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Watford 2 Ipswich Town 1 (30/08/2008) 30/08/2008

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
65 comments

Five thunks from the very fun indeed win over Ipswich.

1- Forget the detail. Forget the football. When was the last time we had as much fun at a football match? Or a celebration to match that of the winning goal?

2- Speaking of which… just how good was John Joe? As with many young players, it’s a matter of focusing on the good bits and hoping he works on the not-so-good bits some of the time. Not today. His introduction changed the game, he was ferocious and aggressive, and Ipswich completely failed to cope. Tamas Priskin, in arguably his finest half in a Watford shirt (minus nine minutes) benefitted no end.

3- Why did our players keep falling over? Whilst Ipswich failed to have the same problem?

4- Appalling second minute gaffe aside, Mart Poom looks like a fine goalkeeper again, and not the nervous, creaky old man of last season.

5- I know that not everyone shares my hatred of Ipswich. But really, what a joy to see Ben Thatcher swiping the ball upfield in desparation as we poured forward like a river in the second half. “You’re not very good”. “One-nil to the football team”. Bollocks to the lot of you. Ha ha ha ha ha.

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Watford 2 Darlington 1 (aet) (26/08/2008) 27/08/2008

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
12 comments

Five thunks from the very long evening with Darlo.

1- Fourth division side at home, should be straightforward, yadda yadda whatever. But a fourth division side dropping deep and attacking neatly is still an awkward opponent….

2- …particularly if you’re fielding what might have been the lightest Watford line-up in history. Scott Loach and Damo might have let the side down a little, but two relatively slim centrebacks, a beanpole in attack and two wingers who probably weigh half of Dan Shittu between them was always going to struggle against a deep-sitting physical defence.

3- That said, it was bloody ghastly for the most part. And for all of Young’s endearing nipping and darting, and Ross Jenkins’ obvious promise, it was the midfield’s almost total failure to either supply the attack or protect the defence that was the root of the problem.

4- Lionel Ainsworth suggested a hitherto unadvertised ability to pass the ball a long way quite accurately. That aside, he continues to resemble a ping-pong ball in a pinball machine, bouncing around at high speed with very little control over direction or purpose and no presence whatsoever.

5- Scott Loach. For those whose views of Loach have been restricted to first team outings, this was the first suggestion of what the fuss has been about. Visibly grew two inches and broadened his shoulders after his fine low save in the second half.

Watford 1 Charlton Athletic 0 (16/08/2008) 16/08/2008

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
26 comments

Five thunks from the win over the Addicks

1- New passing game, new passing formation. Fine. But the real benefit thus far has been the protection afforded the defence. It speaks volumes that on a day when John Eustace was below par, Charlton rarely got more than a sniff – having Eustace and Williamson, fantastic today, as two sitting midfielders makes us a whole lot more secure. It does ask a lot of the four attacking players though (4-3-3 my arse). Speaking of whom….

2- We could perhaps do with Tommy Smith developing a minor inconsequential injury until the end of August. Failing that, we just hope that nobody of any relevance is watching. Man of the match, again.

3- Unlike Kelly Youga. Jaysus. For the second season running he puts in an early pitch for “worst opponent of the season”… you kinda feel that the Addicks got the better deal when he was shown red. “Advantage. referee….?”

4- Big Greg. Another one of Tamas’ better performances, but our attacks suddenly had glue and purpose when the new signing took his place and we looked like scoring goals, lots of goals, for the first time this season – albeit against a tiring ten men. Misery guts next to me shifted awkwardly in his seat, remembering Nathan Ellington’s encouraging debut. Boo hiss to him.

5- Even the turnstiles worked. Maybe it’s all going to be ok…

Watford 1 Bristol Rovers 0 (12/08/2008) 12/08/2008

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
16 comments

Five Thunks from the League Cup First Round tie…

1- Much the same template as Saturday – well on top, but little cutting edge despite the efforts of man-of-the-match Hoskins who earned his goal.

2- Special mention too to Billy Gibson, who strutted around as if he was the nuts but had no small impact on the left of midfield. Hit a wicked corner that would have been dangerous had we had anyone above six foot to attack it, and made the winning goal. Gibson has a bit of a snarl too, although it would help if he refined his tackling style beyond throwing a ferocious flurry of limbs in the general direction of his opponent.

3- Encouraging signs also from debutant Jenkins, who faded but remained tidy, and Young, of whom unrealistic things are evidently already expected but who looked intelligent and lively. Less so Robinson, who is willing but raw as Blundell Park in February, and Lionel Ainsworth whose deft touch to blind alley ratio was pretty abysmal.

4- What stupid bloody weather.

5- Steve Phillips, Rovers’ goalkeeper, is 30 years old. You’d think he’d have found some coping strategies for dealing with a bit of barracking by now, beyond engaging in a petulant shouting match and running off to tell the referee like a playground tell-tale.

Crystal Palace 0 Watford 0 (09/08/2008) 09/08/2008

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
8 comments

Five Thunks from Selhurst Park

1- We discussed before the game the possibility that we’d lowered our expectations to such a point that we couldn’t fail to be impressed by every tackle, would revel in every successfully won corner kick. So it proved… this was vibrant, positive, imaginative stuff. Kinda punchless, but so much much better than feared.

2- I’d dreaded the attitude of the travelling support more than anything. Admittedly they too will have sterner tests – of their patience, let alone intelligence. But the ‘orns were vocal and positive. Long may that continue.

3- Jon Harley. Yee-ha. Gutsy and energetic. More please.

4- Lloyd Doyley… edge of the area, ten minutes from the end. A shot… eight yards or a deflection away from a moment to grace this or any season. Five minutes later, he’s actually running through Palace’s midfield from the centre circle. Then sees the centreback and panics, naturally, but you kinda hope that whatever shape New Watford takes there’s space in it for Lloydy.

5- Palace. Flaccid. And in some cases quite obviously unfit. One of our number was moved to speculate whether John Bostock had not, in fact, moved to Spurs over the summer, but had instead been eaten by Paul Ifill who looks, umm, twice the player he was, if you get my drift.

Season Preview 2008-09 02/08/2008

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
54 comments

BARNSLEY

INS: Ian Hume (Leicester City, £1,200,000), Hugo Colace (Newell’s Old Boys, Undisclosed), Mounir El Haimour (Neuchatel Xamax, Undisclosed), Darren Moore (Derby County, Free), Luke Steele (West Bromwich Albion, Free)

OUTS: Istvan Ferenczi (Ferencvaros, Undisclosed), Dwayne Mattis (Walsall, Free), Paul Reid (Colchester United, Free), Luke Waterfall (Tranmere Rovers, Free), Simon Heslop (Grimsby Town, Loan), Rhys Meynell

OUR EX-TYKES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Martin Devaney

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

                   Steele

          Foster             Souza             Moore                Kozluk

Campbell-Ryce      Howard            De Silva         El Haimour

                 Macken               Hume

VERDICT:
Having not known what to write about Barnsley a year ago, an F.A.Cup run’s worth of TV coverage has made Brian Howard and Kadoye Odejayi household names. The biggest worry is probably where the goals will come from – the likes of Odejayi are only loveable antiheroes in someone else’s team – but there are sides in the division with bigger problems in this department as we know only too well. Meanwhile Simon Davey clearly has something about him, not least a scouting network with a broad perspective, and the squad looks sturdier than a year ago. Comfortably mid-table.

BIRMINGHAM CITY

INS: Marcus Bent (Charlton Athletic, Undisclosed), Lee Carsley (Everton, Free), Kevin Phillips (West Bromwich Albion, Free), Kemy Augustien (AZ67 Alkmaar, Loan)

OUTS:Patrice Muamba (Bolton Wanderers, £5,000,000), Olivier Kapo (Wigan Athletic, £2,500,000), Daniel de Ridder (Wigan Athletic, Free), Mickael Forssell (Hannover 96, Free), David Howland (Port Vale, Free), Adam Legzdins (Crewe Alexandra, Free), Rafael Schmitz (Lille, End of Loan), Asa Hall, Richard Kingson, Stefan Milojevic, Franck Queudrue

OUR EX-BLUES:Mat Sadler

THEIR EX-ORNS: Stephen Kelly, Kevin Phillips

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Taylor

Kelly         Ridgewell        Jaidi         Murphy

Larsson       Carsley     Augustien         McSheffrey

Jerome          McFadden

VERDICT:
Much as many will have chuckled as the charmless Blues dropped out of the top flight, the unfortunate consequence will quite plausibly be a steamrollering of the division by a side with strength, cover and perhaps critically second division experience in each position. With five strikers each capable of scoring a lot of goals at this level (Bent, Jerome, Phillips, McFadden and O’Connor, plus McSheffrey at a push) and sensible replacements brought in for the bigger names that have been shed, those who enjoy a bit of schadenfreude at Birmingham’s expense when the opportunity presents itself are likely to have to pin their hopes on a dramatic conclusion and fallout from the investigations into alleged corruption involving senior figures at the club.

BLACKPOOL

INS: Matt Gilks (Norwich City, Exchange),Alex John-Baptiste (Mansfield Town, Undisclosed), Joe Martin (Tottenham Hotspur, Undisclosed), Marlon Broomes (Stoke City, Free), Daniel Nardiello (Queens Park Rangers, Free), Jermaine Wright (Southampton, Free), Adam Hammill (Liverpool, Loan), Steve Kabba (Watford, Loan), Zesh Rehmann (Queens Park Rangers, Loan)

OUTS:Wes Hoolahan (Norwich City, Exchange), Kaspars Gorkss (Queens Park Rangers, Undisclosed), Marcus Bean (Brentford, Free), Michael Flynn (Huddersfield Town, Free), Michael Jackson (Shrewsbury Town, Free), Keigan Parker (Huddersfield Town, Free), Phil Doughty, Lewis Edge, John Hills, Matt Lawton, Phil Marsh, Paul Tierney, Andy Welsh

OUR EX-SEASIDERS: Matt Jackson, Dan Shittu

THEIR EX-ORNS: Steve Kabba

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Gilks

Barker        Broomes          Rehmann          Crainey

Green           Southern           Wright          Hammill

Nardiello         McPhee

VERDICT:
Blackpool’s difficult second season follows a first in which they weren’t too far from going down despite looking half decent for much of the time. Remove Hoolahan and Gorkss, both as a consequence of unhelpful but presumably necessary release clauses, as well as much of the side’s experience and you have a team that is going to seriously struggle to stay up. Central midfield and up front look like particular problems, but the Seasiders share the latter problem with half of the division. With a small budget and small crowds, Blackpool will do well not to finish bottom.

BRISTOL CITY

INS: Nicky Maynard (Crewe Alexandra, £2,250,000), Gavin Williams (Ipswich Town, Undisclosed)

OUTS: Nick Carle (Crystal Palace, Undisclosed), Darren Byfield (Doncaster Rovers, Free), Alex Russell (Cheltenham Town, Free), Alex Russell (Cheltenham Town, Free), Tamasz Vasko (Ujpest Dosza, End of Loan), Martin Slocombe

OUR EX-ROBINS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Steve Brooker, Lee Johnson, David Noble, Gary Johnson (Manager), Keith Millen (Assistant Manager)

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Basso

Orr           McCombe        Carey         McAllister

Williams      Elliott          Johnson        McIndoe

Maynard           Adebola

VERDICT:
Last season’s top six was really a damning indictment of the second tier. West Brom, much vaunted “best team in the division”, couldn’t defend to save their lives. Hull and Palace made the play offs based on bursts of form rather than sustained quality. Stoke went straight up despite being abysmal for big chunks of the season and, perhaps most conclusively of all, we finished sixth. In amongst that lot were Bristol; that they were there on merit despite being no better than a solid mid-table side tells you all you need to know about the rest. Two seasons worth of momentum is unlikely to carry them to such heights again – and you have to worry when a striker with no experience above Division Three comes in at over two million. But City are solid defensively and have quality in midfield… top half, with an outside chance of the play-offs.

BURNLEY

INS: Martin Paterson (Scunthorpe United, £1,000,000), Kevin McDonald (Dundee, £500,000), Diego Penny (Coronol Bolognesi, Undisclosed), Chris Eagles (Manchester United, Undisclosed), Christian Kalvenes (Dundee United, Free), Remco van der Schaaf (Vitesse Arnhem, Free)

OUTS: Kyle Lafferty (Rangers, £3,000,000), James O’Connor (Sheffield Wednesday, Free), Andrew Cole (Nottingham Forest, Free), Jon Harley (Watford, Free), John Spicer (Doncaster Rovers, Free), Gareth O’Connor, David Unsworth

OUR EX-CLARETS: Jon Harley

THEIR EX-ORNS: Clarke Carlisle, Chris Eagles

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Penny

Alexander           Carlisle             Caldwell            Kalvenes

Gudjonsson         Van der Schaaf          McDonald

Elliott                   Paterson                Eagles

VERDICT:
The Clarets were the ultimate mid-table side last season – good enough to beat anyone with a prevailing wind (although that goes for most of the division) but without the squad or consistency to challenge for promotion. Owen Coyle has spread a wide net in recruiting over the summer as well as picking up a couple of players from his native Scotland – and it would be unreasonable to criticise the signing of strikers from relegated sides, a strategy that’s worked for us in the past even if Paterson is a nasty little oik. Solidly mid-table at worst; if Coyle can pick them as well as Clarets must be hoping then the play-offs are a realistic target.

CARDIFF CITY
INS: Ross McCormack (Motherwell, £120,000), Miguel Comminges (Swindon Town, Free), Darren Dennehy (Everton, Free), Mark Kennedy (Crystal Palace, Free), Tom Heaton (Manchester United, Loan)
OUTS:Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal, Undisclosed), David Forde (Millwall, Free), Robbie Fowler, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Michael Oakes, Trevor Sinclair, Warren Feeney (Dundee United, Loan), Willo Flood (Dundee United, Loan Extension)
OUR EX-BLUEBIRDS:Jobi McAnuff
THEIR EX-ORNS: Neal Ardley (Academy Manager), Terry Burton (Assistant Manager), Paul Wilkinson (Reserve Team Manager)
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

 

Heaton

McNaughton          Loovens           Johnson           Capaldi

Ledley            McPhail              Rae            Whittingham

McCormack           Parry

VERDICT:
Much depends on how adequately the Bluebirds do in the pan-division “find a goalscorer” competition. The rest of the team looks pretty sound, and if Tom Heaton is half as good as the last keeper that United loaned out, the central three at the back look intimidating. Marcus Bent would have been a handy signing for them, but it’s asking a lot to expect converted winger Parry and supposed erstwhile Watford target McCormack to score the goals to fire a promotion push. Find that goalscorer and Cardiff look a decent bet for the play-offs. Fail – or if injuries kick in to a thinnish looking squad – and it’s mid-table stodge again.

CHARLTON ATHLETIC

INS: Stuart Fleetwood (Forest Green Rovers, Tribunal), Mark Hudson (Crystal Palace, Free)

OUTS: Madjid Bougherra (Rangers, £2,500,000), Marcus Bent (Birmingham City, Undisclosed), Chris Iwelumo (Wolverhampton Wanderers, Undisclosed), Patrick McCarthy (Crystal Palace, Undisclosed), James Walker (Southend United, Undisclosed), Osei Sankofa (Southend United, Free), Darren Randolph (Hereford United, Loan), Cory Gibbs, Chris Powell, Ben Thatcher

OUR EX-ADDICKS: Matt Jackson, Dan Shittu

THEIR EX-ORNS: Mark Robson (First Team Coach)

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Weaver

Moutouakil          Hudson        Semedo          Youga

Ambrose           Holland             Zhi              Thomas

Gray                Varney

VERDICT:
Whilst not wringing hands about our own predicament, it’s been noticeable that similar – if perhaps less drastic – goings on have befallen Alan Pardew at Charlton. Whilst many of the senior departures were “only” squad players, the squad that finished eleventh last season now looks a lot thinner and Pardew has implied that more players might also be on their way out. The Addicks have a good crop of kids coming through by all accounts, but they’ll do well to match last season’s finish, let alone challenge. Bottom half.

COVENTRY CITY

INS: Freddy Eastwood (Wolverhampton Wanderers, £1,200,000), Keiren Westwood (Carlisle United, £500,000), Aron Gunnarsson (AZ67 Alkmaar, Undisclosed), Guillaume Beuzelin (Hibernian, Free)

OUTS:Ellery Cairo (NAC Breda, Free), Liam Davies (Northampton Town, Free), Colin Hawkins (Brighton & Hove Albion, Free), David McNamee (Plymouth Argyle, Free), Wayne Andrews, Arjan de Zeeuw, Stuart Giddings, Lee Hildreth, Michael Hughes, Stephen Hughes

OUR EX-SKY BLUES:John Eustace

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Westwood

Birchall            Dann              Ward              Fox

Tabb             Beuzelin          Gunnarsson        Gray

Eastwood            Best

VERDICT:
I don’t give a monkeys who Cov’s manager is, what amount of backing they’ve got or who they’ve signed (although there’s a one-liner to be written about Eastwood and Westwood). It takes something cataclysmic for the Sky Blues to finish anywhere other than anonymously bottom half whichever division they’re in. Got a bit carried away last season and nearly did something halfway interesting by getting relegated. No such excitement this time. Seventeenth.

CRYSTAL PALACE

INS: Calvin Andrew (Luton Town, £80,000), Nick Carle (Bristol City, Undisclosed), Johannes Ertl (Austria Vienna, Undisclosed), Jose Fonte (Benfica, Undisclosed), Patrick McCarthy (Charlton Athletic, Undisclosed), Simon Thomas (Boreham Wood, Nominal), Darryl Flahavan (Southend United, Free)

OUTS: John Bostock (Tottenham Hotspur, £700,000), Tony Craig (Millwall, Undisclosed), Jeff Hughes (Bristol Rovers, Undisclosed), Mark Hudson (Charlton Athletic, Free), Mark Kennedy (Cardiff City, Free), Lewis Spence (Wycombe Wanderers, Free), Aaron Fray, Ryan Hall, Ben Kudjodji, Clinton Morrison, Moses Swaibu

OUR EX-EAGLES: Steve Kabba, Jobi McAnuff

THEIR EX-ORNS: Carl Fletcher

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Speroni

Butterfield            McCarthy           Fonte            Hill

Derry             Carle              Soares

Ifill             Scowcroft             Moses

VERDICT:
Palace’s extraordinary turnaround under Neil Warnock’s tutelage threatened to mirror that of 2004 under Iain Dowie, which propelled a side that had looked feeble at the start of that season into the top flight. They should be well placed to challenge again – the loss of Bostock for a disappointing tribunal-set initial fee, is less of an immediate blow than the departure of the more physically developed Moses might have been. The latter’s new contract in the light of reported interest from Arsenal and Chelsea will have reassured many in Croydon. Defensively they look strong, particularly with fierce competition for keeper Speroni, but a lack of goals might be the issue although the way this preview’s going you’d wonder whether there’ll be any goals in the division this season. Lots of good kids coming through, although don’t be fooled into thinking Palace are suddenly in any way likeable. Edge of the play-offs.

DERBY COUNTY

INS: Rob Hulse (£1,750,000), Liam Dickinson (Stockport County, £750,000), Steve Davies (Tranmere Rovers, Tribunal), Martin Albrechtesen (West Bromwich Albion, Free), Kris Commons (Nottingham Forest, Free), Paul Connelly (Plymouth Argyle, Free), Paul Green (Doncaster Rovers, Free), Jordan Stewart (Watford, Free), Ruben Zadkovich (Unattached), Nathan Ellington (Watford, Loan), Przemyslaw Kazmierczak (Porto, Loan)

OUTS: Rob Earnshaw (Nottingham Forest, £2,650,000), Kenny Miller (Rangers, £2,000,000), Craig Fagan (Hull City, £750,000), David Jones (Wolverhampton Wanderers, Undisclosed), Ben Hinchcliffe (Oxford United, Free), Lee Holmes (Southampton, Free), Michael Johnson (Notts County, Free), Darren Moore (Barnsley, Free), Jason Beardsley (Notts County, Loan), Marc Edworthy, Andy Todd

OUR EX-RAMS: Lionel Ainsworth, Mart Poom, Tommy Smith

THEIR EX-ORNS: Nathan Ellington, Jordan Stewart

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Carroll

Connelly           Albrechtsen            Davis             Stewart

Sterjovski             Green                 Barnes            Commons

Ellington               Hulse

VERDICT:
Derby’s season in the top flight was miserable, even by the standards of the growing number of play-off winners who’ve struggled to bridge the gap. Paul Jewell hasn’t so much revamped that squad as replaced it, with few of the side likely to kick off the season pre-dating his November arrival. One suspects that it might take time to come together but the Rams are well on the way to accumulating options in each position that are good enough to do well in this division, if not improve radically on last season should Derby get promoted. Paul Jewell has previously struggled at this level when managing a club with impatient expectations, and there are rumblings of boardroom nonsense running up to the season. It would take something monumental to stop Derby making the play-offs though.

DONCASTER ROVERS

INS: Matthew Mills (Manchester City, £300,000), Tomi Ameobi (Leeds United, Undisclosed), Darren Byfield (Bristol City, Free), Stuart Elliott (Hull City, Free), John Spicer (Burnley, Free), Jos van Nieuwstadt (Excelsior Rotterdam, Free)

OUTS: Paul Green (Derby County, Free), Graeme Lee (Bradford City, Free), Mark McCammon (Gillingham, Free), Stephen Roberts (Walsall, Free), Matthew Noble

OUR EX-ROVERS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

 

Sullivan

O’Connor           Mills               van Nieuwstadt            Roberts

Spicer                      Stock                     Wellens

Coppinger                  Hayter                  Elliott

VERDICT:
Well we haven’t played Donny for thirty years, and even if I’d been at that one it wouldn’t provide a great insight into the current side. Based on the play-off games and the make-up of the team however they look a tidy bunch with a manager who knows what he’s at. They’re perhaps a little short of experience at this level, but like Blackpool a year ago you’d fancy them to have more than enough about them to stay up. Lack of goals might be a problem, although the signing of Byfield, journeyman or not, could be a canny one. Bottom half, but clear of trouble.

IPSWICH TOWN

INS: Pim Balkestein (Heerenveen, Undisclosed), Richard Wright (West Ham United, Undisclosed), Kevin Lisbie (Colchester United, Free), Gareth MacAuley (Leicester City, Undisclosed)

OUTS:Gary Roberts (Huddersfield Town, £250,000), Gavin Williams (Bristol City, Undisclosed), Nick Colgan (Sunderland, Free), Matt Richards (Brighton, Loan), Jason de Vos (Retired), Sylvain Legwinski, Luis Sito, Fabian Wilnis

OUR EX-BLUES:None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

R.Wright

D.Wright            MacAuley             Bruce             Balkestein

Norris             Garvan               Shumulikoski         Quinn

Lisbie             Walters

VERDICT:
Jim Magilton is attracting some stick in Suffolk for his track record of re-signing Ipswich old boys, but it’s a couple of pragmatic recruitments with no previous link to Portman Road – the rugged centre-back and instant captain Gareth MacAuley and journeyman goalscorer Kevin Frisbee – that suggest that Ipswich should be better equipped this season than last to make an impact on the promotion shake-up. They still look a bit flimsy in central midfield, and will miss the someone with the ability to put a foot in away from home (again). Play-offs, nonetheless.

NORWICH CITY

INS: David Bell (Luton Town, Undisclosed), Dejan Stefanovic (Fulham, Undisclosed), Wes Hoolahan (Blackpool, Exchange), Sammy Clingan (Nottingham Forest, Free), Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea, Loan), John Kennedy (Celtic, Loan), Omar Krumah (Portsmouth, Loan), Arturo Lupoli (Fiorentina, Loan), Stuart Nelson (Leyton Orient, Free), Elliott Omozusi (Fulham, Loan)

OUTS:Matt Gilks (Blackpool, Exchange), Steven Arnold (Grays Athletic, Free), Andrew Cave-Brown (Leyton Orient, Free), Darren Huckerby (San Jose Earthquakes, Free), Ryan Jarvis (Leyton Orient, Free), Paul McLean (Falkirk, Free), Bally Smart (Kerkyra, Free), Patrick Bexfield, Dion Dublin, Matthew Halliday, Rossi Jarvis, Jose Velasco

OUR EX-CANARIES:Aidy Boothroyd, Leigh Bromby, Damien Francis, Martin Hunter, Matt Jackson, Malky Mackay

THEIR EX-ORNS: Glenn Roeder (Manager)

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Marshall

Omosuzi            Kennedy           Stefanovic             Bertrand

Bell               Fotheringham            Clingan             Hoolahan

Cureton              Lupoli

VERDICT:
Like Derby, a comprehensive looking overhaul at Carrow Road over the summer prompted in no small part by the departure of senior players. Unlike Derby the funds aren’t really there to back up the required revamp and the Canaries look short of attacking impetus in particular. There’s also Glenn Roeder’s second season syndrome to cope with – at each of his last three clubs a promising-but-no-cigar season was followed immediately by a season of huge disappointment and, in the cases of ourselves and West Ham, with relegation. Norwich ought to have too much to avoid getting sucked into a struggle but it doesn’t bode well – and rings more than a few bells – that Roeder is blaming injuries for defeats in pre-season. Very bottom half.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST

INS: Rob Earnshaw (Derby County, £2,650,000), Joe Garner (Carlisle United, £1,140,000), Mickael Darnet (AS Cannes, Undisclosed), Andrew Cole (Sunderland, Free), Guy Moussi (Angers, Free), Paul Anderson (Liverpool, Loan)

OUTS: Grant Holt (Shrewsbury Town, £170,000), Junior Agogo (Zamalek, Undisclosed), Matt Lockwood (Colchester United, Undisclosed), Sammy Clingan (Norwich City, Free), Kris Commons (Derby County, Free), Alan Power (Hartlepool United, Free), Felix Bastians

OUR EX-FOREST: Will Hoskins, Gareth Williams

THEIR EX-ORNS: None
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

 

Smith

Chambers            Wilson               Morgan                 Bennett

McGugan                  Moussi                   Cohen

Anderson                Earnshaw                 Davies

VERDICT:
Having been a little bit fortunate to sneak into an automatic promotion place by all accounts, Forest’s summer spending ought to have brought in the goals to keep them up comfortably. Commons is a loss, and a side that flattered to deceive in the third tier is going to require a year or so of consolidation before thinking about challenging again, but Earnshaw has always scored freely in Division Two and has an enviable supporting cast. Comfortably mid-table.

PLYMOUTH ARGYLE

INS: Jason Puncheon (Barnet, £250,000), Yaala Bolasie (Floriana, Undisclosed), Karl Duguid (Colchester United, Undisclosed), David McNamee (Coventry City, Free), Graham Stack (Reading, Free)

OUTS:Peter Halmosi (Hull City, £2,000,000), Nadjim Abdou (Millwall, Free), Paul Connolly (Derby County, Free), Lilian Nalis (Swindon Town, Free), Reuben Reid (Rotherham United, Free), Paul Wotton (Southampton, Free), Nick Chadwick, Lee Hodges, Luke McCormick, Jake Moult

OUR EX-ARGYLE:None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Larrieu

McNamee      Timar          Seip           Paterson

Duguid            Summerfield            Clark             Puncheon

MacLean             Easter

VERDICT:
Difficult to see Argyle teasing the play-offs again; whilst they’ve mae a couple of sound looking signings they largely amount to like-for-like replacements for departing players. It would be expecting too much of Jason Puncheon to step into the considerable hole left by Peter Halmosi though, and in general the midfield looks particularly flimsy. A bad season with injuries could see Argyle in trouble – but unspectacular mid-table at best.

PRESTON NORTH END

INS: Barry Nicholson (Aberdeen, Free), Ross Wallace (Sunderland, Loan)

OUTS:Kevin Nicholls

OUR EX-LILYWHITES:Matt Jackson, Tamas Priskin

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Lonergan

Jones          Mawene              St.Ledger             Davidson

Sedgwick             McKenna             Chaplow             Wallace

Mellor              Brown

VERDICT:
A quiet summer on the transfer front for North End but Wallace in particular looks a terrific signing. Looking at the side it’s difficult to understand how they spent so much of last season struggling. You’d still be a little bit worried about the attacking options, but the quality surfeit in midfield has resulted in Gareth Whaley looking decent in trials up front and if Neil Mellor has finally shaken off his injury problems North End could even challenge for the play-offs. Otherwise, mid-table.

QUEENS PARK RANGERS

INS: Matteo Alberti (Chievo, Undisclosed), Kaspars Gorkss (Blackpool, Undisclosed), Radek Cerny (Slavia Prague, Free), Peter Ramage (Newcastle United, Free), Lee Cook (Fulham, Loan), Samuel Di Carmine (Fiorentina, Loan), Emmanuel Jorge Ledesma (Genoa, Loan), Dani Parejo (Real Madrid, Loan)

OUTS:Stefan Bailey (Grays Athletic, Free), Daniel Nardiello (Blackpool, Free), Jake Cole (Oxford United, Loan), Zesh Rehman (Blackpool, Loan), Aaron Goode, Andrew Howell, Matt Pickens, Sean Thomas

OUR EX-RANGERS:Matt Jackson, Dan Shittu

THEIR EX-ORNS: Lee Cook, Gavin Mahon

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Cerny

Ramage            Hall               Gorkss               Delaney

Rowlands              Parejo                 Mahon

Buzsacky               Agyemang            Cook

VERDICT:
QPR acquiring a team of sugar daddies is a bit of a random one. Whilst there are harder places to attract footballers to than West London it’s not as if the area’s not already well catered for in the top flight. An immediate consequence, of course, ought to be the hope that they fall on their arses but whilst money has been spent on transfer fees – particularly in the January window – the rebuilding has been incremental and sensible thus far. Gavin Mahon, bless him, is nobody’s glamour signing after all, much less Iain Dowie a trophy manager. There are concerns; the rather odd removal of Luigi De Canio after an encouraging eight months at the helm, the rumoured golden handshake already promised to Dowie if he gets them up, and the possible identity of whoever’s picking the legion of foreign, particularly Italian, signings. An in-depth knowledge of squad players and promising youngsters in Serie A is not something that Iain Dowie has suggested in the past. Nonetheless, if these imports are half as good as their pedigree suggests Rangers will be right up there. Actually they have a bit of a team without them. Add the presumed facility to invest further to cover any awkward injuries in January and you’re looking at candidates for automatic promotion.

READING

INS: Noel Hunt (Dundee United, Undisclosed)

OUTS:Dave Kitson (Stoke City, £5,500,000), Glen Little (Portsmouth, Undisclosed), Adam Bygrave (Weymouth, Free), Graham Stack (Plymouth Argyle, Free), Scott Davies (Aldershot Town, Loan), Emerse Fae (Nice, Loan), Ben Hamer (Brentford, Loan), Aaron Brown, Ulises de la Cruz, John Halls, John Oster

OUR EX-ROYALS:None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Nigel Gibbs (Coach), Brynjar Gunnarsson

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Hahnemann

Murty             Duberry               Sonko              Shorey

Kebe                Harper             Matejovsky            S.Hunt

Doyle             Lita

VERDICT:
Now I know that Steve Coppell’s had-enough face is exactly the same as his happy, miserable, angry and excited faces. But you can’t help but feel that whatever his achievements at Reading (and they are considerable), a line could perhaps have been drawn before now for the benefit of all concerned. As it is, the squad that Reading bring down looks surprisingly similar to the one that got promoted two years ago… minus Steve Sidwell, Dave Kitson, Glen Little, and maybe Nicky Shorey. Oh, and a couple of years older. Reading may have been a little unlucky to be relegated last season, but even a burning sense of injustice didn’t help Sheffield United after a similarly last-minute drop a year earlier. Expectation levels are high, and Reading’s fans are unlikely to be the most patient. A good recovery after a slow start, but short of the play-offs for the Royals.

SHEFFIELD UNITED

INS: Darius Henderson (Watford, £2,000,000), David Cotterill (Wigan Athletic, Undisclosed), Justin Haber (Haidari, Undisclosed), Sun Jihai (Manchester City, Free), Greg Halford (Sunderland, Loan), Matthew Spring (Luton Town, Loan)

OUTS: Rob Hulse (Derby County, £1,750,000), Luton Shelton (Valerenga, £1,000,000), Ryan Cresswell (Bury, Free), Lloyd Kerry (Chesterfield, Free), Chris Lucketti (Huddersfield Town, Free), Ben Starosta (Aldershot Town, Loan), James Ashmore, Martin Donnelly, Paul Gerrard, Stephen Hernandez, Geoff Horsfield, Dean Oliver

OUR EX-BLADES: Leigh Bromby, Jon Harley, Steve Kabba

THEIR EX-ORNS: Sam Ellis (Assistant Manager), Darius Henderson, Matthew Spring, Danny Webber
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

 

Kenny

Halford              Kilgallon                 Morgan               Naysmith

Cotterill               Speed                 Quinn                   Tonge

Henderson               Beattie

VERDICT:
On the face of it, the Blades look well placed for a challenge. A strong finish to the last campaign, significant squad strengthening over the summer (sigh), plenty of attacking options (sigh again). Thing is, Kevin Blackwell is a fucking idiot, and has demonstrated so repeatedly. Not quite the astonishing appointment that Bryan Robson was a year ago, but not far off. If the Blades squeaked the play-offs – and to be honest if last season’s a template then they and most of the division have a shout – you wouldn’t back them, Blackwell having seemingly the same bottle-it gene as Trevor Francis in this respect. My money’s on just below halfway, and trouble at t’Lane.

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY

INS: James O’Connor (Burnley, Free), Jimmy Smith (Chelsea, Loan)

OUTS:Rob Burch (Lincoln City, Free), Burton O’Brien (Falkirk, Free), Jason Bradley, Lee Bullen, James Kay, Dave McClements, Ronnie Wallwork

OUR EX-OWLS:None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Grant

Simek            Wood               Beevers                Spurr

Johnson             Smith              O’Connor               Esajas

Jeffers             Sodje

VERDICT:
Ouch. Amidst takeover shenanigans a side that struggled badly last season has scarcely strengthened. Reasonable at the back but flimsy as anything in midfield and with only the occasionally fit Jeffers a reliable source of goals up front. With no funds available for strengthening, relegation beckons for the Owls.

SOUTHAMPTON

INS: Morgan Schneiderlin (RC Strasbourg, £1,200,000), Tommy Forecast (Tottenham Hotspur, Undisclosed), Lee Holmes (Derby County, Free), Chris Perry (Luton Town, Free), Paul Wotton (Plymouth Argyle, Free)

OUTS: Youssef Safri (Qata Sports, £300,000), Cedric Baseya (Lille, Free), Mario Licka (Banik Ostrava, Free), Jermaine Wright (Blackpool, Free), Josh Dutton, Inigo Idiakez, Claus Lundekvam, Alexander Ostlund, Darren Powell, Jhon Viafara

OUR EX-SAINTS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: David Hockaday (Academy Coach)
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

 

Bialkowski

James           Svensson               Davies              Thomas

Dyer               Surman                Gillett               Holmes

Rasiak            John

VERDICT:
Another side undergoing something of a fire sale. Saints have a record of bringing good kids through, and hamstrung by lack of funds or not you’d suspect that there might be three worse teams around. However in Jan Poortvliet they have a rookie manager with no experience in the English game; it could be an inspired pick, but seeing as Rupert Lowe’s doing the picking you’d have your doubts. More assets, probably at least one of Rasiak and John, need realising before the Saints can spend any more and Poortvliet has admitted that he’s under orders to cut the wage bill. Relegation a real possibility.

SWANSEA CITY

INS: Ashley Williams (Stockport County, £400,000), Gorka Pintado (Granada, £100,000), Albert Serran (Español, £80,000), Federico Bessone (Español, £70,000), Febian Brandy (Manchester United, Loan), Jordi Gomez (Español, Loan), Mark Gower (Southend United, Free), Stefan Morrison (West Bromwich Albion, Free)

OUTS: Darren Way (Yeovil Town, £50,000), Kevin Amankwaah (Swindon Town, Free), Kevin Austin (Chesterfield, Free), Darryl Duffy (Bristol Rovers, Free), Andy Robinson (Leeds United, Free)

OUR EX-SWANS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

de Vries

Rangel               Monk             Williams              Bessone

Britton               Bodde               Pratley              Butler

Scotland             Pintado

VERDICT:
It’s twenty-five years since we last faced Swansea, during our first season in the top flight. The Swans have spent much of the interim in the fourth division (“or equivalent”) until Kenny Jackett signalled a revival with some legs, at last, by leading City to promotion to the third tier in 2005. I won’t have been the only Hornet to score a black mark against Swansea following Jackett’s departure last year but a fat lot of good that did, as new boss Roberto Martinez led them to promotion at a canter. The margin of their triumph – even the return of Leeds’ much disputed deducted points wouldn’t have cost Swansea the title – suggests that they will have at the very least enough momentum to carry them clear of the drop zone. How far clear kinda depends upon whether their army of Spanish recruits is borne of a very good eye during Martinez’s years of punditry on Sky’s Spanish coverage, and how reliable his network of Spanish contacts is after thirteen years in the UK. Best guess – and it is a guess – would be bottom half, but well clear of trouble. And at least one win over Cardiff.

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS

INS: Chris Iwelumo (Charlton Athletic, Undisclosed), David Jones (Derby County, Undisclosed), Richard Stearman (Leicester City, Undisclosed), Sam Vokes (AFC Bournemouth, Undisclosed)

OUTS: Seyi Olofinjana (Stoke City, £3,000,000), Freddy Eastwood (Coventry City, £1,200,000), Charlie Mulgrew (Aberdeen, Undisclosed), Matt Bailey (Burton Albion, Loan), Elliott Bennett (Bury, Loan), Lee Collins (Port Vale, Loan), Gary Breen, Keith Lowe, Kevin O’Connor

OUR EX-WOLVES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Tony Daley (Fitness Coach), Darren Ward
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

 

Hennessey

Foley              Craddock              Stearman                 Elokobi

Kightly               Henry                 Dv.Jones                    Jarvis

Keogh                Ebanks-Blake

VERDICT:

One of the few fond memories that will linger from last season will be that of Steve Kabba’s ludicrous goal against Wolves. Not only the manner of the goal itself, false dawn or otherwise (Leigh Bromby’s throws never led to another goal, and the Kabba avalanche never materialised), and not just the celebration, but the knowledge that but for this goal we wouldn’t have made the play-offs, and Wolves wouldn’t have finished seventh. (In fact any one of five goals could claim this consequence, but I’m choosing this one…). Wolves look a good bet to do better this season though, with a young side with a bit more experience, and potentially a full seasonsworth of Ebanks-Blake (signed in January), Kightly and Jarvis (both injured for long spells last term). Play-offs at worst; good shouts for promotion in any event.

…and finally…

WATFORD
INS: Jon Harley (Burnley, Free)
OUTS: Darius Henderson (Sheffield United, £2,000,000), Toumani Diagouraga (Hereford United, Undisclosed), Ian Joyce (Southend United, Free), Jordan Stewart (Derby County, Free), Nathan Ellington (Derby County, Loan), Steve Kabba (Blackpool, Loan), Alex Campana, Kieran Forbes, Douglas Rinaldi

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Loach

Mariappa             Demerit              Bromby                Sadler

Williamson               Eustace                Harley

Smith                Priskin                      McAnuff

VERDICT:

Well it doesn’t look terrific, does it? Last season’s sixth place flattered our campaign as a whole, and completely fails to reflect the performances and results since January. There has been much talk of our revamped style of play, but as my co-editor has pointed out more eloquently elsewhere this would appear to be something of a red herring. Rudderless, punchless, spartan football is a joyless thing as we have witnessed, but rudderless, punchless tippy-tappy football is scarcely an improvement. When looking back to the promotion team, a team in which the component elements almost seemed to have been genetically engineered to suit a ruthlessly exhilarating style of play it seems inconceivable that last season’s shapelessness was borne of the same manager. It wasn’t altogether clear what the plan was, the almost total reliability on brawn and brute force more a consequence of lack of confidence, slumping back onto the easiest option, than a conscious gameplan. And so playing more football would be nice, sure. Not being completely awful comes first.
Meanwhile, the quite necessary and sensible cloth-cutting over the summer nonetheless leaves us with one particularly obvious problem as far as manpower is concerned. Gone since January: Marlon King, Nathan Ellington, Darius Henderson and perhaps less consequentially Steve Kabba and Collins John. In: nobody, not up front. Which leaves us with a number of rough diamonds, four in particular of whom were probably always going to need to buff up this season or move on, but none of whom you’d be at all confident hanging chief goalscoring responsiblity upon whatever squad number you give them. We are advised that Aidy’s still after a striker, but it’s difficult to picture who he might be able to recruit in the circumstances. We found attracting a striker hard enough in January 2007 when we may have been bottom of the Premiership but at least had some funds and, hey, were in the Premiership. Now… top flight clubs might lend us a useful kid, but it’s not really a useful kid that we need, we have a few of those (god I hope we have a few of those).
Perhaps most alarmingly, all of the characteristic zip has gone from Aidy’s repertoire. It grated at times, sure, but at least suggested a positiveness, a conviction that may have been faked and may have been misplaced, but conviction nonetheless that everything was in hand. That’s categorically not the case any more.
There are straws to be clung to, naturally. Harley looks like a fine catch, albeit our only one. There is still quality in the team, albeit lopsided, and a leader in the shape of Eustace. But even he… reminds me of the signing of Andy Hessenthaler. Like him, a great catch without question but… almost heralding in a fallow period, a warrior to defend a leaking, tilting ship to the death, not to lead the assault on the top flight armada.
Still. Football. Bring it on….