Season Preview Part 3 30/07/2013Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
Time for a bit of explanation. As you read this, all being well, I’m in Ethiopia… this was written in advance, which is why if Charlton signed Pelé yesterday or something it’s not reflected in the guff below. Clear? Good.
INS: Mark Gower (Swansea City, Free), Richard Wood (Coventry City, Free)
OUTS: Danny Haynes (Notts County, Free), John Sullivan (Portsmouth, Free), Scott Wagstaff (Bristol City, Free), Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls, Free), Ricardo Fuller, Salim Kerkar, Yado Mambo, Matt Taylor, Jonathan Obika (Tottenham Hotspur, End of Loan)
OUR EX-ADDICKS: None
THEIR EX-ORNS: Alex Dyer (Assistant Manager), Johnnie Jackson, Chris Powell (Manager)
RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Victory with ten men at the Valley courtesy of an Almen Abdi pearler, and a chaotic New Year’s defeat at the Vic after wholesale team changes.
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:
Cort Dervite Morrison
Solly Hughes Wiggins
VERDICT: Chris Powell’s Addicks finished a creditable ninth in a very tight division last season on the back of their League One title the year before, but it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to emulate that position this time around. Athletic had been looking a little bit dicey until a strong late run but since then departures have decimated their forward line with Ricardo Fuller, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Danny Haynes and the on-loan Obika all departing and no replacements coming in at the time of typing. In Hamer, Solly and Pritchard there’s some young talent in the side… but a lot of the key players, including Kermorgant, Jackson and Hughes, are the wrong side of 30 and many are out of contract next summer. A big challenge to Chris Powell’s managerial credentials then; he won’t have had to cope with a challenge quite like this before. Bottom half for me, and could struggle if they don’t seriously strengthen up front.
INS: Johnny Russell (Dundee United, £750,000), Craig Forsyth (Watford, Undisclosed), John Eustace (Free), Lee Grant (Burnley, Free), Chris Martin (Norwich City, Free), Adam Smith (Tottenham Hotspur, Season Loan)
OUTS: John Brayford (Cardiff City, £1,500,000), Frank Fielding (Bristol City, £200,000), Gareth Roberts (Bury, Free), Ross Atkins (Alfreton Town, Season Loan), Conor Doyle (DC United, Three Month Loan)
OUR EX-RAMS: None
THEIR EX-ORNS: John Eustace, Theo Robinson, Craig Forsyth
RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A 5-1 mauling at Pride Park in the wake of Martin Taylor’s departure and a victory in February which saw Matěj Vydra’s last goal of the regular season.
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:
Smith Keogh Buxton Forsyth
Hughes Hendrick Bryson Ward
VERDICT: 18th, 14th, 19th, 12th, 10th. Nigel Clough’s league finishes in four and a half years in charge at Pride Park. It’s progress, if you squint at it, and in the context of a limited budget and of having inherited from Paul Jewell an overpaid squad that had finished the previous season with eleven points it’s all the more favourable… just as Ray Lewington’s achievement in keeping our heads above water in his time at the club isn’t reflected by the league tables of the period. But it’s nonetheless pretty remarkable that he’s still there, at a club whose supporters perhaps aren’t entirely free of the level of some might say misplaced expectation that comes from following a club like Derby.
Thing is, there are quite a lot of “clubs like Derby”. Clubs from fair-sized cities who could certainly support top flight football and perhaps had a spell in living if not quite recent memory when they were really quite successful. The problem is that these extraordinary achievements are taken as a benchmark, as something perhaps to be expected, anything less a disappointment whatever the context. So for Nigel Clough to be hanging in there in the face of such modest steps upwards is to Derby’s credit. You rather hope they do well. Or at least, rather them than one or two others.
And further progress is far from out of the question. The squad has certainly more depth than it’s had for a few years and there are plenty of youngsters pushing on in the wake of the likes of Jeff Hendrick and Will Hughes. The centre of defence is still a problem and County have been susceptible away from home; the midfield has plenty of talent but little real width and new boy Russell will need to get the goals that are expected of him – neither Sammon nor Chris Martin is prolific. Short of the best sides in the division, then, but certainly with a shout of sneaking into the play-offs with the help of a prevailing wind. Should be looking up, not down.
INS: Mark Duffy (Scunthorpe United, Undisclosed), Harry Forrester (Brentford, TBC), Marc de Val Fernandes (Real Madrid, Free), Dean Furman (Oldham Athletic, Free), Luke McCulloch (Manchester United, Free)
OUTS: Jordan Ball, Patrick Mullen, Neil Sullivan, Gary Woods, Martin Woods, Cameron Howieson (Burnley, End of Loan), Ian Hume (Preston North End, End of Loan), Emile Sinclair (Peterborough United, End of Loan)
OUR EX-ROVERS: Reece Brown
THEIR EX-ORNS: Harry Forrester
RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A goalless draw at the Keepmoat two seasons ago and a 4-1 mauling a month later on New Year’s Eve which saw Michael Kightly net a late beauty and Marvin Sordell score his last league goals for the Hornets.
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:
Quinn McCombe Jones Spurr
Cotterill Furman Forrester Duffy
VERDICT: Despite the endless streams of transfer rumours, speculation, “sources suggesting” and derring-do that fills the pre-season, one consideration that’s surprisingly frequently overlooked is the plight of season preview writers. Quite how I’m supposed to formulate any kind of prediction or verdict on a side who may (or may not) be subject to a takeover and thus may (or may not) be about to embark on a shopping spree and who we didn’t get to see last season is beyond me.
Either way, some sort of recruitment must surely take place between now and the end of August. As I write this on Thursday evening (yes, it’s been complicated…) Rovers have no goalkeeper (Neil Sullivan having finally hung up his gloves and Gary Woods also released) and precious little in attack or defence – where I’ve list above an out-of-contract-and-as-yet-unsigned Tommy Spurr at left back and an injured James McCombe. In the circumstances, Rovers fans can be forgiven for being a bit jumpy despite reassurances coming out of the Keepmoat – especially when manager Paul Dickov, an odd appointment at this distance, brought a second former Oldham charge, Jean-Yves M’Voto to train with the squad only for the big defender to opt instead for near neighbours Barnsley. Dickov has claimed a moral victory, that M’Voto wasn’t worth the extra money that Barnsley offered… he may know something that we don’t, but his clear conscience won’t win him many points when the action starts.
As it stands, Rovers have a tidy and well-populated midfield but very little else. With the squad as it stands, even on the safe assumption that a keeper or two is drafted in from somewhere, they’ll go down. So everything depends on who and how quickly they manage to bring in… the Irish takeover mooted the names of Shay Given and Richard Dunne, the latter now at QPR, whilst Norwich’s Leon Barnett is another mentioned in dispatches. Either way, as we found out last season, even great signings will take some time to get going. Rovers are looking lower mid-table at best, but that’s a lofty ambition as it stands.
INS: Jake Carroll (St.Patrick’s Athletic, Undisclosed), Adam Hammill (Wolverhampton Wanderers, Undisclosed), James Vaughan (Norwich City, Undisclosed), Daniel Carr (Dulwich Hamlet, free), Martin Paterson (Burnley, Free), Jon Stead (Bristol City, Free)
OUTS: Scott Arfield (Burnley, Free), Tom Clarke (Preston North End, Free), Lee Novak (Birmingham City, Free), Josh Windass (Accrington Stanley, Free), Alan Lee, Chris Atkinson (Tranmere Rovers, Six Month Loan), Jermaine Beckford (Leicester City*, End of Loan), Neil Danns (Leicester City, End of Loan), Theo Robinson (Derby County, End of Loan)
OUR EX-TERRIERS: None
THEIR EX-ORNS: Jonathan Hogg, Ross Wilson (Director of Football Operations)
RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Two memorable wins; the pivotal game of the season which saw a change in formation, first starts for Hoban and Hall, a first start of the season for Deeney and a 3-2 win, and a 4-0 in January in which Huddersfield put up resistance but were eventually unpicked by Cristian Battocchio’s goal of the season.
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:
Hunt Gerrard Lynch Dixon
Scannell Paterson Hammill
VERDICT: Huddersfield just about clung on last season thanks in part to a very good start; they survived despite a twelve match run without a League win which concluded with that Cristian Battocchio goal at Vicarage Road. That games was Simon Grayson’s last in charge, and Mark Robins subsequently arrested the slide which in a tight division had been more than enough to redirect the Terriers’ attentions from the top end of the table to the relegation zone, safety only secured after the musical chairs on the final day. Having secured James Vaughan to a permanent contract over the summer and added reasonably well the squad looks deeper than last season’s; there’s not enough quality in the first eleven to suggest a promotion challenge and you’d worry about the middle of the defence, dominated by big lumps that prefer a scrap to pace or being passed around, but it would probably take a bad year with injuries for Huddersfield to be troubled by relegation again.