf of all Alloa fans in saying that it is an exceptional piece of business to kick start the window. The return of playoff hero, Jordan Kirkpatrick, immediately fills the void left by Hastie and undoubtedly adds significant quality as well as someone who knows the club very well. So with the fourteen signings made by our rivals in total, I would not swap a single one for Kirky who I think will be crucial once he’s back in the swing of regular football.
I’ve refrained from commenting my opinion when statement’s such as “you are definitely staying up” are said to me. This Alloa side have a never-say-die attitude that will push it right to the wire regardless but with so many question marks over the squad and who will be part of the second half push, it is hard to comment until February the 1st. As always, it doesn’t matter how much money Falkirk, Thistle and even Dunfermline throw at their team as we’ve shown we can match any team in the league on the day. Keeping our ‘Silver Fox’ and adding one or two bits of quality to an already strong side will keep us in the mix and continue to defy the strong odds of relegation at the start of the season.