BURTON Albion are targeting around 11 new signings this summer – including five or six who would command a place in the first XI – as boss Gary Rowett revamps his squad for another promotion push.
The Brewers defied expectations in League Two last season, but missed out on ascending to the third tier in heartbreaking circumstances.
They let slip the automatic promotion spot which had been theirs for much of the latter half of the season, and then lost by the odd goal in nine after a pulsating play-off semi-final double-header against Bradford City.
Since that fateful second leg at the Pirelli Stadium, Rowett has been ruthless in letting go five first-team players, while six others have seen their loan deals end, leaving the Brewers looking at a squad of just 12 players – including youngster Matt Palmer – ahead of what is sure to be a busy summer.
“I’d like to try and bring in at least five or six key signings who will be first-choice, and who will improve us,” Rowett told Mail Sport last night.
“Around that will be some loan signings, as we’ll try and use the loan market again, and some good young players.
“There’s more players available this summer than before, because of the new financial constraints that have come in, meaning that clubs are releasing a lot of players.
“With the players we’ve released and the loans who’ve gone back, we’ve lost about 11 players, and we’d want to sign somewhere near that.”
Two players who should join sooner rather than later are Alex MacDonald and Dominic Knowles, after differing initial spells at the Pirelli Stadium.
Winger MacDonald, 23, impressed in his three months on loan from Championship outfit Burnley, making his own the right-wing berth which has caused the Brewers problems since joining the Football League.
He made 17 appearances, culminating in two stand-out performances in the play-offs.
Knowles, meanwhile, joined the club at the end of March and though he failed to even make the bench before the end of the season, the 21-year-old, who also counts the Clarets among his former clubs, was brought in with a view to a permanent signing this summer, should he impress.
“We’ve agreed a deal in principle with Alex, and with Burnley, because there would be a small sell on clause,” said Rowett.
“We’ve also agreed a deal with Dominic Knowles, and they are both ones we’re trying to push through.
“They are both young players who can improve over next season.”
Of the other loanees Burton used to good effect in the end-of-season run-in, Rowett said deals for striker Michael Symes and defender Ian Sharps would prove more difficult to pull off, although he was hopeful of re-signing full-back Anthony O’Connor after delighting fans and management alike last season.
Said Rowett: “Both Symes and Sharps have got a year left with their parent clubs, so it’s out of our hands to an extent.
“Anthony O’Connor has gone back to Blackburn, and they’re managerless at the moment.
“Hopefully my old pal Gary Bowyer will get the job there and do us a favour.”
Strikers Calvin Zola and Matt Paterson have been offered new deals, and Rowett is hoping they will not have their heads turned by interest from elsewehere.
He said: “We are in the process of speaking to them, but they will want to see what the market has to offer them.
“We’re in continuing talks and seeing if we can come to some kind of conclusion.”