2016/2017 stats (for Burton Albion & Coventry City in all competitions): 1,785 minutes, 20 starts, 1 sub appearance; 1 goal, 1 assist.
Bury manager Lee Clark last week added a fourth signing to swell the squad’s ranks even before the end of May in the shape of Callum Reilly after his release by Championship outfit Burton Albion. Once again, he fits the profile of a player with experience of gaining promotion to the second tier or at least playing in it recently but where he differs from the other three most markedly is in his age, which goes some distance to redressing the balance thus far.
The versatile 23 year-old had a loan spell at relegated Coventry City cut short through injury, so he missed out on featuring in the EFL Trophy final at Wembley. His time at the Sky Blues earned mixed reviews which, given how desperately poor the side were as a whole until Mark Robins’ return to the dugout, must be treated with a pinch of salt but not dismissed.
He is first and foremost a left-footed box-to-box midfielder, which is exactly what Clark requires for his preferred system. Like new teammate Stephen Dawson, one aspect he hasn’t had to his game is the ability to score goals with only a trio of them in his career to date; inevitably, one of these was against the Shakers back in the EFL Cup clash of August 2016 with the Brewers.
He has also been utilised at times as a screen for the defence and also as an attacking left back; with the latter role, it will be intriguing to see whether a second ‘specialist’ is still brought in for more direct competition for Greg Leigh or if the cover he could provide is adequate enough in his new manager’s mind for no part of the XI to be weakened as a result of him changing roles.
Other key attributes he possesses currently are an abundance of stamina, the correct level of aggression required for such a demanding role, a powerful shot at times, competent delivery from set pieces and perhaps best of all, an exceptionally strong ‘weak’ foot – that will help open up the pitch for him when he’s on the ball and be less predictable with where he will look to move and pass to.
As ever, there are weaknesses to work on and/or minimise. The most pressing one is a propensity to dwell on the ball could be costly if as expected, he represents half of Bury’s central midfield. There just isn’t likely to be that much time and space afforded to him in the first instance and he will often find himself with two opposition players attempting to regain possession of the ball. He cannot surrender it cheaply on too many occasions with that existing ‘disadvantage’ already present.
As a player Clark already knows from his time at Birmingham City, he must believe that he has on his hands an individual who he can work with to help fulfill his potential and form part of a midfield where the onus is unlikely to be on the pair to help out too much with making or scoring goals but shuttling the ball from one phase of the pitch to another and when required, shutting down the opposition from creating too much of their own in order to protect a lead. Only time will tell.
Everything else equal, there is now likely to be only one slot in the first choice XI still to be filled – left-sided centre back. Fulham have yet to announce their retained list after their agonising semi-final defeat in the play-offs. Many supporters’ eyes will be looking for Cameron Burgess’ name to be on it when it is released. If not, there are other candidates for that position and more besides, which will be explored in the next blogpost (unless another signing comes along before then).