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Season Preview 05/08/2007

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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BARNSLEY

Ins: Kayode Odejayi (Cheltenham Town, £200,000), Marciano Bruma (Sparta Rotterdam, Free), Andy Johnson (Leicester City, Free), Rob Kozluk (Sheffield United, Free), Rohann Ricketts (Wolverhampton Wanderers, Free), Dennis Souza (Charleroi, Free), Dominik Werling (Sakaryaspor, Free), Miguel Mostto (Cienciano, Undisclosed), Lewin Nyatanga (Derby County, Loan)

Outs: Paul Hayes (Scunthorpe United, Tribunal),  Daniel Nardiello (Queens Park Rangers, Undisclosed), Robbie Williams (Huddersfield Town, Undisclosed), Anthony Kay (Tranmere Rovers, Free), Marc Richards (Port Vale, Free), Dale Tonge (Rotherham United, Free), Thomas Harban (Bradford City, Loan), Paul Heckingbottom (Bradford City, Loan), Nathan Joynes (Bradford City, Loan), Neil Austin, Stefan Holt, Nathan Jarman, Ryan Laight (all released)

Their ex-Orns: Martin Devaney, Rick Holden (assistant manager)

Our ex-Tykes: None

Significant Others: That nice Rob Kozluk, and aggro midfielder Andy Johnson

Verdict:It’s hard enough to pass judgment on those we left behind a year ago without having to consider the likes of the Tykes, who we haven’t faced in the five years since Peter Fincham was evicted from Oakwell in his boxer shorts.  Barnsley’s survival was quite a narrow thing last season and although they’ve brought a few players in they’re hardly unique in that regard.  Of the more familiar names, Ricketts, Kozluk and Johnson are signings that will help drop anchor at best, and although the Tykes seem to be pleased with the signing of Mostto it would seem that survival is the best Barnsley can hope for.  Touch and go.

BLACKPOOL

Ins: Gary Taylor-Fletcher (Huddersfield Town, Undisclosed), Stephen Crainey (Leeds United, Free), Michael Flynn (Gllingham, Free), John Hills (Sheffield Wednesday, Free), Paul Rachubka (Huddersfield Town, Free)

Outs: Matty Blinkhorn (Morecambe, Undisclosed), Marc Joseph (Rotherham United, Free), Paul Rierney (Stockport County, Loan), Simon Wiles (Macclesfield Town, Loan), Ciaran Donnelly, Sean Paterson (released)

Their ex-Orns: None

Our ex-Seasiders: Clarke Carlisle

Significant Others: Andy Morrell, long-time non-scoring Coventry forward, and Michael Jackson, who once a fine own goal at the Vic in a 1-1 draw with Preston

Verdict: The Seasiders finished their promotion season like a train with two draws and just one defeat in their last seventeen games, and looked a class act in the play-off dismissal of Yeovil.  They’ll want to get the Tevez-esque signing of Wes Hoolahan sorted out, and do appear to have signed a number of Championship plodders to strengthen their squad with, but would seem to have the best chance of the promoted clubs of making an impact.

BRISTOL CITY

Ins: Lee Trundle (Swansea City, £1,000,000), Marvin Elliott (Millwall, Undisclosed), Michael McIndoe (Wolverhampton Wanderers, Undisclosed), Ivan Sproule (Hibernian, Undisclosed), Stephen Henderson (Aston Villa, Free), Tamas Vasko (Ujpest Dosza, Loan)

Outs: Elliott Benyon (Torquay United, Free), Aaron Ledgister (Cheltenham Town, Free), Craig Woodman (Wycombe Wanderers, Free), Frankie Artus (Exeter City, Loan), Dean Grubb, Andy Smith, Sean Thomas, Danny Wring (released)

Their ex-Orns: Steve Brooker, Lee Johnson, David Noble, Gary Johnson (Manager), Keith Millen (Assistant Manager)

Our ex-Robins: None

Significant Others: One-time Luton lummox Enoch Showunmi, former Fulham and Barnsley striker Kevin Betsy

Verdict: City have taken longer than they might have hoped to return to this level since their last promotion behind us in 1998, after which they prematurely disposed of John Ward and were immediately relegated.  They weren’t hugely impressive in gaining promotion last season from our distance, but have made some reasonably impressive recruits over the summer who ought to do enough to guarantee safety.  Lee Trundle, in particular, is just the sort of iconic striker that you’d want to hang a backs-to-the-wall campaign on.

BURNLEY

Ins: Besart Barisha (SV Hamburg, £340,000), Robbie Blake (Leeds United, £250,000), Stephen Jordan (Manchester City, Free), Gabor Kiraly (Crystal Palace, Free)

Outs: Graham Branch (Accrington Stanley, Free), Danny Coyne (Tranmere Rovers, Free), Frank Sinclair (Huddersfield Town, Free), John McGreal (released)

Their ex-Orns: None

Our ex-Clarets: None

Significant Others: Ade Akinbiyi, responsible for £15m-worth of transfer fees and counting, and hard-nosed former Sunderland skipper Stephen Caldwell

Verdict: My mate Chris is convinced, seemingly arbitrarily, that Burnley are a good tip for promotion this season.  I can’t see it myself.  The Clarets probably have too much quality to qualify as relegation favourites, but they do seem once again to be trying to get away with a painfully small squad – quality at the expense of quantity, perhaps.  You kinda feel that they can only get away with this for so long.  The rumoured signing of Hasselbaink is also a curious one – if you can only add a few players to the squad, why make two of them Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink?

CARDIFF CITY

Ins: Tony Capaldi (Plymouth Argyle, Free), Warren Feeney (Luton Town, Free), Robbie Fowler (Liverpool, Free), Steven MacLean (Sheffield Wednesday, Free), Gavin Rae (Rangers, Free), Trevor Sinclair (Manchester City, Free), Ross Turnbull (Middlesbrough, Loan)

Outs: Michael Chopra (Sunderland, £5,000,000), Neil Alexander (Ipswich Town, Free), Chris Barker (Q.P.R., Free), Michael Corcoran (Oxford United, Free), Mark Howard (St.Mirren, Free), Joe Jacobson (Bristol Rovers, Free), Willo Flood (Dundee United, Season Loan), Scott Allison, Kevin Campbell, Greg Coombes, Jamal Easter, Luigi Glombard, Scott McCoubrey, Curtis McDonald, Nick McKoy, Jeff Whitley (released), Martyn Margetson (retired)

Their ex-Orns: Terry Burton (Assistant Manager), Paul Wilkinson (Reserve Team Manager)

Our ex-Bluebirds: Jobi McAnuff

Significant Others: Brutal centre-back Darren Purse, Peter “son of Guy” Whittingham

Verdict: The Bluebirds seem set for a promotion campaign with slightly more legs than last time around, with some eye-catching signings.  I’m unconvinced about the Fowler thing, personally – there’s no doubting his quality, but if he can’t get himself in shape and focused when playing for Liverpool, then the sort of midweek away trips that await this season are hardly going to get him going.  More significant perhaps are the recruitments of MacLean, Rae and Capaldi, all very decent players at this level.  Concerns remain between the sticks, with no obvious senior replacement for the departed Alexander recruited, and on balance Cardiff perhaps look a little short of the top sides in the division, but with a prevailing wind could make the play-offs.

CHARLTON ATHLETIC

Ins: Luke Varney (Crewe Alexandra, £2,000,000), Paddy McCarthy (Leicester City, £650,000), Yassin Moutaouakil (Chateauroux, £400,000), Dean Sinclair (Barnet, £125,000), Chris Iwelumo (Colchester United, Free), Chris Powell (Watford, Free), Jose Semedo (Sporting Lisbon, Free), Svetoslav Todorov (Portsmouth, Free), Nicky Weaver (Manchester City, Free)

Outs: Darren Bent (Tottenham Hotspur, £16,500,000), Luke Young (Middlesbrough, £2,500,000), Dennis Rommedahl (Ajax, £680,000), Simon Walton (Queens Park Rangers, £200,000), Hermann Hreidarsson (Portsmouth, Free), Bryan Hughes (Hull City, Free), Talal El Karkouri (Qatar SC, Free), Radostin Kishishev (Leicester City, Free), Kevin Lisbie (Colchester United, Free), Donovan Simmonds (Coventry City, Free), Myles Weston  (Notts County, Free), Grant Basey (Brentford, Loan), Kelly Youga (Scunthorpe United, Loan), Nathan Ashton, Rurik Gislason, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Alistair John, Thomas Myhre(released)

Their ex-Orns: Chris Powell, Mark Robson (first team coach) – 45 minutes on loan in 1989

Our ex-Addicks: Dan Shittu

Significant Others: The tubby Andy Reid and much-travelled Marcus Bent, both with a respectable record at Division Two level.

Verdict: Charlton’s greatest challenge will be overcoming the turmoil of vast player turnover, and the club’s first season outside the top flight since 1999/2000.  In the playing squad and the management team, however, they’ve got plenty of experience of this division, and their summer recruitment has been strong.  Theirs to stuff up.

COLCHESTER UNITED

Ins: Clive Platt (Franchise, £300,000), Mark Yeates (Tottenham Hotspur, undisclosed), Danny Granville (Colchester United, Free), Luke Guttridge (Leyton Orient, Free), Kevin Lisbie (Charlton Athletic, Free), Teddy Sheringham (West Ham United, Free), Bela Balogh (MTK Hungaria, Loan), Matthew Connolly (Arsenal, Loan)

Outs: Wayne Brown (Hull City, £450,000), Jamie Cureton (Norwich City, undisclosed), Garry Richards (Southend United, Undisclosed), Richard Garcia (Hull City, Free), Chris Iwelumo (Charlton Athletic, Free), Lawrie Wilson (released)

Their ex-Orns: Johnnie Jackson

Our ex-Us: Alec Chamberlain

Significant Others: Former Reading midfielder Kevin Watson, pun-friendly keeper Dean Gerken (“got into a bit of a pickle with that cross”, etc)

Verdict: Having grown up in Essex I find myself now with several nouveau-U’s amongst my friends – admittedly affinities dating from slightly before their recent, extraordinary successes.  Like many, I thought they’d go straight back down last season and Seth B. Ramall in particular (see giroscope on our Blog Roll) delighted in reflecting on the inadequacy of my prediction throughout.  I can only hope that the same prediction has the same effect this time; it’s fantastic that a club like Colchester with a rubbish ground and tiny squad can finish above the likes of Ipswich, Palace and Leicester – not to mention a division or so higher than certain others.  Unfortunately, with many of last season’s star turns bailing out over the summer the challenge is on for Geraint Williams to refashion a few new rough diamonds from somewhere – Clive Platt certainly seems to fit that bill.  Will do well to stay up.

COVENTRY CITY

Ins: Robbie Simpson (Cambridge United, £40,000), Leon Best (Southampton, Tribunal), Gary Borrowdale (Crystal Palace, Tribunal), Ellery Cairo (Hertha BSC Berlin, Free), Julian Gray (Birmingham City, Free), Michael Hughes (Crystal Palace, Free),  Dimitrious Konstantopoulos (Hartlepool United, Free), Donovan Simmonds (Charlton Athletic, Free), Arjan de Zeeuw (Wigan Athletic, Free)

Outs: Colin Cameron (Franchise FC, Free), Don Hutchison (Luton Town, Free), Arran Lee-Barratt (Hartlepool United, Free), Andrew Whing (Brighton & Hove Albion, Free), Che Bunce (released)

Their ex-Orns: Wayne Andrews, Robert Page, Stephen Hughes

Our ex-Sky Blues: None

Significant Others: Former Sunderland battering ram Kevin Kyle, Maltese striker Michael Mifsud

Verdict: Cov seem to have settled comfortably in Division Two into the same role that they occupied for so long in the top flight – bottom half fodder.  Modest summer recruitment means that mid-table is surely the best that the Sky Blues can hope for – the most interesting aspect of their season surely being whether Iain Dowie can justify his erstwhile reputation.  One of several sides that could struggle badly if they’re unlucky with injuries.

CRYSTAL PALACE

Ins: Tony Craig (Millwall, undisclosed), Jeff Hughes (Lincoln City, Undisclosed), Jose Fonte (Benfica, Loan)

Outs: Jobi McAnuff (Watford, £1,750,000), Darren Ward (Wolves, undisclosed), Gary Borrowdale (Coventry City, Tribunal), Tommy Black (Southend United, Free), Jerahl Hughes (Yeovil Town, Free), Michael Hughes (Coventry City, Free), Gabor Kiraly (Burnley, Free), Danny Granville (Colchester United, Free)

Their ex-Orns: Carl Fletcher, Peter Taylor (Manager)

Our ex-Eagles: Steve Kabba, Jobi McAnuff

Significant Others: Flaky ex-Blades winger Paul Ifill, Finnish striker Shefku Kuqi (pronounced “Coochie”.  As in “Souness pulls off a Kuqi coup”…)

Verdict:  Like Norwich and Southampton, Palace’s summer dealings betray the disappearance of parachute payments.  With the less than inspiring Peter Taylor in charge – surely one bad run away from a supporter revolt, whichever club he’s in charge of – it’s mid-table stodge at best for the Eagles.

HULL CITY

Ins: Wayne Brown (Colchester United, £450,000), Dean Windass (Bradford City, £150,000), Richard Garcia (Colchester United, Free), Bryan Hughes (Charlton Athletic, Free)

Outs: Jon Parkin (Stoke City, £275,000), Darryl Duffy (Swansea City, £200,000), Nicky Forster (Brighton & Hove Albion, £75,000), Tom Matthews (Boston United, Free), Scott Wiseman (Darlington, Free), Michael Byron, Russell Fry, Ray Parlour (released)

Their ex-Orns: Wayne Brown

Our ex-Tigers: None

Significant Others: The “enigmatic” Nick Barmby, former Millwall plodder Dave Livermore

Verdict: Another leftfield outside tip for promotion, this time from Peter Fincham whose links to Hull must have coloured his judgment.  The Tigers have been linked with a few impressive names that, at the time of writing, haven’t come off but even with the likes of Chris Riggott and Alan Lee in tow it’s difficult to see City challenging.  Should survive a little more comfortably this time, though.

IPSWICH TOWN

Ins: Neil Alexander (Cardiff City, Free), Pablo Counago (Malaga, Free), Tommy Miller (Sunderland, Free)

Outs: Lewis Price (Derby County, Undisclosed), Scott Barron (Millwall, Free), Darren Currie (Luton Town, Free), Darryl Knights (Yeovil Town, Free), Ian Miller (Darlington, Loan), Martin Brittain, James Krause (released)

Their ex-Orns: None

Our ex-Blues: Alec Chamberlain

Significant Others: Former Fulham man Sylvain Legwinski, and Danny Haynes, who didn’t look at all silly on his last visit to the Vic.

Verdict:  Town’s prodigious production line will relied on all the more heavily; whilst few senior players have left, the names coming in won’t exactly have got the pulses racing either.  Ipswich showed enough during their Cup visit last season to suggest that the latest crop of kids have got something about them, but they finished an underwhelming fourteenth last season and with several teams below them strengthening more significantly, Ipswich could be sucked into the relegation battle this time around. 

LEICESTER CITY

Ins: DJ Campbell (Birmingham City, £1,600,000), Stephen Clemence (Birmingham City, £750,000), Hoessein Kaebi (Persopolis, Undisclosed), James Chambers (Watford, Free), Carl Cort (Wolves, Free), Jonathan Hayes (Reading, Free), Sergio Hellings (Apeldoorn, Free), Radostin Kishishev (Charlton Athletic, Free), Shaun Newton (West Ham United, Free), Jimmy Nielsen (AaB Aalborg, Free), Bruno N’Gotty (Bolton Wanderers, Free), Ricky Sappleton (Queens Park Rangers, Free)

Outs: Paddy McCarthy (Charlton Athletic, £650,000), Danny Cadamarteri (Huddersfield Town, Free), Andy Johnson (Barnsley, Free), Nils-Erik Johansson (AIK Solna, Free), Louis Dodds (Lincoln City, Loan), Scott Lycett, Danny Tiatto (released)

Their ex-Orns: James Chambers

Our ex-Foxes: Jordan Stewart, Gareth Williams

Significant Others: Australian utility man Patrick Kisnorbo, Canadian international striker Iain Hume

Verdict: Well it won’t be dull.  Leicester needed an overhaul and appear to have gotten one, even if in the likes of Clemence, Kishishev and Chambers the emphasis is more on solid functionality than on the spectacular – as one might expect from Martin Allen.  Some of the other recruits raise eyebrows – at 36, Bruno N’Gotty’s best years are surely behind him, Carl Cort’s injury record is prodigious and Shaun Newton is still a flaky nearly-man at the age of 32.  Worth keeping an eye on though, and probably a reasonable shout for the play-offs – which given Allen’s record of failing in play-offs for the last three years despite managing favourites each time perhaps doesn’t augur too well.

NORWICH CITY

Ins: Darel Russell (Stoke City, £600,000), Jamie Cureton (Colchester United, Undisclosed), David Marshall (Celtic, Undisclosed), David Strihavka (Banik Ostrava, Undisclosed), Julien Brellier (Hearts, Free), Matthew Gilks (Rochdale, Free), Jon Otsemobor (Crewe Alexandra, Free), Jimmy Smith (Chelsea, Loan)

Outs: Rob Earnshaw (Derby County, £3,500,000), Dickson Etuhu (Sunderland, £1,500,000), Jurgen Colin (Ajax, Undisclosed), Youssef Safri (Southampton, Undisclosed), Ian Henderson (Northampton Town, Free), Peter Thorne (Bradford City, Free), Joe Lewis (Morecambe, Loan), Gary Fisk, Mathieu Louis-Jean, Paul McVeigh (released)

Their ex-Orns: None

Our ex-Canaries: Adrian Boothroyd, Damien Francis, Martin Hunter, Matt Jackson, Malky Mackay

Significant Others: Pin-up Luke Chadwick, the much-travelled Dion Dublin, now 38

Verdict: Norwich’s fire-sale doesn’t compare to that at Palace, but they’ve still lost three of their strongest players and will need the replacements, including the well-quoted sulky Strihavka, to come off to just tread water.  Mid-table, with half an eye over their shoulders come Easter.

PLYMOUTH ARGYLE

Ins: Peter Halmosi (Debrecen, £400,000), Krisztian Timar (Ferencvaros, £75,000)

Outs: Hasney Aljofree (Swindon Town, £50,000), Tony Capaldi (Cardiff City, Free), Tim Sandercombe (Notts County, Free), Josh Clapham (released)

Their ex-Orns: None

Our ex-Pilgrims: None

Significant Others: The tidy-looking Sylvain Ebanks-Blake, old lag Barry Hayles

Verdict: Argyle have recruited quite modestly at the time of writing, but finished a strong mid-table and looked a tidy side during our cup tie.  Much as every away trip is a long slog for the Pilgrims (bear in mind that even Bristol is closer to Watford than Plymouth as the crow flies), Argyle’s home advantage in bringing teams down to Devon isn’t lost on Ian Holloway.  Comfortably mid-table again.  Which is a Good Thing.

PRESTON NORTH END

Ins: Karl Hawley (Carlisle United, Free), Billy Jones (Crewe Alexandra, Free), Kevin Nicholls (Leeds United, Free)

Outs: David Nugent (Portsmouth, £6,000,000), Carlo Nash (Wigan Athletic, £300,000), Kelvin Wilson (Nottingham Forest, £300,000), Danny Dichio (Toronto, Free), Dave Hibbert (Shrewsbury Town, Free), Ben Hinchcliffe (Derby County, Free), Michael Ricketts (Oldham Athletic, Free), Andrew Murphy (Northwich Victoria, Loan), Warren Beattie, Ashley Parillon, Pavel Pergl (released)

Their ex-Orns: None

Our ex-Lilywhites: None

Significant Others: Graham Alexander, still.  And Neil Mellor, scorer of THAT goal for Liverpool against Arsenal.

Verdict: Preston are a team that I like to see do well in an “if not us then rather PNE than plenty of others” kinda way.  Unfortunately it’s difficult to see Karl Hawley stepping into David Nugent’s shoes, and whilst Billy Jones will prove an excellent signing it’s difficult to see the Lilywhites sustaining their promotion challenges of recent seasons.  Mid-table.

QUEENS PARK RANGERS

Ins: Lee Camp (Derby County, £300,000), Simon Walton (Charlton Athletic, £200,000), Daniel Nardiello (Barnsley, Undisclosed), Chris Barker (Cardiff City, Free), John Curtis (Nottingham Forest, Free), Michael Mancienne (Chelsea, Loan), Ben Sahar (Chelsea, Loan)

Outs: Lee Cook (Fulham, Undisclosed), Marc Bircham (Yeovil Town, Free), Paul Furlong (Luton Town, Free), Kevin Gallen (Franchise, Free), Steve Lomas (Gillingham, Free),  John Munday (Kidderminster Harriers, Free), Simon Royce (Gillingham, Free), Ricky Sappleton (Leicester City, Free), Paul Jones, Mauro Milanese, Arnel Tchakounte (released)

Their ex-Orns: Danny Cullip, Warren Neill (First Team Coach)

Our ex-Rangers: Clarke Carlisle, Matt Jackson, Danny Shittu

Significant Others: Veteran winger Gareth Ainsworth, Luke Moore’s rubbish brother Stefan.

Verdict: It’s difficult to fathom how John Gregory has swung another managerial position, and with things looking far from stable off the pitch QPR would have been a reasonable relegation shout.  The loan signig of Sahar, however, looks a real coup, and could be enough to secure Rangers’ future in the division.  Not much more, though.

SCUNTHORPE UNITED

Ins: Kevan Hurst (Sheffield United, £200,000), Jonathan Forte (Sheffield United, Undisclosed), Paul Hayes (Barnsley, Tribunal), Martin Paterson (Stoke City, Tribunal), Izzy Iriekpen (Swansea City, Free), Kelly Youga (Charlton Athletic, Loan)

Outs: Billy Sharp (Sheffield United, Undisclosed), Steve Foster (Darlington, Free), Richard Hinds (Sheffield Wednesday, Free), Neill Mackenzie (Notts County, Free), Lee Ridley (Cheltenham Town, Free), Steve Torpey (Lincoln City, Free), Ashley Allanson, Ramon Calliste, Robbie Foy (released)

Their ex-Orns: None

Our ex-Iron: None

Significant Others: Experienced ex-QPR and Notts County man Ian Baraclough, ex-Tranmere prodigy keeper Joe Murphy.

Verdict: Division Three champions or otherwise, staying up was always going to be the priority for Nigel Adkins’ side.  With Billy Sharp departing and Jermaine Beckford returning to Elland Road on the back of Andy Keogh’s January move to Wolves, Scunny have already lost their three leading scorers from last season, and are hoping that a Stoke City reserve and a returning striker who scored five goals for Barnsley at this level last season will do the business in front of goal.  It’s thirty years since we last played Scunny, during GT’s Division Four championship season, and it would be nice if their defensive capabilities prove sufficient to keep them around for a year or two.  Doesn’t seem likely though.

SHEFFIELD UNITED

Ins: James Beattie (Everton, £4,000,000), Gary Naysmith (Everton, £1,000,000), David Carney (Sydney FC, Undisclosed), Billy Sharp (Scunthorpe United, Undisclosed), Lee Hendrie (Aston Villa, Free)

Outs: Phil Jagielka (Everton, £4,000,000), Claude Davis (Derby County, £3,000,000), Jacob Mellis (Chelsea, £1,300,000), Colin Kazim-Richards (Fenerbahce, £1,250,000), Kevan Hurst (Scunthorpe United, £200,000), Jonathan Forte (Scunthorpe United, Undisclosed), Rob Kozluk (Barnsley, Free), Chris Robertson (Torquay United, Free), Ben Starosta (Brentford, Loan), Paul Gerrard, Craig Short, Alan Wright (released)

Their ex-Orns: Danny Webber, Tony Daley (Fitness Coach)

Our ex-Blades: Steve Kabba

Significant Others: Geoff Horsfield, still.  And the unfortunate Luton Shelton. 

Verdict: One of the most depressing aspects of the whole Tevez thing has been the failure to acknowledge, amidst the mind-numbing column inches devoted to the transfer, that the Blades really were screwed over after all.  Not that this wasn’t painfully obvious from the moment West Ham claimed to have torn up the third party agreement with MSI (who were never going to write off their prize asset so tidily).  But it would be nice to see someone make United’s case.  Perhaps everyone’s just too tired of the whole thing.  That said, it was difficult to suppress a smile when Kevin McCabe’s inane hyperbole about an experienced manager (“like Peter Reid”) to replace the departing Warnock preceded the appointment of Bryan Robson.  Talk about a double whammy for Blades fans – improbable, unjust relegation.  And that “Captain Marvel”.  Jaysus.  Even Robbo will have to go some to keep t’Blades out of the play-off picture this time around, although plenty will be hoping that James Beattie falls on his more than ample backside in the process.

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY

Ins: Rob Burch (Tottenham Hotspur, Free), Lee Grant (Derby County, Free), Richard Hinds (Scunthorpe United, Free), Steve Watson (West Bromwich Albion, Free)

Outs: Chris Adamson (Stockport County, Free), Barry Corr (Swindon Town, Free), Graham Coughlan (Rotherham United, Free), John Hills (Blackpool, Free), Steven MacLean (Cardiff City, Free), Steve Adams, Andy Broadbent (released)

Their ex-Orns: None

Our ex-Owls: None

Significant Others: Former effete Crewe captain Kenny Lunt, the original Reggae Boyz’ Deon Burton

Verdict: After a strong end to the last campaign and with biggish names being linked over the summer, Owls fans can be forgiven for being a little underwhelmed with how they’re shaping up for the new season.  With the loss of MacLean to Cardiff a real blow, Wendy look light up front and will do well to repeat last season’s ninth place.

SOUTHAMPTON

Ins: Marek Saganowski (Troyes, £680,000), Youssef Safri (Norwich City, Undisclosed), Alan Bennett (Reading, Loan), Adam Hammill (Liverpool, Loan), Gregory Vignal (RC Lens, Loan)

Outs: Chris Baird (Fulham, £3,000,000), Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur, Undisclosed), Martin Crainie (Portsmouth, Undisclosed), Leon Best (Coventry City, Tribunal), Djamel Belmadi, Kevin Miller, David Prutton, Sean Rudd, Michael Svensson (released)

Their ex-Orns: David Hockaday (Youth Team Coach)

Our ex-Saints: None

Significant Others: Bradley, brother of Shaun, Wright-Phillips, the much travelled Kelvin Davis

Verdict: Despite Marek Saganowski’s move having been made permanent, the Saints look weaker for the summer transfer activity.  Adam Hammill was another coup by all accounts, but Southampton are out of parachute money and will do well to challenge for the play-offs.

STOKE CITY

Ins: Jon Parkin (Hull City, £275,000), Richard Cresswell (Leeds United, Undisclosed),  Stephen Wright (Sunderland, Loan)

Outs: Darel Russell (Norwich City, £600,000), Martin Paterson (Scunthorpe United, Tribunal), Adam Vass (Brescia, Undisclosed), James Curley, Hayden Doyle, Robbie Duggan, Kevin Harper, Geoff McGaw, Sean Robinson, Keith Thomas (released)

Their ex-Orns: None

Our ex-Potters: None

Significant Others: The-other-bloke-from-Senegal, Salif Diao, and another former Liverpool man Dominic Matteo

Verdict: Even Potters fans must find Tony Pulis a difficult man to love at the best of times, and they’ll be struggling all the more after a summer of inactivity that saw three members of last season’s loan army, Andy Griffin, Lee Hendrie and Jon Fortune opt against permant moves to the Britannia Stadium.  Stoke have signed a known quantity in Cresswell, and if he can stay fit City should have enough to avoid any concerns at the bottom of the table.  They shouldn’t expect much more than that though.

WEST BROMWICH ALBION

Ins: Leon Barnett (Luton Town, £2,500,000), Craig Beattie (Celtic, £1,250,000), Filipe Teixeira (Academica de Coimbra, £600,000), Tininho (Beira Mar, £230,000), Shelton Martis (Hibernian, £50,000), Bostjan Cesar (Marseilles, Loan)

Outs: Diomansy Kamara (Fulham, £6,000,000), Jason Koumas (Wigan Athletic, £5,300,000), Paul McShane (Sunderland, £1,500,000), Tomasz Kuszczak (Manchester United, Undisclosed), Rob Elvins (Aldershot Town, Free), Chris Perry (Luton Town, Free), Steve Watson (Sheffield Wednesday, Free)

Their ex-Orns: Kevin Phillips, Paul Robinson

Our ex-Baggies: None

Significant Others: The really very old Dean Kiely, Johnny “big pants” Hartson

Verdict: Last season was the Baggies’ big chance and they blew it in uninspiring fashion at Wembley.  They’ve since taken the difficult but probably sensible decision to cash in on several sellable assets, with Curtis Davies and perhaps Paul Robinson seeming likely to follow Kamara, Koumas and McShane out of the door, but as far as it’s possible to judge Tony Mowbray’s not doing a bad job of bringing in more modest replacements – it’s hard to question the judgment of a man who was keen to add Helguson to his squad, after all – and Albion will still be there or thereabouts. 

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS

Ins: Fredy Eastwood (Southend United, £1,500,000), Stephen Elliott (Sunderland, Undisclosed), Matt Jarvis (Gillingham, Undisclosed), Darren Ward (Crystal Palace, Undisclosed), Michael Gray (Blackburn Rovers, Free)

Outs: Michael McIndoe (Bristol City, Undisclosed), Carl Cort (Leicester City, Free), Jackie McNamara (Aberdeen, Free), Michael Oakes (Cardiff City, Free), Rohann Ricketts (Barnsley, Free), Daniel Jones (Northampton Town, Loan), Keith Lowe (Port Vale, Loan), Kevin O’Connor (Gillingham, Loan)

Their ex-Orns: Darren Ward

Our ex-Wolves: Gavin Mahon

Significant Others: In Gary Breen and Jody Craddock, a very lumpy central defence

Verdict: It pains one to say it, but Wolves look in ruder health than they have done for a very long time.  Last season’s side, so un-Wolves in its reliance on youth and zest rather than stale “experience” has been augmented with some very sharp signings.  Wolves should be looking at the top two this time around.

 And finally…

WATFORD

Ins: Jobi McAnuff (Crystal Palace, £1,750,000), Douglas Rinaldi (Veranopolis, £200,000), Mart Poom (Arsenal, Undisclosed), Bodon Antal (Ujpest Dosza, Free), Matt Jackson (Wigan Athletic, Free)

Outs: Harry Forrester (Aston Vila, Undisclosed), Dominic Blizzard (Franchise FC, Free), James Chambers (Leicester City, Free), Ben Gill (Cheltenham Town, Free), Chris Powell (Charlton Athletic, Free), Joel Grant, Albert Jarrett (released), Alec Chamberlain (retired)

Verdict: Oh who the hell knows.  Both lists above should be added to considerably by the end of the month, with Izale McLeod seemingly on his way in, perhaps with a loan or two, and Bouazza definitely on his way with question marks still over Shittu, DeMerit and Henderson, and with Diagouraga and Robinson expected to join Hereford on loan.  If Marlon has refound his sharpness and lost none of his focus we have arguably the best player in the division, but I’m not the only one underwhelmed by our limited success in building the squad.  We were promoted unexpectedly, and yet still made a considerable profit in the transfer market over the season, add parachute payments and the Lee Cook windfall and yet we look like making a transfer profit again this summer.  I guess that the implied complaint sounds daft – not so very long ago we would have given anything to be able to sell a raw striker for £4million just to keep the club afloat.  But in terms of us challenging this season – it’s certainly possible, but I’d expected to be more convinced than I’m feeling at the moment.

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Comments»

1. Dave Jackson - 05/08/2007

Thanks for that excellent preview,Matt.
Where did you hear that McLeod may be joining us? And is he any good? Don’t think I’ve seen him play.

2. Meldrew - 06/08/2007

Its not often you and I agree Matt, but you are spot on about feeling underwhelmed about our transfer recruitment:

1. Why after selling Ashley Young for a minimum of £8m, with the chairman promising that every penny of that would go to the transfer budget have we only paid out £1.75m on Jobi McAnuff?

2. Why after Boothroyd said that the club would do exactly like West Brom have done in holding out for the exact required fee when clubs come in are we selling Bouazza for less than the £5m demanded?

3. Why tell Darius Henderson he can leave BEFORE signing his replacement?

4. How is it possible that QPR, who are virtually impoverished, manage to sign the fantastic Ben Sahar on loan from Chelsea? Were we even in for this player?

5. Do the club seriously think they can push for promotion let alone consider themselves a near future ‘top ten Premiership team’ when on the eve of the season, Anthony McNamee is playing on the left wing and Will Hoskins on the right wing?

6. If money is available, and we have missed out on our immediate targets, why is the scouting network so utterly inadequate that it appears Boothroyd has no idea of the alternatives in the positions we require to strengthen?

7. Why is that virtually every other club in the Championship has seriously strengthened, virtually all without the luxury of a year in the Premiership and the money it accrued, apart from Watford?

3. Matt Rowson - 06/08/2007

Dave – McLeod signing was mentioned as “imminent” in one of the Sunday papers; the Observer reported it in their “Tales from the Tabloids” thing. He was at Derby when he was younger – I’ve not seen him play since then.

Meldrew – playing devil’s advocate (and you know I share your reservations…)

1 – because we haven’t found the right players at the right price who’ve been prepared to come? what’s SHOULD boothroyd have done – paid over the odds ? Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t…

2 – again, what should he do? Tell Bouazza he’s not going anywhere and risk an unhappy, disruptive influence to the squad? Bouazza hasn’t gone yet anyway, let’s see what the fee amounts to – evem £3m is silly money.

3 – Yes, daft. But just demonstrates how confident they were of signing Helguson

4 – as discussed elsewhere, Sahar could have gone to Charlton but QPR guaranteed him a start. He probably wouldn’t have got such a guarantee off us, particularly as we were expecting to sign H.

5 – I dunno – Smith has a knock, McAnuff would surely be a first choice and Boothroyd has already said he wants at least an extra winger. McNamee is indeed the new Gudmundsson – we know we’re scraping the barrel when he’s close to the team. But I thought Hoskins did OK.

6 – We don’t know the score here. Maybe there are alternatives. Maybe we’ll sign them this week.

7 – Not sure that’s true. Look at the list of ins and outs; how many are actually stronger for it? Leicester, obviously. Wolves and Cardiff. And maybe QPR, Hull and Bristol City. Not many.

4. DEREK BOULTER - 06/08/2007

I agree with your comments on Southampton. They look a much weeker squad, and yes they will struggle to make a playoff spot. It is time the squablling directors of the club forget there smallmindedness and fork out some cash for George Burley to spend. Forget we can’t afford it, there is pleanty of money in The Premieship. So wake up you guys on the board.

5. Esp - 07/08/2007

You say that the club told Darius Henderson he can leave BEFORE we signed his replacement meldrew but I haven’t read anywhere he was given his marching orders. I also dispute Mat’s claims that we were “confident” of signing Helguson. Apart from the vague hope of him staying in the south east because of his Weybridge home I (for one) would have been gobsmacked if he had come back especialy as he was quoted as saying he wanted to stay in the Prem (not Ship). Our readers would surely agree our shy but agressive Icelander is too good for our division. Finally, never mind the Season Preview Mr Rowson, what are our instructions for away trips this season??

6. Matt Rowson - 07/08/2007

Boothroyd announced that he was about to sign a striker who would excite the fans. He has since spoken explicity in the WObby about being gutted by the decision. I think it was pretty clear cut Paul. The only question was whether he would get that Prem offer – it was never likely that he’d join us in that event, as you imply.

7. Mark - 07/08/2007

Still think we can reach the play-offs but that is providing we aviod injuries and the likes of Priskin/Williamson perform as people hope they will.

8. Peter Lee - 07/08/2007

In all honesty can you really say in the myriad of transfers to other championsip clubs there are that many players who you wish were with us instead? I’d rather trust the “devil we know” and keep the money in the bank at this moment. Many of the signings are shuffling hte deckchairs on the titanic, not better players than we already have.

9. Alan Ambler - 08/08/2007

I agree with Peter, I think our squad is a nice tight-knit group. Too many signings are disruptive, as are keeping players who want to leave, which brings me neatly onto Bouazza, I think 3.5 upwards for him is silly money and a great deal for us. He performed well in the cup, with two great goals, but he hardly set the premier league on fire did he? He had one good season, a 3.5 million return for that is good profit. Aidy would have spent some of the money we have if people would come, but at the end of the day there is no need to waste our nice kitty on players who are ‘also-rans.’

10. Meldrew - 08/08/2007

So now we sell Bouazza for £3m – Either Boothroyd is a liar or the board have forced this ridiculous sale, what is going on at this club in terms of transfers in and out, is nothing short of an utter disgrace

“Hameur has got a new agent and they are pushing for a move, as they would,” said Boothroyd. “He’s looking red hot and if someone comes in and offers £5m I might say No, I want £6m”

“If we have to play hard ball, like West Brom do, then I will do,”

So we sell him for £3m, going completely against the above – really, what the hell is going on at the club?

Are we that desperate for £3m despite the untold millions brought in over the last year? Well done Boothroyd, you really played ‘hard ball’ on that one didn’t you, still doesnt matter as you have brought in so many good players this summer. DISGRACE

11. Stuart - 08/08/2007

I’m sorry but if we’re selling people like Bouazza (transfer just done and dusted as I write) then we’re not doing ‘a West Brom’ as Betty said a while back. Sell sell sell. I know historically Watford are a selling club, but surely we can hold onto these players for one season at least, and give promotion a real stab? Maybe his head was turned by his ‘new’ agent, but it still causes me to keep getting this uneasy feeling I’ve had for a few weeks now. Mid-table anyone?

12. Back from Hammerau - 08/08/2007

What exactly is “doing a West Brom”?
It’s one thing to decline an offer for a player who’s happy at the club, but another to hang onto a player who doesn’t want to be at the club.
An instructive contrast is with Charlton, who were supposedly the well-run club all small clubs aspired to be, yet who’ve had to ship out loads of players and shut down their ladies team. (And how much money could that have saved?).
We’ve got a thinner squad than many of us would like and Aidy may have plenty of cash to spend, but if he’s not prepared to shell out significantly more than he thinks players are worth, whether in wages or fees, then so be it.

13. Alan Ambler - 09/08/2007

2 Years ago we would have died for mid-table, I think alot of supporters have suddenly got the idea we are a big club like West Brom, NO we are not. We are still a small club. Boothroyd has done a fantastic job thus far. Period. Are you seriously calling for his head?!? We have one of the best managers in the division, would you prefer Mowbray? McCarthy? i wouldnt. Not on your nelly. And the fact is that ok are finances are better, but we will never be able to compete with Leciester (new chairman) or Charlton or any of the big boys even in this league. I make my point again, a tight nit group of players counts for a lot. It is better to have a close group than buy mediocre players that ARE willing to come to us. Can you blame Heidar or DJ for choosing bigger clubs? no. Can you critise boothroyd for trying to sign them anyway? no. Bouazza is not one of our crown jewels. He is a good player agreed but 3.5million? your having a laugh. Now if Boothroyd had sold King for 3.5million then thats a different story…

14. Stuart - 09/08/2007

I’m not calling for his head at all Alan. I also know we’re not one of the biggest clubs and historically we shouldn’t even be in the Chumpionship, we should be even lower. Since the late 70’s however, we’ve generally been playing above our station and I now believe that at some point we’ve got to start acting with the mindset that we are bigger than most of us think. One aspect of this is trying to hang on to players like Bouazza for at least a season to give ourselves a good shot at returning to the Premier League. Much like West Brom did with their squad last season. The fact that they didn’t make it has meant that they have had to sell some of their top players now. I believe that’s fair enough, give it your best shot for a season and if it doesn’t work out, well then I accept ‘bigger’ players have to move on. I’m just disappointed with the whole Bouazza thing, not just with the club but also with Bouazza himself a little bit.

15. Mike S - 09/08/2007

“Doing a West Brom” probably includes keeping the likes of Ellington at the club, despite the fact that he wants to go and a large offer is on the table. West Brom “played hard ball”, Ellington stayed and did precisely sod all, West Brom failed to get promoted and now they can’t get five beans for him.

Good work, West Brom – truly a role model.

16. Luke Fairweather - 09/08/2007

Dear Matt, I am going mad and desperately need a rant!

The official Watford FC website sucks…or is it just me? A mass of shrieking hypertext clutter that leaves you confused about why you bothered, and in need of a good sit down.

Since the re-launch it has more brazenly become the on line PR dept and now mostly exists as part of the revenue strategy for the club, rather than attempt to connect with anything deeper. Okay money is important to us, but this is not the conversation that the club could be having with its supporters, and it misses the bigger opportunity. There is plenty of partisan sloganeering going on, but the dominant message is corporatism and consumerism, and fatally, there is a lack of heart and care. Okay it is not a lot different to most club websites, constructed to a formula and therefore pretty much the same. Just the colours and the grinning mugshots vary from club site, to club site.

But here we are just four days away from our first match of the new season, and a quick click on Match Preview reveals Malky talking up the ‘Orns chances in the up and coming last premiership game against Newcastle back in May Then a quick look on the home page leaves me in no doubt about where to get on line gambling, how I can get a watch with the club crest on, and a little bit about something vaguely fascinating called BEKO.

What is so miff inducing, is that it fails to represent the values and culture of our club. There are apparently just six “magic moments” in our entire playing history (and no, neither play off victory feature here), the Hall of Fame is completely empty (spooky) and there is no evidence of our Family Club heritage, a legacy we left the English game, and the one connection which nearly all ‘Orns fans share with pride.

To avoid the threat of legislation from Mr Simpson I best point out that I still believe the site (and board strategy) is well intentioned, but the opportunity for what it could be, has not yet been realised, and in terms of relative importance to the organisation, the official site appears to be way down the list of priorities. No one on the Senior Management Team seems to have specific responsibility for the web site which again tells us about how it is viewed internally. It is worth remembering that the official site is the single most visible hyperlink across the internet and for curious surfers who want to learn something about our club they get the impression that we are some sort of out of control, on line shopping centre, partly controlled by the mysterious BEKO.

I can’t tell the difference between the News and the Latest Headlines, other than that one heavily sponsored page has a slightly longer list than the other, but this is not as significant as the quality of information and the way in which we now interpret it. Whilst it seems reasonable for a degree of bias towards the organisation (the people who own and run WFC, rather than those of us, who love it), what we have been left with is reporting of which Pravda would be proud. The integrity of its reporting has been damaged, partly by the unseemly spats the board has engaged in recently, but more significantly by the way in which it has reported these events, or in some cases not reported them at all. If ever there was a time when the trust between the supporters and the organisation were in need of strengthening it is now, but the opportunity for better communications via the official web site appears to be lost. Shame.

A page called My Watford – which apparently is a place for us, the fans, to express ourselves – was also blank, not a single contribution, (perhaps I should send this in?) but it did have an ad for Easy Jet, so I know where the best end of summer deals are. There, that’s all right eh? Off for a little sit down now. Thanks Matt.

17. jimbohornet - 09/08/2007

Don’t forget WBA have already shipped out Kusczack, Kamara, Koumas and McShane with Davies and Robbo likely to follow.
I don’t call that hardball!!
Even if our squad stays as it is, we are still in better shape than our last tilt at the Championship, plus ground improvements on the way and money to strengthen in January if required.
Personally, I expect AB to get some loanees in to cover until Francis and Williams are fit. Keep the faith !!

18. Mike S - 09/08/2007

Luke Fairweather – are you me?

Superbly put. The Watford Mailing List is in need of your sense of what’s important about a football club; please consider joining! Unfortunately, for messrs Simpson, Ashton and Boothroyd, Premiership status and plenty of money seem to be the only measures of success.

19. Ian R - 09/08/2007

Luke,

Send that post to the club! Spot on there on many points. And don’t they get anyone to proofread the articles on there? Full of mistakes, see the latest error-strewn Jordan Parkes article for starters. Such a low standard of journalism would never have graced BSaD and they weren’t even paid to write! It just shows a general lack of care.

As for our prospects this season? Bouazza was nowhere a year ago and there’s bound to be another surprise package in the squad this season. Priskin possibly, if Mr B actually plays him (he’s as prepared and as ready as you make him Aidy).

20. Mark - 09/08/2007

I think people are saying West Brom kept a squad together last season when they first went down.

21. SlackGranny - 10/08/2007

I love the world of watfordfc.com – it’s where we’ve just had the hottest summer on record, interest rates are atn 0%, there’s world peace and enough food and water for everyone on the planet.

As Luke points out, there is no-one on the club’s senior management team with responsibility for PR/Communications. Says it all really – it just isn’t important to those running the club.

The website is online 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and for many people it will be the first point of contact with the club.

What a great, informative and true-to-WFC-roots way of welcoming them . . . not.

22. doubleendedLiburd - 10/08/2007

One more thing to add to Luke’s excellent assessment of the offical website..try finding details about Membership for 07/08 and all you will get is a one liner posted on 27th April saying Membership details will be available shortly. Well 3 and half months on still no update – shortly…?

23. plbaxter - 10/08/2007

In less elegant terms than Luke put it, I emailed the club as soon as the new website appeared. Quite frankly I was embarrassed that the club I support should have created such an amateurish, dog’s breakfast of a site. It’s certainly the worst professional website I have ever seen.

They didn’t reply to my email. Perhaps if enough people contact them about it something may get done.

24. Matt Rowson - 10/08/2007

Part of this is due to the contract that we (and most league clubs) are tied into with Premium TV – the appearance of the site is all down to them. The tone of the content is often aggravating – free of candour, and rather patronising. Some of the content isn’t too bad though – I thought the stuff from Germany was worth reading.

25. SlackGranny - 10/08/2007

Matt’s right – the club is tied into the Premium TV deal and so the way the site looks and how it performs technically is their area.

However, the content is purely down to the club. The pre-season stuff from Germany was good – but surely that is the level of content we should have all the time? The reason it stood out was because it was so unlike the norm.

The staff running the site now are non-Watford fans. Their memories and knowledge of the club goes as far back as the day they joined. They’re doing a job, but that’s all it is – a job. Prior to the cull of anyone with a past at Vicarage Road, the site was run by fans who filled the site with the sort of content they wanted and would enjoy themselves. You knew they shared in the highs and lows of those sitting in the stands.

However, even that can’t explain the poor spelling and typing mistakes, as well as frequent factual errors.

The club website has the best access of any communications outlet anywhere to the Watford players and staff – but they make a good job of hiding that.

26. Mark - 10/08/2007

Aren’t’ all the websites like this…why blame the club?

27. Andrew - 11/08/2007

Luke. Your frustration is shared and expertly conveyed. Despite just signing up for another 12 months, the site is confusing, poorly laid out with limited content. I remember watching my first match at the Vic back in ’78 (1978!) so being a life long supporter, the history link was especially disappointing. How I miss the BSaD reports.

Oh well, only 1 hour until season kick off. At least I can listen to the commentary here, from 5,000 miles away.

28. Esp - 12/08/2007

Slack Granny wrote “The staff running the site now are non-Watford fans. Their memories and knowledge of the club goes as far back as the day they joined. They’re doing a job, but that’s all it is – a job” I think this is also a problem we will see with the p[rogramme. The WFC Press Officer Scott Field is (allegedly) the editor but some mysterious company based in Oxford publish it. I fear that there won’t be much history attached to the programme either in the coming months just like the valid criticism of the appalingly constructed web site. Ian and Matt DID appeal last season to new blood to run a new BsAD after their sterling years in charge. C’mon where are you, we need you if you’re out there 🙂

29. SlackGranny - 14/08/2007

Esp is spot on – one of the first things the club did when Ashton arrived was to basically ‘sell’ the programme to a company in Oxford that produces programmes for lots of clubs. They would have been given a guaranteed fee for letting the company produce the programme, so they will say it’s a good deal as they get the money regardless of how many they sell.

However, you end up with a programme produced by people who have no idea about the club, and which often looks, feels and has similar content to many others.

But, as with so many things at the club these days, it’s not about the product, the tradition or the history – it’s about how much money can be made.

I keep being told we’re moving forward off the field – but there are many elements of this so-claled ‘progress’ that I think are coming at a hefty price.


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