DECLAN Devine has welcomed the significant increase in his transfer budget but warned Derry City won’t be throwing ‘stupid money’ at players in search of a quick fix.
The Brandywell club’s Chairman, Mr Philip O’Doherty announced a 30 per cent rise on last season’s funds set aside for players’ wages and transfers but Devine insists the extra money won’t be wasted as he strives to improve his squad for the 2020 SSE Airtricity Premier Division campaign which kicks off next month.
The club appears to be on a sound financial footing and with the promise of Europa League prizemoney, it’s allowed Devine to offer a little extra when it comes to recruiting targets. He’s already brought in Walter Figueira from Waterford, Conor McCormack from Cork City and Conor Clifford from St Pat’s and he’s in the market for three or four more before the start of the new campaign with a striker top of the priority list.
“As a manager you’re always continuing to strive to get an improvement in terms of what you can bring to the club,” said the City boss.
“You only have to look at the players we’ve already brought to the club. Walter Figueira was a very sought-after player. Conor McCormack has won league and cup doubles and is such a brilliant professional and to bring Conor Clifford here, we wouldn’t have been in this position last year.
“Had we not had the success we had last year; if we didn’t have the backing of the chairman and the backing of the supporters, we wouldn’t be able to bring these players to the club. So yes, the budget is key but, at the same time, Shamrock Rovers probably had one of the biggest budgets in the league last year. They won an FAI Cup and continue to get better.
“Budgets are key and of course, as a manager, you want a few extra pounds to spend but we’ve got to continue to strive to get this place better both on and off the pitch.
“When you have the backing of a chairman who loves the place, then that’s the key to the process.”
The football club is in a lot healthier position from when Devine and his team took charge in November 2018 when he had just four signed players. He’s managed to keep the nucleus of last season’s squad which finished fourth and expects to have a squad of around 20 quality players before they kick off proceedings away to champions, Dundalk on February 14th.
“We’re in the market to improve at the top end of the pitch,” he adds. “Over the course of my tenure at the club, we’ve never wasted money, It’s got to be the right fit and we’ve got to make sure we have a pathway for our own young players.
“We’ve also got to make sure that when we spend a few pounds we get value for money. We want people to come here for the right reasons. We’re not going to be firing stupid money about. We’re not in that position as a club, we don’t want to be there as a club. That’s not what this club is about.
“We’ve got to make sure that when we bring a player to the club it’s the proper fit. I think we done that last year.
“We unearthed a few gems and we’ve got to do the same this year. I’m delighted with the work we’ve done up until now but over the coming days and weeks, there will certainly be more comings and goings at the football club. That’s just the nature of it.
“We’ve got to make sure when we get to February 14th, we have a really good squad of players. Last year, a week or two before the season started I think we had 14 or 15 players and brought players in at the last minute who really enhanced us.”
Former St Pat’s striker, Mickey Drennan has reportedly spoken to the club but Devine admits January is a difficult window to do business in with lots of Irish clubs in search of many of the same players.
“There are a lot of names you could throw at me,” he said. “We’ve spoken to a lot of players. There’s a lot of recruitment to be done over the coming days. What you find in Ireland is that a lot of clubs are in for the same players. We did a bit of business early on in the season, bringing in Walter Figueira. He showed an unbelievable appetite to come here and play in front of full our crowd, playing the style of football we like to play but we will continue to do business over the coming days.”
Devine conceded Derry has somewhat stumbled over the line in the race for Europe last year as fatigue took its toll during the final fixtures. Those fixtures included the EA Sports Cup Final in which Derry took Dundalk all the way to penalties and again, in the FAI Cup, where they lost out to the Lilywhites in extra-time. This season he’s determined to assemble a squad rich in quality and numbers to sustain a challenge at the top.
“We were a very good team last year but we’ve got to improve our squad and make sure it’s competitive. If someone gets injured or suspended, or just comes off in a game, we want to be replacing like for like - that’s the key to it.
“This year we will have competition for places in every position. The players have come in for pre-season and they’re already looking around the changing room and realising they’ve a fight on their hands to play at the club.
“It’s not about 11 players anymore. It’s about having a squad of 20 or 21 players who are all on a level par and willing to drive each other forward. It’s a long season, it’s a season where performances can rise and dip. We’ve got to make sure we have enough players here who can sustain a very high level of football over the course of a 10 month season.”