2016/2017 stats (for Blackpool in all competitions): 4,598 minutes, 52 starts, 0 sub appearances; 2 goals, 1 assist.
The protracted pursuit of Tom Aldred finally ended last week in time for the first pre-season friendly of 2017/2018. A number of the Shakers’ contingent had openly wondered why Bury manager Lee Clark wanted to add a fourth specialist centre back but given the ongoing concerns over Nathan Cameron, coupled with potential further international call-ups for Adam Thompson, the reasons are actually quite clear.
As the stats above indicate, the former Tangerines skipper was an integral, almost ever-present component of a miserly defence, shipping exactly one a game. Only champions Portsmouth and fellow play-off side Luton Town conceded fewer in the fourth tier last season.
Centre backs on the whole tend to be older than their more advanced brethren when it comes to being involved regularly with the first team. Aldred was no exception to that and he had reached 22 by the time that his employers in 2003 Accrington Stanley offered him a fresh start after numerous loan spells in Scotland and the fifth tier in England. His calm, no-nonsense attitude to dealing with the opposition won him many plaudits and also earned him an extension on his contract.
After being involved in every league match in 2013/2014, the following season was proceeding in a similar vein until a certain Lee Clark acquired his services for the badly struggling Championship side. His efforts were curtailed by injury in March 2015 and by the time he regained fitness, he was a mainstay in an outfit doomed to a second successive demotion under the toxic, shambolic auspices of the Oyston ownership. He was one of the few of a disparate squad to emerge with credit to his name from those fans who still turned up to Bloomfield Road whilst almost everyone else by this point was staying away in protest.
At long last, the club rallied and only confirmed their play-off place on the final day before contesting a thrilling two-legged semi against Luton Town. The Wembley triumph over Exeter City was bittersweet for Blackpool’s captain as he succumbed to an injury half an hour into proceedings. Speculation almost immediately followed that he’d be leaving for pastures new with his contract expiring and that the mooted destination was a little further east… and so it has come to pass. It is likely that the proximity of the two towns to each other and his previous working relationship with Clark helped to swing things in Bury’s favour when pursuing his signature.
Let’s start off by saying what Aldred isn’t: particularly quick in terms of both raw speed and on the turn. That is his main negative. Increasingly often, the modern footballer is judged on that particular attribute above almost all others and I believe that it is a very poor measure of their abilities. However, not being blessed with an abundance of pace didn’t prevent the last stopper from the coast being a massive hit and it won’t be a barrier for him either.
Good positioning can make up for being the loser in a foot race, as can bravery when making decisions. This is where Aldred excels most obviously. Commitment to the cause is always appreciated by fans, especially when backed up by no shortage of defensive solidity. A lot of his general play will evoke memories of Peter Clarke whilst having the advantage of longevity on his side at still only 26.
As for how he’ll be deployed, expect to see him starting off as the #1 right-sided centre back, with Eoghan O’Connell his main backup whilst the Cameron saga continues. The absence of a strong left foot amongst any of those four is a small cause for concern and it will be intriguing to see how the disadvantage is masked tactically by Clark. Left back Joe Skarz’ natural tendency to be conservative could be crucial in this regard.
His capture completes the defensive picture, aside from a second goalkeeper to challenge Joe Murphy. That slot is likely to be the last one filled for the 2017/2018 squad with further two attacking additions due to be formally announced imminently at the time of writing.