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End of Term Report Part 6 25/06/2009

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

It’s Rachie’s third birthday party this weekend.  We badly badly badly need it to be dry on Saturday.  If anyone knows any suitable rituals or chants that might induce sunshine let’s hear them.  Meanwhile…

23. Adrian Mariappa

A year ago I’d have listed Mariappa as one who could go either way.  After arguably his strongest season in a Watford shirt, despite the chaos that often reigned around him, he’s very much a fixture.  Occasionally linked with a move during the season, his penning of a new contract was enormously reassuring… competent across the back line, I still think he’s a far more accomplished centre-back than full-back but like Demerit benefits from playing alongside a senior partner.

Next Season: Ostensibly now unchallenged at right-back, he’s an asset wherever he’s fielded.

24. (#1) Darren Ward

On the face of it, this was quite a sensible loan.  We were desperate for the aerial presence at the back and some height in the side generally; Ward represented a known quantity with seven years’ more experience, much of which at this level, than when he last donned a yellow shirt.  Unfortunately, that experience seems to have done little to develop Ward as a player… he’s much the same defender as he was when he left, and suddenly his sale to Millwall doesn’t rank quite as high on the list of crimes to level at the Vialli regime.  For a big bloke, he still can’t head the ball anything like reliably either – that aerial presence was to be provided by his successor in the number 24 shirt.  Ward, meanwhile, left after a cheekbone fracture, spending the end of the season with relegated Charlton.

Next Season: With one year left on his Wolves contract, Ward is currently a Premiership footballer.  Wouldn’t pencil him into your Fantasy League team just yet, though.

24. (#2) Mike Williamson

Not since Colin Foster 16 years ago (ulp) has a player transplanted into the side mid-season so very obviously solved a problem.  Dismissively dominant in the air, comfortable on the deck, Williamson brought composure where so recently there had been disarray and enabled Jay Demerit in particular to flourish.  His debut against Burnley was a thing of wonder;  the soon-to-be-promoted Clarets blamed an off day, but in reality they looked more expansive and creative than most of the sides that had had far fewer problems scoring against us  in earlier fixtures.  Their attacks broke on the rock in the centre of our defence, and we counter-attacked our way to a 3-0 win.  The rest of the season started there. And yes, mentioning Colin Foster was deliberate.

Next Season:  Birmingham have stocked up on centre-backs in the past week, which should put that rumour to bed.  Unfortunately, having released Michael Duberry and with Andre Bikey looking for the exit, Reading need to recruit in this position.  Yawn.

25. Gareth Williams

Not a lot to say here, quite obviously.  Whether or not Williams would have worked out had he not gotten injured we’ll never know… his few appearances looked promising in a “well that might work” kinda way, but a cruciate ligament injury isn’t really something that can be predicted or planned for. 

Next Season: Good luck to him, but we’re obviously better off for not having him on the payroll.

26. John-Joe O’Toole

It’s the bloody goals that did it.  But for the goals, John-Joe would still be gradually finding his way on the fringes of our first team.  But a young midfielder scoring goals at a rate like that, attacking the box as effectively as anyone you’ve ever seen in that position, was always going to grab the attention.  Given that the rest of his game isn’t quite up to that standard yet, at least not reliably, he’s probably an asset that’s worth trading in in our current circumstances.  And yet… if the better of his home games this season are anything to go by the rest of his game will catch up with his goalscoring and John-Joe will become a quite exceptional midfielder.  There was one game – it might have been Wolves – when the unflustered mastery of possession was extraordinary, suggesting a much older and more experienced player.  There were several others, mind, where the whole thing seemed to pass him by.

Next Season:  It will be interesting to watch John-Joe develop.  In someone else’s team, unfortunately.


1. nascot - 26/06/2009

Colin Foster, 16 years ago? Bloody hell.

2. Fran - 26/06/2009

Matt, to stave off the rain, borrow a statue of the child of Prague (I expect Mrs Priestley will have one) and put it in the garden with a coin underneath. Works every time.

3. mikepeter - 26/06/2009

A toddler’s birthday party on Glastonbury weekend at the end of 5 days of clear weather at Wimbledon? Wouldn’t fancy your chances, Matt.

4. Matt Rowson - 26/06/2009

yeah, cheers for that Mike

5. markymark - 27/06/2009

Matt : I’m not so sure that JJ will leave.He did not have a great time at Sheffield United and teams may well be put off by his supposed £1 million + price tag given his current limitations.
As a central midfielder you have to do more than get into great goal scoring postions and score easy headers or tap ins….

6. Matt Rowson - 27/06/2009


he did well enough at Sheff U for them to want to buy him… if the goals he scores are so “easy”, why hadn’t a load of other midfielders scored seven goals by the end of October?

I take the general point about the rest of his game needing time to catch up though. In fact… that was the point I made in the article wasn’t it?

7. Dave Hart - 29/06/2009

In a 4-4-1-1 formation, with O’Toole playing behind the striker, I thought that O’Toole seemed a decent player. Sticking him in a four man midfield didn’t always seem to work for him, from what I saw.

I heard that he came back for pre season last year over weight, hence why he wasn’t in the team for the first few games if I recall. At the friendly against Tring, Malky spent most of the game yelling at him. An indicator perhaps? Overall, I’m not quite sure what to make of him. A strong disciplinarian like Malky could do wonders for him.

8. stephen hoffman - 08/07/2009

i completely disagree about ward he was solid great and the air and in heading and played very well for us he did the same for charlton – why criticise him i just dont get it he was a good solid defender for us on loan.

9. Matt Rowson - 09/07/2009

He heads the ball vertically more often than not. Compare and contrast the effect of Ward on our defensive stability (virtually nil) and that of Williamson. He was an extra body, that’s all.

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