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Lemon Chiffons, Buttercup Fools, and other not quite Yellows 04/05/2007

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

With our season effectively over and another dead zone during which footballers and managers go on holiday and football writers have to amuse themselves by peddling gossip and agents’ feeds almost upon us, it seemed an idea to glance back at the names with which we were linked last summer and see how the ones that got away got on elsewhere.

Free as we are from the burden of having to negotiate contracts or transfer fees, or to persuade these guys to come, unhindered by worrying about whether these rumours had any foundation and yet blessed with the benefit of hindsight, I’ve also had a go at assessing whether we should have taken these guys, or whether we were best of out of it…

Even setting Marlon’s catastrophic injury aside, the need for attacking options was beyond dispute having largely ridden our luck with injuries in this department last season.  Cardiff City’s Michael Chopra was linked with the Hornets; his twenty-two goals have come in fits and bursts, and he has only one goal in ten at the time of writing having endured a similar spell earlier in the season.  Nonetheless, we won’t be the only club looking at the half-million that Cardiff paid Newcastle as a snip. 

Chopra is rumoured to be moving on in the summer; so too David Nugent of Preston who was a fanciful target last summer and the more so this on the back of another steady domestic season (17 goals) and an England call-up.

The other mooted names in attacking positions last summer must be listed, at best, as “open verdicts”. Few Hornets would have objected, for example, to Heidar Helguson returning from Fulham, but he’s had a poor season recording only four goals and almost three times as many bookings; his stock has fallen considerably amongst the Fulham support.  Nor, for all Betty’s keenness, is it possible to regard Collins John as a banker;  much as our manager has sorted out questionable attitudes in the past, you’ve got to worry about someone who is told by his manager that he’s not in his plans, and doesn’t even want to talk about a loan.  John has just one senior goal this season, and has been used sparingly.Other maybes include Giuseppe Rossi of Manchester United, whose pedigree is beyond dispute but who made little impact on loan at Newcastle earlier in the season. He has been on loan at Parma since January, who he has helped climb away from the Serie A relegation zone with an impressive strike rate.  So too Cameron Jerome, who made a slow start to his Birmingham career after signing from Cardiff but continues to be part of a promotion squad.  Nathan Ellington may also end up being part of a promoted side, but has plenty of doubters at the Hawthorns, having to live down an attempt to force a transfer back to Wigan, and an accusation of hiding when the going gets tough.  Like Jerome, he has nine to his credit so far.  Several other strikers made moves to Championship clubs, and their moderate impact must make it questionable whether they’d have made a big enough contribution to our top flight ambitions this season.  That said, former Manchester United man Sylvain Ebanks-Blake made a positive impression in the Cup Quarter-Final which suggested that he could add something to the squad, although he’s another with a moderate nine goals to his name.  Michael Mifsud, an impish Maltese forward, eventually moved from Lillestrom to Coventry where he has entertained but not always delivered.  Meanwhile Tamas Priskin’s compatriot Peter Rajczi was linked with a move from Ujpest Dosza.  He ended up on loan at Barnsley instead, where he has hit one goal since January. 

A couple of strikers have to remain listed largely as unknowns.  Spaniard Sergio Pardo Koke was an early name to be linked with the Hornets last summer;  instead, he moved from Marseilles to Aris Thessaloniki in Greece, where he has hit eight in fifteen in helping his new side to fourth in the Greek Super League.  Easier to judge perhaps is Senegalese Moussa N’Diaye; linked with the Hornets on Ajaccio’s relegation last season, N’Diaye instead joined Auxerre, for whom he has failed to score in eighteen starts. 

Others come firmly under the “best off out of it” heading.  Peterborough’s Danny Crow was a protégé of Betty’s at Norwich, but has slipped to third choice striker at London Road this season and has been transfer listed this week by manager Darren Ferguson.  Carl Cort, meanwhile, has had another injury hit season and hasn’t played for Wolves since a knee operation in November.  Fakenham Town’s prolific Daniel Wright was linked with a big jump up to the Prem; instead he made the more modest – but still not inconsiderable – move to the Conference South where he signed for eventual champions Histon, scoring a brace in their final game of the season at Farnborough.  Meanwhile Shabazz Baidoo’s most significant contribution this season was as a chief protagonist in the ruck with the Chinese national side; his potential remains unfulfilled, and he’s considered fortunate to have a year left on his contract at Loftus Road – a contract that may have been provoked by our mooted interest last summer.  Finally, last summer’s triallist Joseph Desiré Job is currently Sedan’s top scorer with 8 in 23, but his side look like slipping out of Ligue 1, currently sitting second from bottom.

Elsewhere in the side, three of our supposed targets ended up playing for Colin at Sheffield United; Matthew Kilgallon, of the three, is perhaps the most unfortunate for us to have missed out on.  He’s not had much of a look in at Bramall Lane as yet since arriving from Leeds, but has looked composed when called upon, and impressed hugely in the game last weekend.  Ex-PNE Claude Davis is another centre-half who we were allegedly chasing; he reportedly punctuates otherwise solid performances with catastrophic errors.  We have a few defenders in that category already, and probably did well missing out on an injury-prone one.  Finally utility man Mikele Leigertwood has failed to establish himself since arriving from Palace; again, one who doesn’t look like he could have changed the path of our season.

The quest for a right winger didn’t really end with Smudger’s return; we could still do with a conventional winger who could stick the ball in the box on a regular basis.  Of those linked twelve months ago Carlos Edwards has probably done the best for himself, bailing out of Luton to sign for promoted Sunderland.  Jobi McAnuff has done enough as Palace have re-established themselves in mid-table under the stupefyingly dull Peter Taylor to warrant them trying to tie him down to a new contract, which probably means that someone’s sniffing around, whilst Wayne Routledge’s future as a victim of Spurs’ policy of buying any young British midfielder who can kick straight is unclear;  his hit-and-miss loan season at Fulham may yet end in relegation.

In central midfield, a couple of nasty oiks were mentioned that might have given us an edge but at some cost to our integrity;  Lee Hendrie has seen more football this season than for a few years, albeit largely on loan at Stoke City.  At thirty, his potential is taking it’s time being fulfilled.  Lee Bowyer was another narrow escape;  he has played a bit part in West Ham’s embarrassing season. The only other midfielder we were linked with was Lillestrom’s Slovenian international Robert Koren, who has impressed since joining West Brom in January.

The number of left-backs we were linked with last summer bears testimony to how little was expected of Jordan Stewart;  Jordan has probably been the most positive surprise of the season, and is one of few with a first team place nailed down for next term.  Nonetheless nobody would have objected to the return of Paul Robinson from West Brom; after another strong season (peppered, as ever, by two red cards and another eleven yellows) he is being linked with a move to Newcastle United.  Everton’s Gary Naysmith has again been used sparingly by David Moyes, with Joleon Lescott establishing himself out of position at left back; he might have done a job, but doesn’t offer an obvious improvement on Stewart.  Much less so Des Byrne of Bohemians, one of the more leftfield rumours last summer.  Byrne has barely featured for Bohs this season, missing out a big chunk of the campaign, presumably through injury.

Two of the other left-backs linked were based in Scotland; Celtic’s Charlie Mulgrew ended up joining Wolves in part-exchange for Lee Naylor, and is another to have an injury-addled season.  Eddie Malone  was an early name mentioned;  the youngster eventually moved from Clyde to St.Mirren in the January window, and after a couple of appearances it’s fair to say that he wouldn’t have impacted our fortunes greatly, whatever his potential.  The final left back to be mentioned was Adam Drury; the Norwich captain has had a so-so season as the Canaries have fumbled along in the Championship, and eyebrows were raised as he was recently granted a four year contract.

In central positions, we were linked with a number of old codgers in search of a contract.  Stephane Henchoz managed to wangle one out of his old club Blackburn but hasn’t featured a great deal, and with the recruitment of Christopher Samba and Andre Ooijer due to return from injury his days at Ewood would seem to be numbered.  Nor did he endear himself with some disparaging remarks after our victory over Rovers in January.  Alain Goma, meanwhile, didn’t appear to find himself a new club on being released from Fulham.  Chris Perry has generally impressed when used at West Brom having left Charlton, but has been at the centre of a couple of dressing room bust-ups; accusations of a “big time charlie” attitude don’t exactly endear him.  Christian Dailly was another name mentioned, but age is beginning to catch up with him, and the stock of West Ham defenders has never been high – something that won’t have been improved by the January recruitment of Calum Davenport, linked in the sumemr as well as being tied into a possible Spurs deal for Ashley Young mid-season.  Davenport has struggled with his new side, and his quite pathetic booking for shouting at Doris before his penalty at Upton Park was one of several highlights of a rare good day this season.

Two more centre backs played most of their football on loan from their new clubs – Sam Sodje chose Reading over the Hornets on leaving Brentford, but has spent the second half of the season covering for Curtis Davies’ injury at West Brom., not always successfully.  Gabriel Zakuani, meanwhile, moved from Orient to Fulham, but has formed part of the loan army at Stoke City of late, who have lost only one in eight in which he has featured.

Former Arsenal comedy turn and unlikely Euro 2004 star Igor Stepanovs was also mentioned on being released by Grasshopper last summer;  he has since turned out for Jurmela in Finland, and is now with Esbjerg, struggling in the bottom half of the Danish League. More of a coup would have been Ghanaian John Mensah, who continues to impresse in Ligue 1 with Rennes – whom he had only joined from Cremonese in the January of last year – and is still being pursued by Reading.  Peter Ramage, too, might have been a good call although he hasn’t featured for Newcastle since January;  recent rumours link him with a season long loan to Wolves next season.

The two right backs linked have generally acquitted themselves well at their new clubs;  Wigan have had that “difficult second season” in the top flight, but Emmerson Boyce has generally acquitted himself well, something that will not have come as a surprise to those who watched him against us for Palace last season.  Meanwhile former Watford loanee Stephen Kelly has gradually established himself at repromoted Birmingham after a sticky start.

Finally the only goalkeeper, other than Ben Foster, to be linked last summer was Australian Croat Joey Didulica, who eventually signed for Dutch chancers AZ67 Alkmaar from Austria Vienna.  Didulica has had an injury-troubled season as AZ67 have had to field five different goalkeepers in the Eredivisie.

So overall… a few that got away who might have been out of our range anyway for one reason or another, a fair few that we were best off out of, and only one or two where a realistic punt might have strengthened our hand.  Who’d be a manager, I ask you?



1. MikeP - 06/05/2007

Nice article Matt – I see the old preview researching habits die hard. What’s most revealing about this article is how many players we’ve been linked with do actually move during the season. That just proves that for the most part, rumours are generated by player agents in order to stir up interest for a move.

2. Aled - 07/05/2007

Great article. But with retrospect would only really have wanted Robbo (even though there is only one Jordan Stewart), and another striker (I’m a fan of Ellington myself), although nothing would have given us a better chance of staying up than King being fit. Also wouldn’t have objected to Lee Hendrie, as Francis has been poor all season, shame he got injured cos we could have sold him for a million or so to whoever wins the playoffs…

3. jimbohornet - 08/05/2007

What about Saganowski at Soton ? I’m just pleased we didn’t waste £3m on Collins John. Would Like to see us re-sign Rinaldi and get someone like Healy or Earnshaw plus Richard Wright and some fullback cover until Jordan Parkes is ready to step up

4. Matt Rowson - 08/05/2007

We weren’t linked with Saganowski until January, which is when he came for his trial – this lot were all mentioned last summer, although some (Collins John…) were mentioned in January also.

Agree about Collins John, given that he wasn’t even prepared to come on loan. Got to fancy Betty would have got something out of him though. Rinaldi… hasn’t done enough for me, and we have a surfeit of central midfielders, albeit not many fit ones.

Earnshaw would be a great signing, although we won’t be the only ones sniffing around with Narch out of parachute payments. Healy – if his attitude was right, he wouldn’t still be at Leeds. Wright – would like to know what the hell’s gone on there for him to drop from England squad to Everton reserve. He’s 30 this year – not old for a keeper, but he made 240 of his 310 league starts for Ipswich before he was 24…

5. Dave, Hornets Sweden - 10/05/2007

Another blast from the past: remember Junior? Brazillian we had for a while.

He’s now plying his trade doing an apparently decent job for Malmö FF in the dire Swedish league (five games in there are three points seperating top and bottom…).

He’s injured at the mo though.

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