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Season Preview 2009-10 02/08/2009

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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Let’s be absolutely clear.  If you want a well-thought out, well-researched, balanced preview based on rational consideration, perhaps peppered with wit, anecdote and insight then you’re in the wrong place altogether.  If, however, you’re after a half-baked load of tosh, cobbled together in spare minutes in between trips to the hospital to visit my infant daughter (a month early of all things, yes she’s fine thanks) and in the middle of the night when I really needed to be sleeping, read on.  Just don’t say I didn’t warn you…

BARNSLEY

INS: David Preece (Odense, Free), Onome Sodje (York City, Free)

OUTS: Heinz Muller (FSV Mainz 05, £600,000), Diego Leon, Kyle Letheren, Dennis Souza, Marciano Van Hoemoet

OUR EX-TYKES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Martin Devaney

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Steele

Hassell             Foster                Moore            Kozluk

Campbell-Ryce      Colace           De Silva          Devaney

Macken              Bogdanovic

VERDICT:
An unconvincing escape from relegation last term has been met by the rationalising of a squad that, at the time of writing, looks painfully thin, particularly in defensive positions. The Tykes’ messageboards are not happy places, with Simon Davey’s star seemingly on the wane; one pundit suggests that the only way Barnsley will escape a relegation battle is if they’re so far bottom that any sense of fight is long-since extinguished by easter. There’s quality in the side – Jamal Campbell-Ryce was amongst our more impressive opponents last term – but a tough season ahead nonetheless; relegation candidates.

BLACKPOOL

INS: Billy Clarke (Ipswich Town, Free), Jason Euell (Southampton, Free)

OUTS: Shaun Barker (Derby County, £1,000,000), David Fox (Colchester United, Free), Stuart Green (Wycombe Wanderers, Free), Ashton Bayliss, Marlon Broomes, Franceso Carratta, Claus Jorgensen, Matt Kay, Jermaine Wright

OUR EX-SEASIDERS: Danny Graham

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Rachubka

    Coid             Baptiste                 Edwards                Crainey

Taylor-Fletcher       Southern            Vaughan             Clarke

 Nardiello             Burgess

VERDICT:
I’ve still not really decided about Ian Holloway. It’s tempting to pigeonhole him as either the ultimate backs-to-the-wall sows-ear manager, skilled at making the best of any situation, or as a hapless fool whose ready soundbites earn him more credence than his results merit. The truth is probably somewhere in between, but in Blackpool he’s taking on a task that might see him definitively classified as one or the other. One defeat in ten at the end of the season doesn’t disguise that the Seasiders are amongst the more modest sides in the division; a bad season, bad luck, bad managerial appointment, bad injuries that others might get away with will send Blackpool the way that Rotherham and Crewe have gone before them after a couple of years of defying gravity. It won’t necessarily be this season, but Barker is a loss and the side lacks goals. Relegation candidates (though I said that last year, what do I know?)
 

BRISTOL CITY

INS: David Clarkson (Motherwell, Undisclosed,) Dean Gerken (Colchester United, Undisclosed), Danny Haynes (Ipswich Town, Undisclosed), Lewin Nyatanga (Derby County, Undisclosed), Andre Blackman (Portsmouth, Free), Paul Hartley (Celtic, Free)

OUTS: Dele Adebola (Nottingham Forest, Free), Izzy Iriekpen (Hamilton Academicals, Free), Scott Murray (Yeovil Town, Free), Jennison Myrie-Williams (Dundee United, Free), Chris Weale (Leicester City, Free), David Noble, Peter Styvar (Skoda Xanthi, Season Loan)

OUR EX-ROBINS: Sean Dyche

THEIR EX-ORNS: Lee Johnson, Gary Johnson (Manager), Keith Millen (Assistant Manager)

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Basso

Orr           Carey            Fontaine        Nyatanga      McAllister

Elliott                       Hartley

Clarkson

Haynes                    Maynard

VERDICT:
City’s summer recruitment should see them maintain their position in the top half of the division; the capture of Hartley was impressive, and if Clarkson is an unknown quantity then he and City’s other additions do provide depth to an increasingly convincing looking starting eleven. Will need a prevailing wind to make the play-offs, but that’s not an unrealistic ambition.

 CARDIFF CITY

INS: Michael Chopra (Sunderland, £4,000,000), Mark Hudson (Charlton Athletic, £1,075,000), Paul Quinn (Motherwell, £300,000), Anthony Gerrard (Walsall, Undisclosed), David Marshall (Norwich City, Undisclosed)
 
OUTS: Roger Johnson (Birmingham City, £5,000,000), Darren Purse (Sheffield Wednesday, Free), Darren Dennehy (Hereford United, Six Month Loan)
 
OUR EX-BLUEBIRDS: Jobi McAnuff
 
THEIR EX-ORNS: Michael Chopra, Neal Ardley (Academy Manager), Terry Burton (Assistant Manager), Paul Wilkinson (Reserve Team Manager)
 
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Marshall

Quinn      Hudson        Gerrard         McNaughton

Burke          Ledley         McPhail         Whittingham

McCormack          Chopra

VERDICT:
Some significant ins at Cardiff, but significant “outs” also – one confirmed and a couple rumoured at the time of writing. Thing is, whilst new recruits might work out there’s by their nature a greater element of uncertainty than with the established faces heading out of the door – even (or perhaps particularly) in the case of Chopra after his sabbatical in Sunderland. Combining this with the “new stadium” thing leads me to think that Cardiff’s promotion challenge will be rather more theoretical and peripheral this time around. Tenth.
 

COVENTRY CITY

INS: Sammy Clingan (Norwich City, Undisclosed)

OUTS:Daniel Fox (Celtic, £1,500,000), Scott Dann (Birmingham City, Undisclosed), Robbie Simpson (Huddersfield Town, Undisclosed), Liam Francis (Redditch Town, Free), Andy Marshall, Michael Mifsud, Kevin Thornton

OUR EX-SKY BLUES: John Eustace

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Westwood

Wright        Turner           Ward        Hall

Bell       Gunnarsson       Clingan       Doyle

Eastwood         Morrison

VERDICT:
With undue optimism emanating from the West Midlands about Cov’s prospects this time last year, I must confess to a degree of satisfaction at having stuck by Cov’s natural magnetic pull towards seventeenth. This season the suggestion is the opposite… those who travelled to the Ricoh Arena at the end of last season saw a desperately poor side, irrespective of a flattering two-goal lead, who were rather fortunate that the season didn’t last a month or so longer. Since then they’ve lost two of their “big four” in Danny Fox and Scott Dann without replacing them (Fox’s last act for Cov to get himself red carded against us) and City suddenly look strong relegation candidates. Seventeenth anyway, obviously.
 

CRYSTAL PALACE

INS: Darren Ambrose (Charlton Athletic, Free), Stern John (Southampton, Free), Matthew Wright (Swansea City, Free), Freddie Sears (West Ham United, Season Loan)

OUTS: Rhoys Wiggins (Norwich City, Undisclosed), Carl Fletcher (Plymouth Argyle, Free), Scott Flinders (Hartlepool United, Free), Paul Ifill (Wellington Phoenix, Free), James Scowcroft (Leyton Orient, Free), Shefki Kuqi, John Oster

OUR EX-EAGLES: Jobi McAnuff

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Speroni

Clyne      McCarthy       Fonte           Hill

Carle          Derry           Danns

Sears         John           Moses

VERDICT:
Having finished the previous season so strongly, Palace’s 2008/09 campaign must have seemed a bit of a damp squib. Warnock has performed some necessary surgery by cutting loose some dead wood – which I’d be reassured by – although signing other people’s dead wood (Stern John, Darren Ambrose) might not seem too inspiring. Sears of course could be the exception, and he along with Palace’s impressive crop of kids should certainly see Palace comfortably mid-table again, even if the likes of Victor Moses and Nathaniel Clyne continue to attract attention.
 

DERBY COUNTY

INS: Shaun Barker (Blackpool, £1,000,000), Dean Moxey (Exeter City, Undisclosed), Lee Croft (Norwich City, Free), Jake Buxton (Burton Albion, Free), Saul Deeney (Burton Albion, Free), Ben Pringle (Ilkeston Town, Free)

OUTS: Emmanuel Villa (Cruz Azul, £1,700,000), Liam Dickinson (Brighton & Hove Albion, Undisclosed), Tyrone Mears (Burnley, Undisclosed), Lewin Nyatanga (Bristol City, Undisclosed), Mile Sterjovski (Perth Glory, Free), Andy Todd (Perth Glory, Free), Paris Simmons, Lewis Price (Brentford, Season Loan)

OUR EX-RAMS: Nathan Ellington, John Eustace, Danny Graham, Tommy Smith

THEIR EX-ORNS: Jordan Stewart

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Bywater

Connolly        Addison          Barker          Moxey

Croft             Green              Savage         Commons

Varney           Hulse

VERDICT:
Now here’s an odd one. It’s not as if Clough Jr isn’t used to living in his father’s shadow; he played under him for almost a decade at Forest, and has since cut his teeth in management in the Midlands with Burton Albion. It’s just that… taking the seat at a club that Dad guided to unthinkable success is rather bold. He will inevitably be compared, and how can he hope to be compared favourably given more entrenched obstacles to success than those Brian countered nearly 40 years ago. You’ve got to respect his transfer policy… a solid defender from Blackpool, cherry-picking from the lower divisions, bold enough to cut his losses on Ellington and yet… are players from Ilkeston and Exeter really going to cut it at this level? One of the more interesting watches of the season. Nearer the top than last time, I’d guess. Beyond that, not a clue.
 

DONCASTER ROVERS

INS: None

OUTS: Richie Wellens (Leicester City, £1,300,000), Gordon Greer (Swindon Town, Free), Jason Price (Millwall, Free), Tomi Ameobi, Darren Byfield, Gareth Taylor

OUR EX-ROVERS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Steve Brooker, James Chambers
 
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Sullivan

O’Connor          Mills         Hird          Chambers

Spicer         Shiels           Stock           Woods

Heffernan           Hayter

VERDICT:
Donny took a while to get the hang of it last time, but ended the season very comfortably despite a modest goalscoring record that included an astonishing 16 at home. Goals will be the problem again, at a guess, and I suspect that Donny will be hoping that Forest bugger off and leave Matt Mills alone sooner rather than later. Whether they can emulate last season rather depends on a solution to the goalscoring thing, one suspects – Billy Sharp mooted at the time of writing – but on last season’s evidence it will take extreme poor fortune with injuries for Rovers to struggle.
 

IPSWICH TOWN

INS: Colin Healy (Cork City, Undisclosed), Damien Delaney (Queens Park Rangers, Undisclosed), Lee Martin (Manchester United, Undisclosed), Troy Brown (Fulham, Free), Shane O’Connor (Liverpool, Free)

OUTS:Danny Haynes (Bristol City, Undisclosed), Jordan Rhodes (Huddersfield Town, Undisclosed), Dean Bowditch (Yeovil Town, Free), Chris Casement (Dundee, Free), Billy Clarke (Blackpool, Free), Dan Harding (Southampton, Free), Tommy Miller (Sheffield Wednesday, Free), Ivan Campo, Jai Reason, Matt Richards, Kurt Robinson

OUR EX-BLUES:None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

R.Wright

D.Wright        MacAuley        Balkestein         Delaney

Walters          Norris       Healy       Garvan         Martin

Stead

VERDICT:
Well… I’d be a little worried, frankly. Roy Keane, for all that he got Sunderland promoted, didn’t seem to leave with the best wishes of his former charges; his strategy thus far at Portman Road has been to adopt the same approach to recruiting his countrymen as characterised his time in the North East, whilst jettisoning what appeared to be promising players quite cheaply – Haynes, Clarke and particularly Rhodes. Maybe there’s a grand plan. I dunno. Can’t see Ipswich challenging with what they’ve got at the moment though, and where they finish kinda depends on the outcome of what looks like an inevitable mid-season crisis. Not that I’d tell Roy Keane that to his face.
 
 

LEICESTER CITY

INS: Richie Wellens (Doncaster Rovers, £1,300,000), Danny N’Guessan (Lincoln City, Undisclosed), Astrit Ajdarevic (Liverpool, Free), Wayne Brown (Hull City, Free), Robbie Nielson (Hearts, Free), Chris Weale (Bristol City, Free)

OUTS: Joe Cobb (Wycombe Wanderers, Free), Lee Cox (Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Free), Barry Hayles (Cheltenham Town, Free), Patrick Kisnorbo (Leeds United, Free), Billy McKay (Northampton Town, Free), Ryan Beswick, Marc Edworthy, Paul Henderson, Bruno N’Gotty, Billie Kee (Accrington Stanley, Six Months Loan)

OUR EX-FOXES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Wayne Brown

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Weale

Neilson       Hobbs          Tunchev          Berner

Oakley           King         Wellens            Dyer

Fryatt           Howard

VERDICT:
What popular opinion records as a side rather unfortunate to have gone down in the first place looks reasonably well equipped for a season of “consolidation” back in the second tier. It’s hard to see them pulling up any trees, but there’s enough there to drop anchor for a season. Fifteenth, and comfortably enough so.
 

MIDDLESBROUGH

INS: Mark Yeates (Colchester United, Undisclosed), Danny Coyne (Tranmere Rovers, Free)

OUTS: Stewart Downing (Aston Villa, £12,000,000), Ross Turnbull (Chelsea, Free), David Knight (Darlington, Free), Mido (Zamalek, Season Loan)

OUR EX-BORO: Danny Graham

THEIR EX-ORNS: Adam Johnson

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Jones

Hoyte          Huth          Wheater           Grounds

Yeates          Digard          Arca            Johnson

Aliadiere          Emnes

VERDICT:
Whilst the contorted, unlovable monstrosity that is the Premier League is such that it’s almost difficult to feel for any side getting relegated, I’m finding myself sympathising with Boro’s predicament more than ever seemed possible under Bryan Robson’s leadership a decade or so ago. There can’t have been many other Premier League sides to have fielded ten or eleven local(ish) lads as Boro did last season, and having a manager who was born on Vicarage Road is no bad thing either. Of the relegated sides, despite the loss of Downing and, presumably, Tuncay Boro look amongst the best equipped to go straight back up. If someone is going to tonk the hell out of the division, as sides that can tie consistency with quality tend to do, rather Boro than any of the other realistic candidates. Promotion, anyway.
 

NEWCASTLE UNITED

INS: None

OUTS: Obafemi Martins (VfL Wolfsburg, £9,000,000), David Edgar (Burnley, Tribunal), Michael Owen (Manchester United, Free), Claudio Cacapa, Peter Lovenkrands, Mark Viduka

OUR EX-MAGPIES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Harper

Beye         S.Taylor        Bassong          Kadar

R.Taylor      Nolan           Barton         Duff

Ameobi         Carroll

VERDICT:
Snigger.
 

NOTTINGHAM FOREST

INS: Chris Gunter (Tottenham Hotspur, £1,700,000), Dexter Blackstock (Queens Park Rangers, £1,600,000), Paul McKenna (Preston North End, £750,000), Paul Anderson (Liverpool, £250,000), Joel Lynch (Brighton & Hove Albion, £200,000), Lee Camp (Queens Park Rangers, £150,000), David McGoldrick (Southampton, Undisclosed), Dele Adebola (Bristol City, Free), Radoslaw Majewski (Polonia Warsaw, Season Loan)

OUTS: Hamza Bencherif (Macclesfield Town, Free), Ian Breckin (Chesterfield, Free), Paddy Gamble, Liam Hook, Adam Newbold, Tom Sharpe, Emile Sinclair, Richard Tait, Ryan Whitehurst, Mark Byrne (Rushden & Diamonds, Six Months Loan), Joe Heath (Lincoln City, Six Month Loan), Brendan Moloney (Notts.County, Six Month Loan), Shane Redmond (Burton Albion, Six Month Loan), James Reid (Rushden & Diamonds, Six Month Loan), Matty Thornhill (Brighton & Hove Albion, Six Month Loan)

OUR EX-FOREST: Will Hoskins

THEIR EX-ORNS: None
 
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Camp

Gunter          Chambers         Morgan            Lynch

Anderson          Moussi          McKenna         Tyson

Blackstock             Earnshaw

VERDICT:
I don’t like Billy Davies. I’m probably being unfair, but hey this is my column, where else can I be wilfully irrational? Davies comes across as peevish and miserable, the sort of bloke with a chip on his shoulder whose motivation in all he does is to be able to turn around to all those who are Out To Get him and shout “See? See? Ha!”. So I don’t like him. But Forest’s board certainly seem to, and have backed their man royally as Forest have set themselves up as the big spenders of the division. It would be ironic if their near-neighbours act of appointing Clough Jr as manager finally rid Forest of one of their greatest problems – the shackles of the spectre of Clough Sr’s achievements looming over the City Ground. Top half. Probably more. Hope not, though.
 

PETERBOROUGH UNITED

INS: Toumani Diagouraga (Hereford United, Undisclosed), Danny Mills (Crawley Town, Undisclosed), Tommy Rowe (Stockport County, Undisclosed), Lee Frecklington (Lincoln City, Free), Krystian Pearce (Birmingham City, Season Loan)

OUTS:Mark Tyler (Luton Town, Free), Chris Westwood (Wycombe Wanderers, Free), Craig Braham-Barrett, Liam Hatch (Luton Town, Season Loan), Alfie Potter (Oxford United, Season Loan), Scott Rendell (Torquay United, Season Loan)

OUR EX-POSH:None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Toumani Diagouraga

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Lewis

Martin          Morgan         Zakuani           Williams

Whelpdale    Diagouraga           Lee          Boyd

Mackail-Smith     Mclean    

 VERDICT:
Another side managed by a son of a famous father, the Posh are the fashionable selection as dark horses; in Mackail-Smith, Mclean and Boyd there were over 50 goals last season, and with England U21 keeper Joe Lewis between the sticks you’d certainly expect Peterborough to have more than enough to survive. How much more than that though is difficult to predict; after two consecutive promotions, a steadier season might be in order. I’ll go with twelfth.
 

PLYMOUTH ARGYLE

INS: Reda Johnson (Amiens, Undisclosed), Kari Arnason (AGF Aarhus, Free), Carl Fletcher (Crystal Palace, Free), Bradley Wright-Phillips (Southampton, Free)

OUTS:Jermaine Easter (Franchise FC, Undisclosed), Emile Mpenza (Sion, Free), Graham Stack (Hibernian, Free), Roudolphe Douala, Dan Smith

OUR EX-ARGYLE:None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Carl Fletcher

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Larrieu

McNamee       Seip           Johnson           Sawyer

Summerfield         Fletcher        Duguid         Clark

Barnes           Mackie

VERDICT:
Argyle’s final placing perched above the relegation zone needs to be viewed in the context of the five point margin that separated them from relegated Norwich. Nonetheless, two wins in their last ten didn’t suggest a side ready to push on; relegation candidates.
 

PRESTON NORTH END

INS: None

OUTS:Paul McKenna (Nottingham Forest, £750,000), Simon Whaley (Norwich City, Undisclosed), Chris Neal (Shrewsbury Town, Nominal)

OUR EX-LILYWHITES:Tamas Priskin

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Lonergan

Jones         Mawene          Chilvers       Davidson

Sedgwick        Nicholson         Chaplow           Wallace

Elliott           Parkin

VERDICT:
Big respec’ to Alan Irvine for opting to resist West Brom’s approach to stay on at Deepdale. Reason to be cheerful for the Lilywhites, despite another failure to progress through the play-offs. One of the more likeable sides in the division, I find myself looking at Preston every summer and thinking “well you can’t see them doing that well again”. So I’m going to fight off my instinct and go for another play-off challenge for Preston, although the loss of McKenna is a grave one.
 

QUEENS PARK RANGERS

INS: Alejandro Faurlin (Instituto, £3,500,000), Alessandro Pellicori (Avellino, Free), Adel Taarabt (Tottenham Hotspur, Season Loan)

OUTS:Dexter Blackstock (Nottingham Forest, £1,600,000), Lee Camp (Nottingham Forest, £150,000), Damien Delaney (Ipswich Town, Undisclosed), Jake Cole (Barnet, Free), Jordi Lopez (Swansea City, Free), Zesh Rehman (Bradford City, Free), Chris Arthur, Samuel di Carmine, Danny Maguire, Liam Miller

OUR EX-RANGERS:David Kerslake

THEIR EX-ORNS: Lee Cook, Heidar Helguson, Gavin Mahon

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Cerny

Ramage          Hall        Gorkss           Connolly

Routledge      Rowlands       Faurlin         Balanta

Helguson         Vine

VERDICT:
A year ago I made the mistake of suggesting that Rangers’ owners were being responsible and intelligent in directing their investment modestly and measuredly. Hey ho. Twelve months and two managers later Rangers appear to be anything but a sensibly run club; it’s notable, too, that Jim Magilton’s track record doesn’t suggest an in-depth knowledge of the Italian second division any more than Iain Dowie’s did a year ago. Bottom half.
 

READING

INS: Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea, Season Loan)

OUTS:Kevin Doyle (Wolverhampton Wanderers, £6,500,000), Alan Bennett (Brentford, Free), Michael Duberry (Wycombe Wanderers, Free), Scott Golbourne (Exeter City, Free), Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhamtpon Wanderers, Free), Gary Frewen, Tom Hateley, Leroy Lita, Graeme Murty, Sam Sodje, Damien Spence

OUR EX-ROYALS:None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Dean Austin (Assistant Manager), Nigel Gibbs (Coach), Brynjar Gunnarsson, Karl Halabi (Physiologist), Frank Lampard (Sort of Consultant), Brendan Rodgers (Manager)

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Federici

Rosenior       Cissé          Pearce          Bertrand

Tabb        Harper        Matejovsky

Kebe         Long           S.Hunt

VERDICT:
Well… what’s to say really. As regards Rodgers we’ve been there, done that on this site already, so there’s no value in going there again. As for the side… a much-needed clear-out seems to be underway but in the last season of parachute payments rebuilding the side involves challenging decisions for all concerned. Of greatest interest will be whether we see the Royals adopt the directionless, soul-sapping crab-football that characterised Rodgers’ first month or two at Vicarage Road, or the more incisive and effective variant that resulted in our climb to mid-table. Either way, few in Hertfordshire will be rooting for the Royals, fewer still if Rodgers continues his ham-fisted approach to “negotiating” with us for our players through the media. The real shame, lost in the detail, is that fate has left Nigel Gibbs at the same club, someone not worthy of the vitriol that’s likely to be directed at his colleagues. Top half, but that’s all.
 

SCUNTHORPE UNITED

INS: Rob Jones (Hibernian, £350,000), Michael O’Connor (Crewe Alexandra, up to £225,000), Josh Wright (Charlton Athletic, Free)

OUTS: None

OUR EX-IRON: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None
 
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Murphy

Byrne        Jones          Crosby          Morris

Sparrow    O’Connor       McCann         Woolford

Hooper         Hayes

VERDICT:
I must confess to not expecting to see Scunny back up here so soon. After one season in the second tier following the departure of Brian Laws and his replacement with ex-physio Adkins, and with bigger hitters jostling for promotion from the third tier a spell back in the lower reaches seemed more likely. Still… here they are, and owed the gratitude of anyone with half a brain for blocking the promotion of the Franchise (lots of “Gowonn Scunny!” from around the country in May, I’d guess). Still got to fancy them to struggle again now they’re here though.
 

SHEFFIELD UNITED

INS: Ched Evans (Manchester City, £3,000,000), Lee Williamson (Watford, £500,000), Leigh Bromby (Watford, Undisclosed), Andy Taylor (Tranmere Rovers, Undisclosed), Ryan France (Hull City, Free), Kyel Reid (West Ham United, Free), Keith Treacy (Blackburn Rovers, Six Month Loan), Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur, Season Loan)

OUTS: Adam Chapman (Oxford United, £15,000), Kyle Naughton (Tottenham Hotspur, Undisclosed), Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur, Undisclosed), Jamie Annerson (Rotherham United, Free), Nicky Law (Rotherham United, Free), Ben Starosta (Darlington, Free), Ugo Ehiogu, Sun Jihai, Mamadou Seck, Danny Webber

OUR EX-BLADES: Jon Harley, John-Joe O’Toole

THEIR EX-ORNS: Leigh Bromby, Sam Ellis (Assistant Manager), Darius Henderson, Lee Williamson
 
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:
 

Kenny

Bromby        Kilgallon          Morgan          Taylor

Cotterill          Howard          Williamson     Reid

Henderson       Evans

VERDICT:
Not quite the Watford old boys’ eleven that seemed likely for a while, but more than a few familiar faces up at Bramall Lane nonetheless. They should be there or thereabouts again, even if £3million seems an extraordinary amount to spend on a striker with limited first team experience. They’ll need to finish top two to go up though you’d fancy, as Blackwell once again suggested that he doesn’t have the bottle to take the Blades up via the play-offs and frankly I just can’t see them doing that. Top six, probably, but that’s all.
 

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY

INS: Darren Potter (Wolverhampton Wanderers, Undisclosed), Tommy Miller (Ipswich Town, Free), Darren Purse (Cardiff City, Free)

OUTS:Kenny Lunt (Hereford United, Free), Sam Liversidge, Liam McMenamin, Wade Small, Steve Watson

OUR EX-OWLS:None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Grant

Buxton         Purse           Beevers           Spurr

Johnson      McAllister     O’Connor        Gray

Tudgay          Sodje

VERDICT:
I have to confess to having been astonished at Wednesday’s comfortable mid-table finish last season, but buoyed by a number of talented home-grown lads (particularly at the back) and by some intelligent investment they did OK. They’ll be confident going into the new season also – Darren Purse is a magnificently pragmatic recruit, an experienced, hard-nosed bastard to provide what the kids might not be able to, and Tudgay committing himself to the cause despite, ostensibly, having the option of a top flight move suggests that the Owls aren’t the basket case that they appeared to be a year or two back. They’ll do well to challenge the play-offs, but shouldn’t struggle either.
 

SWANSEA CITY

INS: Nathan Dyer (Southampton, £400,000), Stephen Dobbie (QUeen of the South, Free), Jordi Lopez (Queens Park Rangers, Free)

OUTS: Jason Scotland (Wigan Athletic, £2,000,000), Chris Jones (Grimsby Town, Free), Owain Tudor-Jones (Norwich City, Free), Matthew Wright (Crystal Palace, Free), Dennis Lawrence

OUR EX-SWANS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

de Vries

Rangel           Monk           Williams          Tate

Britton      Bodde     Pratley      Gower      Dyer

Pintado

VERDICT:
All bets are off as far as the Swans are concerned. Playing some very fine football under an apparently very decent manager, said manager and at least two of the crown jewels have upped sticks to Wigan and you’d have to worry about the Swans in the season ahead. Paolo Sousa was a fine footballer but as yet is unproven as a manager (although his spell on the Loftus Road ice rink probably shouldn’t count against him), and I’m far from convinced by Nathan Dyer. Could struggle.
 

WEST BROMWICH ALBION

INS: Simon Cox (Swindon Town, up to £1,900,000), Youssouf Mulumbu (Paris St.Germain, £200,000), Reuben Reid (Rotherham United, Undisclosed)

OUTS:Sherjill McDonald (Germinal Beerschot, £650,000), Kim Do-Heon (Suwon Bluewings, £350,000), Paul Robinson (Bolton Wanderers, Season Loan), Jared Hodgkiss, Carl Hoefkens, Pedro Pele

OUR EX-BAGGIES:Nathan Ellington

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Carson

Zuiverloon     Barnett     Olsson          Cech

Brunt         Greening        Mulumbu      Koren

Cox         Beattie

VERDICT:
It should go without saying that Albion, whichever division they’re in, will continue to reinforce their national ranking 20th-and-a-half. The squad they’re left with should certainly be strong enough to challenge, the one real wild card being manager Di Matteo whose recruitment on the basis of one OK-but-no-cigar season with the Franchise looks a little bit of a punt from this distance. You’d still fancy the Baggies for play-offs at worst though.
 

…and finally…

 

WATFORD
 
INS: Jure Travner (NK Celje, Undisclosed), Danny Graham (Carlisle United, Tribunal), Scott Severin (Aberdeen, Free)
OUTS: Lee Williamson (Sheffield United, £500,000), Leigh Bromby (Sheffield United, Undisclosed), Theo Robinson (Huddersfield Town, Undisclosed), Stuart Searle (Franchise FC, Free), Al Bangura, Steve Kabba, Mart Poom, Andrei Stepanov, Gareth Williams
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

 

Loach

Mariappa     Demerit       Williamson       Doyley

Smith         Severin       Jenkins      McAnuff

Graham       Priskin

VERDICT:

Given that it’s relatively easy to write a few glib, if not necessarily accurate, lines about the prospects of every other team in the division, even those (the Posh) that we’ve not played for twelve years (yes, really), how can it be so difficult to capture the outlook for the team that matters the most and is simultaneously the side that I ought to know most about, as much as I know anything?
It’s somewhat inevitable that opinions are influenced by the tail end of the previous season; hence last season’s doom-laden script that foretold far worse than even the first half of last season delivered. And hence, despite the departure of Rodgers, it’s hard not to be upbeat about our prospects going into the new campaign as the core of the squad, loanee Cork and exile Williamson (L) aside, remains largely intact.
Two major sticking points, of course. One is that it’s not August 31st yet, and much as it’s gratifying that Smith, McAnuff, Priskin et al are still on the roster, it would be a brave man indeed who put money on that still being the case when the window closes. The number of wingers that we’ve had on trial or been linked with in the press points in a certain direction.
The other is the manager. Mackay will enjoy near-unanimous support from the Vicarage Road stands, we’ll all be unreservedly rooting for him. But whilst we’ve made a fashion of picking young, debut managers, Mackay deals with a more challenging situation than either of his predecessors; Boothroyd was given financial backing that Mackay can’t and won’t expect, and Rodgers inherited an essentially strong if lopsided squad. Mackay’s responsibility is more comparable to that of Lewington… keeping the boat moving forward whilst chopping down the mast for firewood and flogging off the sails to pay for food. The astonishing lack of regard in which Lewington’s achievement is widely held suggests that this is a thankless task, particularly for a young manager.
On the plus side, we seem to be doing well as far as producing kids is concerned… off the top of my head I’m looking forward to seeing more of Kiernan, Hodson, Gibson, Sordell and Bryan, and that’s without needing to mention the still young but increasingly established Ross Jenkins. It’s been a while since there were so many kids coming through with a degree of expectation rather than hope on their shoulders, and that we might be using them because we need to doesn’t make the prospect of their development any less enticing.
It’ll be easier to call come the end of August, quite obviously. But for now… things could look far worse. Bring it on.

 

 
 

 

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Comments»

1. kris - 02/08/2009

Great read – thanks, and congrats on the latest addition to the Rowson household.

I’ll only comment on the Watford bit. I feel that our season hangs on our chance to hold on to Smith and Priskin. As it is, the league looks extremely strong with teams like Boro, Toon, Blunts, Reading, West Brom will expect to be challenging with another crop of teams in their tails hoping to mingle with the high and mighty. We’ll be in that chasing pack alongside Forest, Brizzle, Ipswich, Cardiff etc. if we keep Tamas and Tommy. But if we lose them, I fear we’ll be knee-deep in the brown stuff. We’ll get some cash for them but I can’t see us attracting anyone of similar qualities.

Either way, I can’t wait for the season to begin. As you say Matt – there are many young prospects knocking on the door and I for one can’t wait to see if Danny Graham can keep up his goals/games average in the league. And I believe – call me naive if you will – that this will be the season we’ll see Lloyd get a goal.

2. GraemeB - 02/08/2009

Judging by the pre-season selections it doesn’t look as if Ellington will be in the starting lineup, and I guess most of us have dismissed him from our thoughts. But while it’s easy to write him off him as a millstone and a peripheral squad member at best, I don’t feel he should be discarded so lightly. Here is a man who has scored lots of goals in the past, and was once thought to be worth £3.5m. There is a talent in there somewhere, and seeing that the club is not overblessed with riches, it is down to Malky to try to get the best out of him, whatever that may be. With the money that he’s likely to be on, he’s not going to go away. So let’s hope that someone can sort his head out as there is nothing to be gained from leaving him sulking in the corner.
Finally, what’s happening to JJOT? Does his absence from pre-season suggest that he is definitely on his way or has he come back a stone overweight again?

3. Ian Lay - 03/08/2009

Great read Matt. Always love your previews. Had to laugh at your verdict on Newcastle. To be honest there’s not much you could say. I mean have they got a manager?

Congrats on the new addition. With Rhianna now 2 the sleepless nights are thankfully mainly behind us.

BTW… just to let everyone know…I’m painting my narrowboat this month….and I’m doing it in red, black and Golden Yellow! I kid you not.

4. Dave Jackson - 03/08/2009

Good preview, as ever, thank you.
Quite a disturbing sight for those of us in the UR seeing the Ipswich manager eyeing our crown jewels at the Parma game. Will it be Tom or Tam who goes? Either way it’s sad that we have to sell to teams in our league. As for JJOT, he looked slim enough at St.Albans but didn’t shine out as a quality player in the way Hoskins did.
It’s wrong to read too much into friendlies, of course, but the Duke looked lively at Wealdstone and capped it with a thunderous goal…maybe a glimmer of hope there to replace the above if they do go.

5. ramsgate horn - 03/08/2009

Congrats Matt not a bad preview for a man who needs some sleep,hope all goes well when baby comes home, its a long time since i was in the same boat as my sons are 9 and 13 but the footy gives you a bit of a break i found that when the kids were young now they are my companions on trips to the vic , Worrying to read that keane could be in for priskin but with him refusing to sign a new deal it may be the only choice to try and bring some cash in likewise Smith much as it would grieve me to see them go However allisnt lost as we have Hokins who has goals in him and has been under used agree also re Ellington who may come good again if he gets a break dont be too quick to dismiss him cowie also could be a ready made replacement if smith leaves, hope none of our key men leave but dont want to see them walk out on bosmans, i think mackay will do well. cheers to all hope for a good season

6. Johnny Boy - 04/08/2009

Thanks for the, as always entertaining, previews Matt and congratulations.
As you point out ,the team that turns out on Saturday might be very different from the one that is left after the 31st August. One of my underlining concerns is that all the talk is of us losing attackers -Tommy, Tamas, Jobi – but with central defenders suddenly becomming the ‘must haves’ of the premiership where are people like David Moyes going to go once Lescott eventually goes to Man City? To me, one of the real change rounds in the team last season was the arrival of Williamson and the effect that had on Jay, who subsequently had a good confederation cup. The loss of either of those could have a more devasting effect on our perfomances than the aforementioned attackers.
Enough of the ‘half empty’ attitude and lets be positive because one of the beautys of the championship is that no one can pick the ‘surprise package’. Three years ago – Watford, two years ago – Hull, last year – Burnley. Is it our turn again?
Roll on Saturday

7. Harefield Hornet - 04/08/2009

Oh well, here we go again.

On paper its looks a lot more promising than at the start of last season, several of the players have made remarkable progress under (and I hate to admit this) the recent regime. Then there’s the kids that have come through and made an impact – and those that I believe are about to.

As has been said already, we won’t know for sure until the transfer window closes but at least we’ve now got two Jocks in the side – and they’re always up for a scrap!

Wouldn’t it be fun if we can prove the doom merchants and critics wrong again. – We’ve been quite good at that down at Vicarage Road over the years! My 31st season and still looking forward to it.

COOOOOOOOOM OOOOOOOOOON YOOOOOOU OOOOOOOORNS!

8. Gerry G - 05/08/2009

Matt, if that’s “a half-baked load of tosh, cobbled together in spare minutes”, then your full-baked efforts must be truly formidable. Nice work, a fun and informative read.

No, I don’t like Billy Davies either, and nor, as far as I can gather, do most Forest fans. He makes Sam Allardyce seem cultured and refined in comparison. They’d have likely escaped the drop last season without him so he’s hardly their ‘saviour’, and if they have their usual start of season slump (can you slump if you’ve not yet risen?) few will oppose his being shown the door.

It’ll be fun seeing how they react to their nouveau riche neighbours across the Trent, whom they’ve always regarded with patronising amusement, never being considered as ‘rivals’ (Derby are Forest’s scum). A shame in a way as it’s nice to have a ‘small club’ in the town.

9. Kris - 06/08/2009

In my first post I wrote about our prospects for the season and Priskin and Smith: “But if we lose them, I fear we’ll be knee-deep in the brown stuff. We’ll get some cash for them but I can’t see us attracting anyone of similar qualities.”

Well Tamas seems to be off to Ipswich and people usually ITK insist Tommy is off as well. With Ellington possible off to Blackburn (???) that would leave us with a strike force of Graham, Hoskins, Henderson and Sordell. Not exactly awe inspiring.

I know that there’s time left in this window but if we lose Tommy along with Tamas, that’s 31 goals gone from last season’s tally. Not something you easily find for 3 mio – and even if we did I doubt would attack whoever it was to come to us.

Matt’s comparisson between Lewington’s and Malky’s jobs becomes more spot on. I just hope Malky can do the job as well as Ray.


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