(Photo: Action Images via Reuters)
The transfer window slammed shut last Thursday, but that doesn’t mean clubs stop looking for ways to freshen up their squads.
From emergency loans to academy products there are many ways to do this once transactions are no longer allowed. The most popular, though, is free agents. Out of contract players are a minimal-risk, low-cost way to reinforce your squad for the long season ahead.
The brutal Saturday-Tuesday schedule of football league clubs means that depth is vitally important, making free agents a valuable commodity in this restricted market.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at five free agents who could be of interest to Football League clubs up and down the country.
The owner of the best footballing beard this side of Mile Jedinak, Ledley was in the news a lot over the last few days of the window. The word was that the Welshman was preparing to return to a Cardiff City side he started his career with, and who he last represented in 2010.
Moves to Celtic and Crystal Palace followed, before the 30-year-old’s contract at Selhurst Park expired this summer. Now he’s free to join whoever he likes, and the 73-cap Welsh international looks to be an outstanding pick-up for a Championship side.
A cultured but physical centre-midfielder, Ledley has emerged as a key player for his country over the last few years – forming an excellent midfield trio alongside Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey. Although his game time at Palace decreased over the last couple of seasons he is still Premier League quality.
Therefore, with no transfer fee to pay, it would be astonishing to see him left on the shelf for much longer. A return to the Principality would surely tug on his heartstrings, but Ledley would do a superb job for whichever second-tier team is lucky enough to sign him.
A man for all leagues, Lambert’s astonishing rise to Premier League and international prominence has been checked in recent years. Now out of contract after leaving Cardiff by mutual consent in July, the big striker finds himself having to prove he’s got anything left.
Lambert has been linked recently with Alex Neil’s Preston North End side, whose remarkable start to the season defensively has been contrasted by their profligacy in attack. Callum Robinson, Jordan Hugill and Sean Maguire are present at Deepdale but Lambert’s veteran savvy might be worth a punt for Neil.
The 35-year-old is undoubtedly reaching the end of his career, and has struggled at each of his last three clubs (Liverpool, West Brom, Cardiff), but he is a natural-born finisher who holds the ball up excellently. He would be a terrific option coming off the bench for any Football League team.
A short-term contract until January or the end of the season would surely be worth the risk for a great character who hopefully has one last hurrah in him.
It’s rare to see a free agent under 30 still available come September. Most out of contract players are coming to the end of their careers, left to try and survive in the free agency wilderness.
It’s surprising, then, to see that 28-year-old Jay Spearing is still without a club. A formerly promising defensive midfielder, Spearing made his breakthrough at Liverpool in the 2010-11 season and was seen by some as the heir to club legend Steven Gerrard.
It didn’t quite turn out that way, and Spearing was eventually sold to Bolton in 2013. At the end of last season it was announced that he would be leaving the club having failed to agree to terms on a new contract.
It’s surprising to see he hasn’t been picked up since then, however, as Spearing is a talented and tenacious midfielder. He would be perfect for an upper-level League One team, and again with no transfer fee involved, comes with minimal risk if the move backfires.
Another player released by their club at the end of last season, Kris Commons’s Celtic career unravelled rather quickly. A key performer for many years after his 2011 arrival from Derby County, Commons was told he didn’t feature in Brendan Rodgers plans last year and was shipped out on loan to Hibernian for a short spell.
The 34-year-old scored 91 goals in 226 games in all competitions for the Bhoys, and was voted the PFA Scotland and Scottish Football Writer’s Player of the Year in 2013-14, having plundered 32 goals from midfield.
An attacking midfielder with a serious eye for goal, Commons could be of interest to any number of Football League sides. He has experience in the Championship with both Nottingham Forest and Derby, and would be a low-cost solution for a club looking for more creativity from their midfield.
It seems a long time ago that Anders Lindegaard was keeping David de Gea out of the Manchester United team in the Spaniard’s formative years at the club.
Since then the Dane has done a lot of sitting on the sidelines, first at United but also at West Brom and latterly Preston North End, who released him at the end of last season. An imposing 6 ft 4 in shot-stopper, whose talent appeared obvious at the start of his career in England, it’s slightly baffling to see Lindegaard’s deterioration.
The 33-year-old was linked with Scottish Premiership side Hearts last month, but no move North has been confirmed as of yet. That leaves him available to a League One or Two side requiring an experienced ‘keeper. He’d certainly be an asset at that level, and he clearly needs to get his career back on track with some regular football.