With just two play-off finals left to play at Wembley this year, the 2016/17 EFL season is drawing to a close. This season has seen plenty of goals and great drama across all three divisions, with both the Championship and League Two leaving the title race and relegation fight until the last game. Released and retained lists have been drawn up right across the country, and I’m taking a look at five men who have been released and would be worth taking a punt on.
JOHN RUDDY – Norwich City
Former England stopper Ruddy rarely featured for the Canaries in their first season back in the Championship, and the fan favourite departs Carrie Road after seven years in East Anglia.
Ruddy fell out of favour with former manager Alex Neil towards the end of City’s relegation battle last season, and never really made it back in the side. He would be a reliable stopper for any Championship side and at 30, he still has plenty left to offer.
He is linked with a number of Premier League sides, but whether they stay down or go up, I believe that Huddersfield Town could be an option for Ruddy, with the Terriers current number one Danny Ward returning to Liverpool after the play-off final on Monday.
LIAM TROTTER – Bolton Wanderers
Midfielder Trotter leaves the Macron Stadium after three years, and he is a man with plenty of Championship and League One experience at 28 years old. The former Millwall skipper helped the Trotters to bounce back to the second tier at the first time of asking, but wasn’t offered a new deal by Phil Parkinson.
A number of League One sides are rumoured to be interested in Trotter, but he will want to play as high as possible. A return to The New Den with newly-promoted Millwall could be an option for the versatile midfielder, but League One sides could also come calling, with all three newly-relegated sides looking to bolster their midfield.
MATT GREEN – Mansfield Town
Former Stag Green was a surprise name for many on Steve Evans’ released list earlier this month, but the striker can’t be dwelling on that decision and now must look for a new club. He quickly fell out of favour with his old boss at Mansfield, and the man who scored 86 goals in two spells in Notinghamshire felt he didn’t get the respect he deserved.
Green is likely to be involved in a transfer tug of war this summer, with plenty of League Two clubs likely to show interest, and Green himself said he has had offered from not just League Two but also up to make a step up to the Championship. Lincoln City are one side that could go for the former Stag though, this after the missed out on former loan man Lee Angel, who has coincidentally replaced Green at the One Call Stadium.
JAY O’SHEA – Chesterfield
Irishman O’Shea is an attacking midfielder that can play on both wings and also operate at a striker when called upon, and this versatility will be an asset to many clubs in League One and possibly above. The Spireites will see O’Shea’s departure as a huge loss as he was a key man for them for much of his time in Derbyshire, but his exit was expected following their relegation from League One.
He spent the second half of the season on loan at Sheffield United, helping them to cruise to the title, whilst his parent club left the third team in the opposite direction.
O’Shea was expected to join the Blades permanently this summer, but he instead has opted against a return to Bramall Lane and now looks for a new adventure. He is linked with a move to League Two champions Portsmouth, where he’d link up with his former boss Paul Cook on the South Coast. If O’Shea wishes to stay in the North, however, then Doncaster Rovers would also do well to sign him on their return to League One, as Darren Ferguson looks to add pace to his front line.
MARLEY WATKINS – Barnsley
Watkins has excelled for Barnsley this season, scoring 10 goals and assisting nine for the Oakwell outfit this season, an improvement on his tally from last seasons’ promotion success. Despite being offered a new contacts by the Tykes, Watkins looks set to move on after he didn’t get a move in January, despite handing in a transfer request.
Several clubs are interested in the tricky Welsh winger, with Cardiff City and Norwich City said to be amongst the front runners for his signature. Premier League side Burnley are also rumoured to be interested however, and a chance at top-flight football is something that Watkins would surely look to snap up.