Bristol City summer transfer plans: Nigel Pearson details ‘important’ challenge
Nigel Pearson enters his final year of his Bristol City contract - and there’s a huge summer in store for the Robins.
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Nigel Pearson has stressed the importance of a positive summer transfer window for Bristol City, and shared his end-of-season thoughts ahead of the Robins’ final game of the campaign at QPR on Saturday.
Pearson has often made it clear that the club are looking to add to their backline before the start of next season, given their recent injury troubles in that area of the pitch.
Both Jay Dasilva and Tomas Kalas’ deals expire after the Robins’ visit to the Hoops, and if the pair aren’t offered new contracts, City’s lack of defensive bodies will be exacerbated.
Defence is not the only position that the club will be eager to improve, with Max O’Leary lacking a senior competitor in goal and the need for midfield recruits.
With Pearson’s current contract set to expire at the end of next campaign, the business that the Robins complete in the coming months will make this summer the most vital window in the 59-year-old's reign.
“This summer is going to be very important for us. How we progress next year is going to be the biggest indicator really (of how the team has developed under Pearson),” the manager said.
“We’ve had two years of cutting back and trying to reshape, now we need to try and push on. I think that’s the big thing, we all know that and it is not a secret. We know we’d like to be pushing for the play-offs and being in the promotion shake-up. To achieve that we’re going to have to make sure we get it right this summer.”
Talk of a play-off push isn’t new, before a ball was kicked this season, a top-six finish was the Robins’ main target. But, with one game to play, City are 15th and 12 points off Millwall - who occupy the final play-off position.
Unfortunate injuries to key players haven’t aided their big goals this season, and though the club may be nine positions off the top six, the points difference is only the equivalent of four wins over a 46-game season.
In terms of incomings, City have made their strategy clear in previous windows. The club introduced the likes of Kal Naismith, Mark Sykes and Kane Wilson all on free transfers last summer, with a view of reducing both the wage bill and saving scarce transfer funds simultaneously.
They will be boosted by January’s sale of Antoine Semenyo to Premier League side Bournemouth for £11million, as well as the outgoings of some of their highest earners, including Daniel Bentley to Wolves. However, Pearson wasted no time in shutting down any hopes that City will splash serious cash this summer.
“We’ll still be spinning plates. We’ll still be trying to keep the books balanced, don’t worry about that. It’s not going to be one where all of a sudden there’s a limitless amount of resources, it’s not like that,” he said. “There may be opportunities to trade, but as I said before we want to try and keep our best players. I’m aware Phil made a comment in an interview where he said decisions will be made when decisions have to be made. I don’t disagree with that, it’s one where I don’t want people to make expectations about what will happen this summer because we may have to resist offers for other players. It will be an interesting situation if it arises.”
Pearson also reflected on the development of his side over the course of this season. Though the Robins may have not reached their goal and will finish in the bottom half for the third consecutive season under the manager, they have beaten their tally from last season, and the ex-Watford boss feels his side have evolved in the last 12 months.
He explained: “We know we’re on the right track, but we’ve still had some disappointments in not winning as many games as we would like. We’ve had some difficult spells during the season, though I don’t think they have been as tough as the year before. We’ve made some good progress.
“Some of our young players continue to make some improvements and because of that, we’ve been able to move forward as a team. Some of our senior players have good seasons too, we just need to get that added ingredient now to win more games when we’re not at our best and to do that it’ll be important to get the right types of additions in the summer.”
Pearson has often spoken about the fitness issues he encountered among the squad when he first arrived, and that improving the running stats of the squad was his number one priority.
There is no doubt that those issues have been addressed throughout the squad, aided by a plethora of young and exciting talent that has emerged through the ranks.
“We’ve played some really exciting football, it’s nice to have pace. The overall fitness of the squad now is much improved. I don’t know what the stats are in terms of player availability but we work very hard to make sure that’s as high as possible because we do operate with a smaller squad. Those things together are really very important aspects of whether you can have a good season or not.
“When we’ve missed some of our important players or sustained spells, they’ve coincided with us having a bit more of a difficult time. Players who have played out of position have done exceptionally well to do a very good job for the side too.
“All those things together have contributed to what has been a season of promise that has had some disappointments and one or two tricky spells where the response from the players has been excellent. They’ve been able to go out there and put together some exciting results.”