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Trimming The Squad


17:38 10th January 2013

Boss aims for 25

Dean Saunders has reiterated his desire to trim down what he sees as the excessive number of players currently plying their trade at Molineux, but he has assured those previously out of favour that they all start his tenure on a level playing field.

The Welshman has inherited a playing staff numbering over 40 from predecessor Ståle Solbakken, a situation which Saunders describes as 'not healthy'.

The manager said: "It will become clearer in the next week or so (which players the club will have to lose) but I haven't had a phone call from anyone asking me if I'd let so-and-so go.

"I haven't had a call, but I haven't had time really to answer the phone!

"All I know is that it's nothing personal and nothing to do with talent, but we've got to lose some players. For the sake of the group and the spirit in the camp, it's not healthy having 40 players."

While still acknowledging the need for competition for places to keep everyone on their toes, Saunders admits he does have an ideal squad size in mind.

"Ideally, I'd like to have 25, and then players are never too far away from the team, but at the moment some of them may have three or four players in front of them in their position,” he added.

"I don't think that's good for team spirit or good for morale. We want competition for places, but 40 is too many."

Although he is eager to reduce the size of the squad, Saunders is refusing to rule out the possibility of bringing new faces in.

However, he has also moved to reassure current players that no decisions have yet been made on individuals.

"I've told them all they've got a blank sheet of paper: 'Show me you want to be here'. I've got no pre-conceived ideas about any of them.

"Six are out of contract - some think they're out of the door.

"We'll probably get offers for some of them and without me even working with them, I might have to say 'yes' if it sheds a few players because I might need the money to get a couple in.

"I might end up doing that, but ideally I'd like to see them all play and work with them."

Jermaine Pennant is heading towards the end of the loan spell agreed with Stoke, but he too has the chance to impress.

“I might play Jermaine tomorrow (against Blackburn) as he's on loan, so I've given him a clean sheet of paper - we'll have a conversation about that.

"No-one has said anything to him yet and he's in a difficult situation because another manager brought him in on loan and I've got too many players.

So we'll have to see because he's a talented player as well."

Staying on the subject of wingers, Stephen Hunt, who is yet to feature in a Championship game this campaign, is one for whom Saunders has high hopes once he completes his recovery from a troublesome hip injury.

"Stephen Hunt is a player I'm looking forward to working with. He gives you everything - let's get him fit.

"We know he's good enough and gives you 100 per cent and he'll travel up and down the right-hand side of the pitch with enthusiasm and effort. He'll give you a winning mentality."

Hunt has endured a difficult time with injuries since finishing the 2010/11 season in fine form, but Saunders is confident that new Fitness Coach Mal Purchase, along with Tony Daley, can ensure the winger can get back to his best.

He said: "I spoke to him on Tuesday and said 'let's see if we can get you fit'. I've brought in Mal Purchase to go down that route - strength and conditioning.

"Some players just don't do enough work on their core strength and legs. Your stomach decides how your body works. Some players neglect it, some are stronger than others.

"But if your core and your legs aren't strong, you can't play three games a week without getting injured. If your core, legs and glutes are strong, that will help you stop getting injured.

"I'll be turning Mal towards Stephen Hunt to see if he can work some wonders and get him on the pitch for us,"

“He (Hunt) can just about run so we'll have to see how his progress takes him and see if it knocks him back. If not, keep going.

"He's another player of Premier League quality who has a good attitude."

One player whose future has yet to be decided is Leigh Griffiths, who is still on loan to Hibernian. The striker was back at Wolves to be assessed by the new management team this week, ahead of his latest loan spell ending on January 19.

"Leigh has trained with us for the last two days," Saunders confirmed. "He's due to go back to Scotland but he wanted to talk to me.

"I told him to let me have a look at the group for two or three days and then I'll have a better idea of where we are.

"If I need to sign an expensive striker and Leigh isn't going to play here regularly, then I would rather Leigh go out on loan and get games.

"But if he's got a chance of playing, then I'll keep him here."

*Young defender Ethan Ebanks-Landell is back on loan with Bury until February 9.  Ebanks-Landell made eight appearances on his initial spell at Gigg Lane.

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