Stuart McCall still harbours regrets over City’s failed promotion bid last season – but his recruitment policy for established names is not one of them.
Many fans have described the current City side built on unproven talent as a refreshing change after their much-hyped predecessors came up short.
But as he approaches his 100th game in charge, McCall refutes the suggestion that he has “learned his lesson” about filling the side with older heads.
McCall said: “People will say that I should have gone for young and hungry players last year. But I don’t think there was one supporter who complained when we brought experienced people in.
“Graeme Lee had three promotions, Paul McLaren was being chased by three or four other clubs and Michael Boulding and Chris Brandon had both done well at a higher level.
“We had a set of criteria for last season. We needed players who would not be fazed by 12,000 crowds at home and also be able to perform at the next level if we got promoted as hoped.
“It wasn’t a short-term thing, which is why we gave them two-year contracts. We were always going to bring in youngsters to play alongside them.
“And for three-quarters of the season, it was a success. We still finished third-top scorers in the division.
“Unfortunately the wheels came off in one bad month – and I will always regret that.”
The big-money signings inevitably carried the can for the fans’ frustration. But McCall insisted that a sizeable chunk of the budget was used up later in the season on loan players as long-term injuries took their toll.
He said: “We had to pay more because of that but the likes of Nicky Law and Dean Furman were long-term visions. If we’d got where we wanted, they would have been given two or three-year deals to stay.
“I’ve not got an issue with age. Look at Peter Thorne and what he has given us the last two years in terms of his goals and professionalism.
“Likewise there’s no worries about throwing in Luke O’Brien and other young lads. I like energy and passion in the team but you also need experience to handle certain situations.”
City have had to trim back in all departments this season. McCall has felt the bite on the coaching side, losing David Wetherall to the youth team following Chris Casper’s enforced departure.
“Everything we tried to do on and off the field last season crumbled because we didn’t get in the play-offs,” said McCall.
“The finances have to dictate things and the money wasn’t there. I’ve got to take responsibility for that. The club had been in administration twice and nobody wants to go anywhere near that again.
“You are trying to put building blocks in a structure but can only do that if the finance is available. It was my fault that we didn’t reach the play-offs and it was a big shame.”
McCALL’S CITY FACTFILE
Wins: 38; Draws: 26; Losses: 35; Goals scored: 139; Goals conceded: 129; First match: 1-1 v Macclesfield, August 11, 2007; First win: 2-1 v Wrexham, August 25, 2007; Biggest win: 5-0 v Aldershot, March 7, 2009; Best comeback: 3-2 v Accrington, October 11, 2008; Biggest loss: 0-5 v Notts County, August 8, 2009; Best run: Three wins, three times; Worst run: Five defeats, Sept-Oct 2007; High point: Won five of first six games last season; Low point: Threatened to quit when City missed the play-offs