Marc McNulty (above) had been brilliant for us that season, and he was a great character to have off the pitch. He didn’t start off that quickly, but he soon came good and, ultimately, it was his goals that fired us to promotion. Understandably, he attracted interest from higher up the leagues.
I tried to keep him, but Reading came in with a really good offer during the summer and he told me he wanted to leave – so off he went. We signed Conor Chaplin as his replacement, but then Barnsley signed him off us a year later. It was the same with Tom Bayliss; Preston came in for him and we had to let him go. It was disappointing each time a player left, but this was the reality for us – we were playing well and developing players quickly, so we had to be ready for big clubs to come in for our best players.
“We thought about developing our playing style and how we could get the extra edge that would take us up a level”
We were prepared, though, because we’d already put things in place to improve our recruitment. The staff in the recruitment department have done amazing work, bringing in young players in whom we have spotted something, while there has also been a focus on giving academy players a chance in the team. It has meant that, every time a key player has left, we are ready, having identified a replacement. It’s been a huge part of why the club has been able to continue to progress in spite of players leaving.
We try to bring in a certain type of player – players like Liam Kelly, Matty Godden, Sam McCallum and Kyle McFadzean (below, right). They are good lads, leaders and, obviously first and foremost, very good players. They are people who like to have a good time and so have helped to build the brilliant team spirit we’ve got, but also take on board what you say to them and put our game plan into practice.