The season’s nearly done, clubs will be finding out where they stand for next season, and transfer plans and strategies will be well under way. With the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic still significantly affecting the market – especially down at League One and Two level – then it’ll be another few months of uncertainly and hardship for some players and managers alike.
Players are running down contracts could go either way. They get a bigger club come in for them, now that they don’t have to pay transfer fee, or they get left on the free agents table collecting dust for next few months. It’s going to be an important window for many.
Here are FIVE League One players that have starred this season, who are out of contract in a few weeks: (You might sense a theme 😉 ).
1. Ryan Wintle | Crewe Alexandra | CDM
Ryan Wintle has been one hell of a player for the Alex over the past few seasons. He’s one of the many youngsters that have risen in the ranks at Gresty Road. Although he found his feet early in non-league football with Alsager Town, Crewe signed him at the age of 17 and polished him up to being one of the best CDMs in League One and Two.
A typical no.4 player. He sits and screens the centre backs well, using a burst of pace coupled with his defensive intelligence to intercept many attacks. That burst of speed is deceptive. Not too many attackers will out pace the midfielder.
For all his defensive capabilities, the real eye-catching aspects of his game feature in the technical side. His exquisite passing range, and the way he controls a game’s tempo all show how influential he is to Crewe.
His step up to League One this season hasn’t been plain sailing, but he’s learnt on the job well and remains a solid option this summer for a lot of clubs.
He’s almost certainly going to be a free agent this summer, as the club have very little hope of him signing a new contract.
2. Omar Beckles | Crewe Alexandra | CB
He signed for Crewe around 12 months ago after rejecting a new contract at Shrewsbury.
He started excellently for the Alex, becoming the main centre back almost instantly. His big frame and brave nature means he’s not scared to put it in where it hurts. As a combative defender, Crewe had to add something new to his game. Passing.
A lot of clubs adopt the ‘passing it out from the back’ style nowadays, and to fit into that system he had to work on that side of his game. We certainly saw significant improvements in that area over the season, despite opposition clubs trying to abuse his lack of technical prowess.
He was superb at times for the Alex. Fans thought he’d be a shoe-in for the Player of the Season award, and it felt like a contract extension would be signed imminently. They were wrong. On both parts. Despite the extremely positive performances earlier in the season, Beckles let his standards slip towards the end of the campaign. A couple of horrific errors have lead directly to goals conceded.
If you can hammer those mistakes out of the player then you’ve got one solid centre-half.
3. Callum Ainley | Crewe Alexandra | CM/CAM/LW
In truth, Callum Ainley has never really nailed down a first team position for Crewe. Over the years he’s been used on the wings and through the middle. It’s been a rough ride at times. Now at the age of 23, Ainley needs a serious kick on in his career.
He’s the similar age group as a few players you will/should have heard of. Perry Ng, Harry Pickering, Charlie Kirk, Tommy Lowery and the aforementioned Ryan Wintle. Two have already got big moves to the Championship, and two more (Kirk and Wintle) seem destined to leave Gresty Road this summer.
If Ainley leaves the Alex for just a paltrily compensation fee then he could be deemed as one of Artell’s great failures.
He has the quickest feature and attacking drive out of all the players named. His dribbling is outstanding, and he’s made many opposition defenders look silly this season. The end product is where the question lies.
However, this season he looked at his best. An integral part of Crewe’s early form. It was an unfortunate injury that ruled him out for most of the season. His gallant return against Charlton Athletic showed what Crewe had been missing.
Ainley could be the best of that aforementioned bunch, should he decide to follow James Jones’ (signed for Lincoln for free last summer) footsteps and leave the Gresty Road nest then he needs to pick the right club to nurture his talent.
4. Chris Porter | Crewe Alexandra | ST
There can be no doubts that the veteran striker has not been the best striker in Crewe’s recent history. This season saw Mikael Mandron take his place as the first team centre forward. Despite the added competition, Porter has still racked up 33 league appearances at the age of 37. With 39 league goals to his name during his four years at Crewe, he’s made the Gresty Road club his most prolific stint.
He’s like a fine wine – getting better with age.
The target man centre forward was never blessed with pace but his willingness to run his heart out is impressive and important. His presence up top is key, with his aerial ability and hold up play linking attacks nicely.
He should also be regarded as one of the best penalty takers in the EFL.
He’s 37 now but certainly has a lot more too give.
5. Oli Lancashire | Crewe Alexandra | CB
The former Swindon Town captain has featured for the Alex for two years. It’s been two years of ups and downs.
It’s been 24 months of great defensive displays, mixed up with injuries, iffy moments and hair-raising errors.
He’s a player full of inconsistency at League One level, but he should be a very decent defender for most League Two clubs. He’s very capable with his feet (most of the time), and he’s not too bad with his head either.
There you go, five League One players that have their contract running out this summer who your team could sign! Who would you take? D’you need a creative CDM, a hard-man CB or even a veteran striker?