Trotters must strengthen - Megson
Megson is confident he can get the players he needs. However, after using just 18 in a season that ended with a disappointing 1-0 defeat at Manchester City, Megson offered a stark assessment of the future. "With the three loan players we are letting go, we are left with a squad that would get relegated," he said. "We have to improve it. We have no choice. "The hatchet job has been done. I was asked to get the expenses right down and keep the club in the Premier League. "This season I have used 18 players, including Chris Basham, who went on loan to Rochdale and wasn't deemed to be good enough there. "Now we have to look at a slightly more expensive way forward. It has to be done." Megson confirmed Ebi Smolarek, Ariza Makukula and Sebastien Puygrenier will leave the Reebok Stadium following the end of their respective loan periods, leaving him to start scouring a market he knows other like minded top flight clubs will be heavily involved in. His opposite number Mark Hughes will be bidding in an altogether different arena. Confirmation of a record shirt sponsorship deal with Etihad Airways for the next three seasons offers further proof of a club moving forward. And, while the massive change involved in the takeover by the Abu Dhabi United Group last summer offered a reasonable excuse, another 10th-placed finish will not be tolerated. "There is no reason why we should not hot the ground running next season," he said. "I would be disappointed if that was not the case because everyone knows what I am about now. "The whole process of change has taken longer than I anticipated but I believe challenging for a top-six place is a realistic target." Felipe Caicedo took just eight minutes to score the winner, finishing off a neat bit of improvisation from player of the year Stephen Ireland, whose astute pass was steered into the South American's path by Micah Richards. After that it was the Shaun Wright-Phillips show, which was not bad considering Hughes ruled him out on Friday with a knee injury. "That was my fault," admitted the City chief. "He was on his way down to London at the time and the advice was his knee would need a wash-out. "Instead, the medics said he should play and see how it stood up." Hughes will now embark on a short busman's holiday in Abu Dhabi before putting his plans in place for next season. They presumably do not include Glauber Berti who, after 30 appearances on the bench without getting a game, was finally handed a Premier League debut, raising the second biggest cheer of the day. "The lad deserves it," said Hughes. "He has been a really good professional this season. Although I must be getting a bit soft in my old age."
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