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Season Preview 2008-09 02/08/2008

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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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….

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments»

1. meldrew - 03/08/2008

Fantastic preview Matt, but this Watford squad promises the most joyless miserable season to come. A team needs to score at least 50 goals a season to stay up. This Watford squad will be lucky to get 30 between them. Boothroyd pleads penury but how he is in a job with the money squandered on trash like Ellington, Kabba, Hoskins, Williamson, McAnuff, Poom, Jackson et al beggars belief. Relegation.

2. meldrew - 03/08/2008

Also add Francis and Priskin.
Shocking.

3. Mark - 03/08/2008

Based on the last couple of “performances” we should fear a real relegation battle!

4. Dave Hart - 03/08/2008

I saw the reserves play Tring yesterday, and I must say that there were some VERY promising performances.

Al Bangura looks back to his best, breaking up play and spraying passes in a way familiar to Micah Hyde. A first team recall beckons.

Jordan Parkes’ development has seen a huge improvement. He had at least three shots from 30 yards out, at least two of them requiring the keeper to tip it over the bar. An outstanding prospect. This kid needs to play in the first team, and soon. We can’t let a kid as good as this get away from us.

Billy Gibson is a right winger who can also play up front. He scored two, and set up at least one. He is a good dribbler, and has a good finish. It may be a bit soon to chuck him in the first team though. Takes corners.

Liam Henderson came on for the last half hour, scoring one, and nearly scoring another. He has a similar physique as his namesake, but is also mobile. I don’t think he is ready for a full season of first team football yet, but he should certainly be in the squad. He’ll offer a different type of play to our pacy first team strikers.

A quick mention also for Lewis Young. He has very good technique, scoring one, and setting up at least two goals. He is some way off the first team at the moment, but I think he will make it at Watford. He played up front and on the right wing.

Junior Osbourne also played, and seems to have recovered from hi injuries. He also did well.

The team most played 442.

5. I'll be rich by Easter - 03/08/2008

18/1, 18/1, 18/1
You should have all seen it coming and backed the relegation odds.

Fools.

6. Sequel - 03/08/2008

Hey, forget about the team. As a season ticket holder of 10 years’ standing (but mainly sitting), I was supposedly being moved from my cosy position in the East Stand to the Lower Rous. But, not only have I not yet heard where I’m moving to, the East Stand will, apparently, still be standing for at least half the season, and could therefore be used. I may yet be taking the regular 4.55 trudge up Occupation Rd….

7. ramsgate horn - 03/08/2008

Thanks to matt for a fine preview, I was in london for the weekend camping, saw the Barnet game, looks like i should have gone to Tring !, still; 1 Harley , for me man of the match scored a good goal and very busy, for a bosman a great signing i think he will be an asset this season. 2 Hoskins came on and looked promisng in current company i would try him out. 3 Shittu still a power but sadly it looks like aidy will sell him shame, 4 Priskin gets stick from some fans, has skill but needs to show a lot more consistency and urgencv. one part of this game summed this up Harley nods the ball accross the goal . its crying out for a finish but Priskin nowhwere to be seen a bloke standing near me ib paticularly scathing in his criticsm, 5 we definately need more players in whilst i would like to see youngsters get a chance, we need more quality or we will struggle, at least my sons and i got to do some other activities thib weekend just coming for thib game would have been a disappointment

8. Stuart - 03/08/2008

er Dave, can I just point something out to you, they played Tring.

9. Stuart - 03/08/2008

and Tring are probably not the strongest opposition……..

10. Matt Rowson - 03/08/2008

18/1… bully for you.

you don’t sound like a wanker at all, btw

11. meldrew - 03/08/2008

As much as I would love to see Boothroyd and 80% of the squad leave, there is just something not quite right on having a bet on your own side to be relegated.

12. Tom W - 03/08/2008

From a Derby County fan, thank you for a realistic prediction and evaluation of every club not just ours, it seems most in football seemingly want us to fail again, without looking at any of the details of the almost completely changed squad that we have now, once again thank you and good luck to watford as well next season… finally someone with sense….

13. Dave Hart - 03/08/2008

Let’s not be abusive towards each other. There’s plenty of that on various other Watford forums…

Stuart,

You are quite right, Tring were not the strongest of opponents. But it was men against boys, and the boys won well. Very well.

It’s quite possible that we may be relegated this season. However, at the end of the day, that is what football is about. We have had some fantastic times, and some not so fantastic times. Glory hunters follow certain other teams. I’ll stick with Watford. Besides, the lack of funds might force Boothroyd to give some of these kids a try. What’s the point in having an academy if you don’t give them their chance?

Three years ago, Boothroyd waited until the last day before the season to buy players. Perhaps we’ll see that again, perhaps not.

14. Mark - 04/08/2008

The worry about Barnet was the more experienced players like McAnuff,Bromby and Williamson were totally outplayed or just didn’t perform by a very young team when you expect them at least to perform against a League 2 side.

15. Nick - 04/08/2008

Very informative thanks Matt.

A couple of observations;

1. Newell’s Old Boys – who they then – have Luton been rebranded?

2. Re: Kevin Blackwell – stop sitting on the fence man and tell us what you really think!

16. Jamie - 04/08/2008

Great round up and review Matt. You really have to worry don’t you!

For me this division is all about goals scored. From top to bottom there isn’t that much gulf between the teams and on any day any of the teams will beat one another regardless of form. What gives you a chance, week in week out, is the ability to score goals, to consistently give your defence a breather by being a threat in the attacking third of the field. My concern is that I just don’t see that being our strongest component by any stretch.

If Tamas is leading our line, on past performance, the ball will come back quickly and repeatedly. He hardly screams 20 goal hero and so we need to find 7-10 goals from the likes of Smith and McAnuff. Again I’m hardly holding my breath.

17. Craig Ramage - 04/08/2008

All in my humble opinion, but pretty simple all this for me. Since getting promoted in May 2006 WFC has had some VERY predictable income:

– Sky money
– Gate receipts (largely underpinned by known ST sales)
– Some other income (matchday catering / shop etc)
– Transfer fees (Young / King / Bouazza)

And also some very predictable outgoings:

– Player salaries
– Transfer / agent fees
– Running costs of the club

All the signs are, despite the denials from the club, that the balance between these two has gone badly wrong – AGAIN! Businesses that fail / run into difficulties / get short of cash often do so because their revenue is volatile and they can’t flex their cost base. In this case, you have one of the most predictable / known revenue streams available, around £70m in Sky money and player sales over three years and yet we are still claiming poverty. The truth will out soon enough (it always does) but the tealeaves don’t look promising…

Who to blame?

The board? Yes, ultimate responsibility here. They needed to provide clear guidance to AB on what he could and couldn’t afford, and perhaps also question and challenge more why he built up such a large squad of non contributors. They are responsible and accountable for the overall financial health of the club, take substantial salaries for doing so, and are ultimately responsible. Last time round the failure of ITV dgital was the excuse for the income / cost imbalance – harder to see what this time’s will be? Let’s wait and see…

AB – Yes as well. Of course he earnt the money in the first place by geting us up in 2005/6 (something Lewington would never have done with that group of players) but then went on to show largely poor judgement in spending it. That’s understandable (he’s inexperienced) but in my view all the early success went to his head a bit and he assumed an almost god like status within the club that nobody would question (the steady procession of departures across the last 18 months tells its own story – it’s a fact that good orgainsations tend not to have high levels of staff trunover) . Very ironic that he is moaning about poverty now when he has been one of the main drivers of the wasted money (Ellington / Poom / Jackson / RInadli etc etc etc)…

A bit of humility and honesty from both the Board and AB would be very welcome, however I’m not holding my breath.

Get ready for a struggle to finish 16th like the Watford of old, and hope for some entertainment along the way from the kids.

And if I can still have those odds of 18/1 would be worth a £50 bet methinks…

And getting excited about playing Tring? Please…

PS Thanks Matt for another decent Statto effort on the season preview

18. Jim N - 04/08/2008

Matt – I suspect “I’ll be richer by easter” only bet on the ‘Orns to go down as he can’t get odds on his own team to go down……….Them having MINUS 30 points ‘n’ all!! Tee Hee.

19. DM - 04/08/2008

Superb preview Matt. Like so many things, it made me hark back to a happier time.

Thinking about the coming season feels like thinking about going to the dentists for major root canal work. Fingers and toes crossed everyone…

20. Harefield Hornet - 04/08/2008

Despite all the usual bickering I fully suspect that most of us will still be around next year despite what happens this season! If you’ve taken a damn good kicking on the London Underground protecting Roger Flemming (As I did once) Football can throw whatever it likes at you and you still come back for more!.

Still, Silk Purses and Sows ears do spring uncomfortably to mind!

If AB manages to scrape in some talent to bolster what remains of this lot to avoid relegation I think that would surpass the promotion of 2006 as an achievement. Still not quite sure how the books didn’t balance though – surely we havent been paying the players that much!!!!!!!!! have we? – and I cant help having uneasy feelings, however paranoid and probably completely unsubstantiated, that the Tory Lord is involved somewhere! HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN. PS Totally agree with Matts description of 18/1. 50/1 – now that would be worth a punt!

21. Johnny Boy - 04/08/2008

Thanks Matt for the preview – you didn’t compile the Observers did you?
Now everybody – why all this doom and gloom before the season has even started. I get this horrible feeling that on Tuesday night that the first missed pass will be greeted with a moan and we will be back where we were at the end of last season. Therefore lets be positive;
– Jodi ‘owes’ Watford a good season, on the level of Tommy Smith last year.
– If Danny goes are Jay and Mariappa going to step up, they need to because Bromby could be off in January to a team looking for the ‘long ball’ to get them out of trouble.
– In midfield, if the more established players do not perform hopefully some of these exciting young ‘uns will be there to kick ass and not worn into the ground like poor JoJo last time out.
– Attack, now this could be a problem – or – a fantastic opportunity for a Robinson, Hoskins, Ashikobi, Priskin to stand up a make a name for themselves. Knock the goals in and by the end of the season have one of the ‘second division’ premier clubs running after them with a large cheque which solves all the current financial problems and, we the fans have the benefit of watching this talent emerge. ( Do I live in a dream world)
– Aidy – of all the things he is/ and all the things he has been called I don’t think he’s stupid so he knows this is his make or break season. So hopefully we will see more innovative and daring football.
So bring it on, keep our fingers crossed, and at least be positive for the first few games.

22. PDF - 04/08/2008

I think this season promises to be quite a lot of fun – if you define fun as a set of experiences which will mean something as opposed to just witnessing the drivel of the last 2 years.

Look forward to heckling and bantering for our 10th season together in the Rookery Matt.

23. Matt Rowson - 04/08/2008

There’s more than a little truth in that PDF.

See you Tuesday…

24. Wrighty - 04/08/2008

with all the finacial turmoil, possibility of blooding young players and the feeling we will be in the bottom half of the table more than the top it feels like Watford again

25. Dave Hart - 04/08/2008

I can’t see Robinson making it at Watford. His positional play is terrible, as he gets caught offside far too often. When I went to see him play for Hereford at Wycombe, the Hereford fans seemed to think the same thing about his career prospects. In the Brentford friendly alone, he got caught offside far too many times, and he only played the second half.

Those who weren’t booing Priskin at the time would have noticed that he didn’t get caught offside at all during the game. I’ll admit that the Brentford was the only first team friendly I’ve seen this summer however.

Robinson has some serious work to do on his game if he is going to make it here. Let’s hope he succeeds. I think another loan spell would be of more benefit to him, but we’ll need some cover first. Cheltenham Town are crying out for a striker at the moment.

Boothroyd usually plays the kids in the League Cup. I wonder if he will do the same this time. They are the future at this club, like it or not.

26. Old Git - 05/08/2008

My main concern is that the ‘fans’ who so witlessly savaged Gavin Mahon’s confidence last season, before he was snapped up by one of this season’s promotion favourites, will have a similar negative impact upon the team this time round. Players like JohnJoe, Ashikodi, Mariappa and the other youngsters may well thrive in a supportive and positive atmosphere but if things do not get off to a flying start, I fear that they will become sitting targets for the jeers and boos of the moron element, who have the proven capacity to damage careers and wreck team performances.

27. DM - 05/08/2008

Kids in the League Cup ? They’ll be playing at Palace Dave !

28. Esp - 05/08/2008

As ever an excellent preview to the coming season Matt – writtwen with your usual wit and unique style- kinda reminds me of that other site BSaD that you edited, nice to see some habits die hard

I do wish that your prose (that the Grauniad certainly appreciate) would find a wider audience such as in the Free Observer match reports (despite their money being crap!!) but, then again, maybe BHaPPY have more discerning readers; I don’t know!

You have probably encapsulated most Hornet fans’ thoughts with your Watford preview but it was wonderful to read your musings on the Blades’ boss “…Blackwell is a fucking idiot, and has demonstrated so repeatedly….” Superb stuff 🙂

Finally please Dave Hart don’t suggest sending MORE players out on loan – haven’t we enough out there already and we do have a pretty threadbare squad as it is….. but your Tring match report was pretty encouraging; pity I couldn’t have been in 2 places at the same time – Barnet away was pretty dire stuff (with the exception of seeing Harleys first match) and yet again DeMerit was marshalling a defence who leaked goals against vastly inferior opposition…. We’ve been there before and will again I fear.

Finally a note to the Rangers board….give Big Dan the salary his agent is demanding and then I might get my seat back in the Main Stand before I draw my pension. Thanks!

29. DW - 05/08/2008

Thank you for an excellent review.

The contrast between the atmosphere surrounding the club now compared with that of the fans forum held last autumn could not be more acute. Then, as we sat at the top of the table it was all about establishing ourselves as a top flight side with an infrastructure to match. Even if the majority of us thought that a little far fetched there was real optimism that we would at least become a premiere yo-yo club. Instead we now have a board looking to cut back wherever possible and a bunch of players who collectively have lost all confidence/ability/desire*.

The club have rightly accepted that the chance of becoming a top 20 club in the short term is over and have put plans into place to ensure we are not exposed this time next year. The population of Watford for their part have shown that despite 30 years of relative success we still can not attract crowds that would inspire a new owner. The attendance on a sunny afternoon in the play off’s of less than 14,000, including over 2,000 from Hull, demonstrates we are still a small club from a provincial town punching well above our weight; which is why there is every reason to be excited about this season. We just have to be more realistic about our goals.

Don’t believe the pessimists, we are very unlikely to get relegated, I accept that our forward line is among the weakest in the division but a first XI that contains Sadler, Demerit, Bromby De-la cruise, Eustace, Williams, Smith and McAnuff will be strong enough to compete against most other championship clubs. It will be intriguing (OK could be frustrating) to see if Priskin can play and watching if the new style benefits the more creative players in the side.

• chose/delete as appropriate.

30. meldrew - 05/08/2008

The old ‘punching above our weight’ crap trotted out by DW – the reason only 14,000 turned up for the Hull game was that after five months of utter, utter misery, people simply did not want to pay to watch Watford play – that has sod all to do with being a ‘small club’

31. Mark - 05/08/2008

Saw the game at St Albans tonight and Anisworth/Bangura or even Robinson who up till tonight was having a decent Pre-season hardly did themselves any good tonight really.

Lewis Young,Billy Gibson,Liam Henderson and Roos Jenkins looked better but trouble is they are all youngsters probably just a little bit lighweight for Championship football (mind you so is Williamson or even /McAnuff/Priskin at times)

Have we not signed De La Cruz or the centre half guy from the Scottish ?

32. James - 05/08/2008

In some ways I’m quite looking forward to this season.
Looking at our squad, it’s going to be a frustrating season, and probably quite dull too, looking at everyone else’s squads. I’m expecting a relegation battle, filled with shoddy defending, confusion in midfield, and lots of missed chances up front.
Yeah… this is what football’s about.

For me the most disappointing thing about last season wasn’t missing out on promotion, or our terrible football. It was the fans.

I remember going away to Wolves during the last promotion season, and laughing heartily as their fans screamed abuse at their own players during the pre-match warm-up, then proceeded to fight amongst themselves for the rest of the game.
“Ha ha ha!” I smugly thought, “I’m so glad I support a decent club. We’d never stoop to that level!”

Well last season we did all that and worse. At least we were spared the cruel irony of Wolves piping us to the final play-off spot.

So I’m looking forward to a good relegation scrap. We always seem to pick up a lot of idiots in the Premiership and it takes a dangle over the edge of the drop to shake them loose.

33. Dave Hart - 05/08/2008

ESP,

You quite right, although, in fairness, I did suggest bringing in a replacement first.

My ideal partnership would be to bring in one experienced striker, and partner him with a combination of the following, depending on opponents and form etc.

Ashikodi (pace)
Henderson (physique)
Priskin (technique)

Young isn’t ready yet, although he might be later on in the season.

Henderson is probably the most physically developed of our kids here, although I wouldn’t play him the whole season, obviously. The alternation means that with any luck, none of them will burn out, and if one fails to make the grade, either one of the other two might do the business. Robinson would then return from his loan spell and use his pace against tiring teams in the second half of the season.

Since Ashikodi has now gone on loan to Hereford, it does kind of throw a spanner into the works of my cunning plan. If Boothroyd fails to get a striker, I would like Smith to be moved up front, with Harley, McAnuff, Ainsworth and Gibson taking the wing positions, with Gibson being 4th choice, getting a few games as a result. It’s not the perfect result, but perhaps the best we can do in the short term.

According the official site, he set up another goal tonight for the reserves. I can see now why Campagna was released. He would have gotten in the way of Gibson’s development.

Southampton made around £20m as a result of selling two kids they had thrown into their first team. Where would they be now if they hadn’t? I’m not suggesting that our kids are worth that much, but it is no coincidence that two of our biggest sales in recent years (Bouzza and Young) came from our academy. That’s what it is there for, isn’t it? Look what it has done for Palace.

34. Joe Richardson - 06/08/2008

I’m adding my voice to the (small but hopefully growing) glass half-full camp.

I’ll admit that our pre-season form and the ‘on-the-paper’ squad doesn’t scream “title-contenders”, but there’s enough quality and experience there to compete with most of this season’s opposition and potentially enough heart to surprise a few of the big boys…we just need Boothroyd to tap into that again.

I think back to this time last year when we talking about how many goals we’d score with King and Ellington upfront – 40….50?! And we’ve got a hungry Henderson fighting for his place, he’ll get 10 more goals coming on as a super sub….and what did we get?

I’m not saying this to knock Aidy’s management – clearly King, Hendo and Ellington are all goal-scorers…but despite the form-guides and ‘on-the-paper’ promise, it just didn’t happen last year for them. Following this crazy notion that you can’t predict what will happen, who’s to say that Robinson won’t become the new Marlon King? Or that John-Joe won’t continue to grow into an excellent midfielder a future captain?

Let’s relax, be positive and wait and see what happens…not on a sunny Saturday against Palace, but on the cold and miserable Tuesday evenings, hundreds of miles from home when at least a couple of these boys have the chance to make themselves terrace heroes, someone to cheer for…isn’t that all you can ask from a club like Watford?

35. bob - 06/08/2008

quite agree with DW’s comments.

1st post but just tired of all the knocking.

barnet was god awful to watch on saturday, but what was worse was listening to the gap toothed shoe stackers continuously barracking priskin. i can’t warm to him (too much of the dom foley about him) but letting off at him won’t improve his game or inspire confidence from his team mates.

regardless of the more beautiful style promised, we didnt put our foot on the ball and control the game once (but then williams and eustace werent playing), and the football lacked cohesion, (which will be essential whilst we are in this transitional phase, figuring out what total football is).

On the plus side, shittu came on in the second and our defence still leaked, so maybe he wont be as missed at the back. Having a centre back as your talismatic striker in the 2nd half of the season did no ones confidence any good so at 2M, i wish him bon voyage and thank megson for hand outs from desperate premiership clubs.

Another plus on saturday was harley and hoskins, both looked hungry and eager to impress. we now have cover all around the pitch, and i’d say our 1st teamers are average to very good championship players. very late in the day but all that we need is two strikers, a straight replacement for Doris on cold winter nights and one with a bit of art and guile. why do i keep thinking stern john?

Board and fans alike may have got a bit above our selves for a while. This is quite justified when results of our last three seasons read top six finish twice, premiershit for one and an FA semi thrown in for good measure. Not bad when you compare our home attednance with the likes of wolves, sheff utd, ipswich and charlton, all of whom didnt achieve our lofty heights last april/may.

i for one think the board are now making a very sensible decision in removing the ballast and big earners of an oversized squad and a mangement team. it is now time to see if aidy can do something magic a second time around. i will write off this saturday as its at a shit ground with a shit manager and a shit chariman and it takes two weeks to get there, but thereafter i hope for the best and two new strikers who settle in quickly and raise priskin and hoskins game quick sharp. top 10 not beyond us at all and top 6 still a possibility

36. Esp - 06/08/2008

Totally agree with Bob’s description of our “gap toothed shoe stackers” at Barnet getting on Priskin’s back … how on earth is barracking one of our only (potentially) quality strikers going to help his confidence. In fact it has the opposite effect and gives the opposition an edge but then again the morons don’t quite get it do they?

Finally, am I the only one to have found an answer from Bob to Dave Wright’s query “We have to be more realistic about our goals”

Bob wrote in his piece “..we need two strikers, a replacement for Doris and one with a bit of art and guile”

With John, Ellington, Henderson, King gone and Kabba & Ashikodi (temporarily) gone I think Bob’s answer to our goals is realistic!

37. DW - 06/08/2008

Meldrew, you are absolutely right, many of the games at home last season were shockers but here is some news for you, football matches quite often are. What evidence is there that we are or ever will ever be anything other than a small/medium sized club? My initial point is that yes this season will be a struggle but there is still much to look forward to, I just hope we don’t have “fans” booing players whenever we don’t win a match.

38. Wrighty - 06/08/2008

Apparentky Jackson has retired according to OS. How will we tell?

39. Esp - 06/08/2008

One (oh, alright, one of many…) striking statistics to come out of Matt’s unrivalled Championship club by club guide to 2008/9 is the number of ex Watford managers, coaches and players on the coaching staff at rival teams

It may even be a record number this season but the research involved to prove it would have to be exhausting and painstaking to find out and I ain’t volunteering!

There are no fewer than 10 ex Horns on rival coaching staff and if Kenny Jackett had stayed at the Swans there would be 11but he could still join the others next season of course with Millwall!

At the risk or infringing BHaPPY’s stringent copyright rules they are:

Bristol C: Gary Johnson; Cardiff: Terry Burton, Neal Ardley, Paul Wilkinson; Charlton: Mark Robson; Norwich: Glenn Roeder; Reading: Nigel Gibbs; Sheffield United: Sam Ellis; Southampton: David Hockaday and Wolves: Tony Daley

To end on a vaguely satirical note could there be another ex- Hornet manager with a Championship rival if the Russso’s take over the reins from the Graham the Great?

(Sorry – couldn’t resist it :-))

40. Stuart - 06/08/2008

blah blah blah, on Saturday it doesn’t matter a hoot all these other things. Lets just go with the flow and see what happens.

41. Mark - 07/08/2008

I just think its the lack of cover everyone (including Aidy_ is worried about if the likes of Smith are out long term.

Its going to be a hard season but then they cannot play any worse than what we saw at the end of last season!

It would be nice if people supported the players on the pitch when the matches are in play (more so if its a young side)

I presume there will be a Fans forum to ask questions of the board.

42. Meldrew - 07/08/2008

DW – We had players earning ridiculously high wages dishing up mind numbing misery. Why the hell shouldn’t people boo? In fact, I think the Watford crowd were if anything far too lenient. If you went to the theatre and the actors forgot all the lines and started laughing about it, what would you do? Please don’t say we are little old Watford and we should just ‘support’ the team no matter what – If its the 1990s again and we have Hessenthaler giving his all for a fraction of what lazy bastards like Francis and McAnuff then fine but its not – you are paying out 25 odd quid to watch trash earning around 10k a week. Did the players ever get together to pay for an away day for the fans to apologise or thank them – NO. They are in the main the most arrogant, overpaid, faceless bunch I have ever witnessed in the shirt and if they don’t strain every sinew they have this season they deserve nothing but our scorn and disdain.

43. jimbohornet - 07/08/2008

This squad if wafer thin in terms of numbers and experience. Of the 27 who remain and have squad numbers, only 13 started 10 or more games last year and only 5 managed over 30 starts. Hopefully the newer additions, Harley Eustace Sadler Bromby and Ainsworth will feature more this year also hope to see more of Williams Robinson and Loach. Can’t see Priskin Hoskins or even Smudger getting us 10/15 goals though – hoping for a last minute striker to arrive before Saturday to calm the nerves. Fortunately Palace have similar problems with their forwards, only Scowcroft plus kids although I expect they will get some money from the Johnson transfer.
Talking of Johnsons, come back Adam that’s when it all went pear shaped !! Just about keeping the faith.

44. meldrew - 07/08/2008

WHY HAS MY PREVIOUS POST BEEN REMOVED?

There was nothing libellous in it. Matt?

45. Royston RoF - 07/08/2008

Bob Wrote

“i can’t warm to him (too much of the dom foley about him) ”

Dont get me going..the memories linger long, the fire isnt dead yet, the embers still fanticise about Doms goals against Barnsley and Leeds.

TUFF rules ok

Perhaps we should start a H(arley)UFF and P(riskin)UFF 🙂

46. Matt Rowson - 07/08/2008

Calm down Meldrew, it hadn’t been removed I just hadn’t got around to approving it. Whilst we’re here though, this is a blog not a messageboard or maillist. If ig or I want to remove postings just because we fancy it, or just to annoy you (particularly that), we reserve the right to do so. No, you don’t have to like it.

47. Matt Rowson - 07/08/2008

And Meldrew, you were whining like a bastard in the nineties as well, so please don’t talk of it as a halcyon era you’re not fooling anyone.

48. meldrew - 07/08/2008

I never pretended it was a halcyon era, but I would take Hessenthaler over Williamson, even Devon White over Priskin any day. We have often disagreed over the years Matt, but I defy you to tell me that you found last season since November to be likeable and acceptable in any way.

49. Ed - 08/08/2008

Bhappy is the best blog AND message board, with average 42 comments per post, you must be pleased how vibrant it is. Best Watford talk on the net if you ask me.

This closed season has left lots of questions. Another club statement today talking down the financial position, player sales and stadium development sales. I’m just looking forward to the start of the season, and have something a bit more tangible to worry about.

COME ON YOU ‘ORNS!

50. DM - 08/08/2008

He’s got you there Meldrew…

51. markymark - 08/08/2008

Whats all this talk of Rasiak signing on loan!? Now why would Southampton, who escaped relegation by a cat’s whisker, wish to off load their top striker ( with Stern John ) to a possible relegation rival?
I would take him with open arms even though like Ellington and GNW he’s a lazy b*stard 🙂

52. Ian Lay - 08/08/2008

I have a wonderful solution to your woes Meldrew. Don’t go to the games. Saves money and reduces the chance of heart attack by reducing bile uptake.

On the other hand it’s apparent that we could do with all the money we can lay our hands on. So please do continue using BHaPPY to relieve your tensions and stresses. 🙂

53. Stuart - 08/08/2008

Devon White over Priskin!!??

54. Dave Hart - 09/08/2008

I’ve yet to see Priskin try an overhead scissor kick in the centre circle. And miss.


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