SLIGO ROVERS manager Ian Baraclough has been scouring his native England for talent to help keep his side at the top of the League of Ireland tree next season.
Rivals Shamrock Rovers and St Patrick's Athletic have been strengthening their squads after missing out to the Bit O'Red this year and the former Scunthorpe manager has lost two of his best players to the Hoops in Jason McGuinness and Mark Quigley.
Defending their title looks an increasingly difficult task, but Baraclough has re-signed 14 of the league-winning squad and is attending a slew of matches in England looking for players.
"I've been watching, on average, five or six games a week at all levels, youth team games, U-21s, a few games in the Conference and even Premiership games – but that one was only pure pleasure," he said.
"It's important I bring in two or three fresh faces that the league doesn't know about and who can add a bit of quality."
Baraclough admits that he has lost out on some targets to rivals this winter, but he remains patient and believes the continuity of having the majority of last season's squad together again is important.
"A lot of players that we would like to have signed have been snapped up – they chose to go elsewhere," he acknowledged.
"We haven't got the biggest budget in the league and it's something we have to deal with. Hopefully, I can bring in two or three players from England and one or two here that I am talking to. We will see how it goes.
"Don't forget that Shamrock Rovers got rid of a load of players, so they've had to bring in new faces too. I've managed to keep 14 of my squad of league champions and that was important.
"We've lost Mark Quigley and Jason McGuinness, two prominent players from last season. I have to try to fill the positions they vacated and I have pinpointed one or two players I would like to speak to. Even if it comes to February and I still need one or two positions filled, I think there will still be players that can be brought in."
Baraclough has yet to name a new assistant manager to replace Gerry Carr, while he is excited to have his team together for pre-season having come in at the start of the last campaign after Paul Cook's departure on the eve of the league kick-off.
"That is something I'm looking forward to. Not only the playing side, but I'm trying to add to the coaching side of it. Preparation off the pitch is just as important as on it, so we can be stronger with a few more ideas. Hopefully, we will be right come March."