Coventry City have had an incredibly busy summer in the transfer window – arguably one of the most crucial periods of recruitment the club have faced for many years.
Having secured promotion to the Championship, the Sky Blues clearly needed to strengthen in key areas to ensure they compete back in the second tier after eight long years.
Get it right and Mark Robins’s men can look forward to gaining a foothold at the level and building for an even more successful future.
Get it wrong and the team would face the very real threat of heading straight back to League One.
In a second exclusive CoventryLive interview with City’s head of recruitment, Chris Badlan explains how the club have tried to improve from window to window to get to a position of strength.
He started by addressing one of the biggest challenges of the close season.
“Losing such an influential player as Liam Walsh was always going to leave a gaping hole, and there was a clear priority to find a player of similar or better quality,” he said.
“With Liam Walsh it was evident that if we went up a division we’d need a player to replace him, not necessarily like for like because you can never replace people like for like unless you can buy that player.
“But we looked at the characteristics of the player. You are never going to exactly replicate Liam Walsh but you can get people who have similarities and improve on it.
Enobakhare joined the Sky Blues in the January 2019 window, going on to wow the fans with his skill and creativity, immediately upping the quality in the side to spark a strong finish to the campaign and memorable results like the incredible 5-4 win at Sunderland.
“Bright was a magician in possession but out of possession I think people could see he didn’t enjoy that side of the game as such, but he’d make things happen on the ball,” said Badlan, who had another bright spark up his sleeve in a rising young star at Aston Villa.
“Whereas with Cal, he can do both, He’s a little pest, like a little wasp running around the place – like a little terrier – but he’s also got an outcome to what he produces as well.
“So we wanted Bright’s creativity in terms of producing but we also wanted someone to increase the high press that we’re trying to play.
“Hence why we went down the route of bringing Callum in.”
And all the signs are that the man who has come in to fill the void left by Walsh can offer what the Bristol City midfielder did, and more.
“With Walshy we wanted this and that attribute, but can we go and get a side to the game that he didn’t do or may not have done, and then the process starts and we ended up bringing Gus Hamer in,” said the 37-year-old.
“But Hamer is not a direct replacement for Walsh. A direct replacement for Liam Walsh is Liam Walsh but if you can feel you are adding something different and always improving the characteristics of the team then that’s the number one thing.
“Hence we ended up bringing in Ben Sheaf and Gus Hamer to help build the characteristics of that midfield and hopefully improve it and take it to another level from where it was last season, and push players like Liam Kelly as well.”
He added: “But every position was a priority. The thing with Walsh was that he was such an influential player in the way that we played last year.
“It’s inevitable that it would be a key role to replace in the team because we knew he wasn’t going to be there this season, but every single position is important because we are only looking to bring people in who we feel will enhance the club and help take it forward, and that’s the number one thing.
“The individuals are irrelevant, it’s all about the club at the end of the day and as long as the club gets better and better through recruitment, through coaching and all the outside influences.
“So we have gone from Walshy to bringing Hamer in, and moving forward hopefully we can get someone better than Hamer.
“It’s the same with the strikers, we brought Matty Godden in and then we have brought Tyler Walker in and it’s an evolving thing.
“You are always looking to improve but when you are on a limited budget it’s inevitably going to be a little bit harder because you are going to get some things wrong because the cheaper a player is at times, there are obviously deficiencies in that player’s game.
“Because if there weren’t then he’d be worth millions, not thousands.”
A key part of limiting the risk is clearly in the homework the recruitment department does on players.
“All we can do is be as diligent as we can with our recruitment,” said Badlan.
“And that’s why we watch players as many times as we do; why we speak to their previous coaches and do the statistical analysis so that no stone is left unturned. But you need all the luck in the world for a footballer to be successful as well.
“There are more reasons for a footballer not to be successful than there are to be because they are humans at the end of the day. And often you are asking people to leave a foreign country or their home; you have your family, children’s education or girlfriend.
“Her lifestyle might have to change, her job, you have to get a new house, new bank account, new car – your whole world is turned upside down and then this bloke has to perform within two weeks, so it’s not a guarantee.
“You just can’t predict what will happen. Their relationship might break down, they might get into trouble or get an injury – there are some things that are just out of your control as a recruiter that you are never ever going to be able to stop.
“But what you try to do is restrict those problems by always being there for them.”
Predicting what will happen to players works the other way as well, with some huge success stories.
“Would I have expected Michael Rose to be as good as he has been since coming from the Scottish Championship? No, but he’s been unbelievable and could go to the Premier League,” he said.
“I wouldn’t have expected that but you can’t predict it because football is an unpredictable animal. You can win 6-0 one week and then go to bottom of the league and lose 1-0 and think, what the hell happened there.”