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End of Term Report Part 4 25/05/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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Is it not time for pre-season friendlies yet?

15 – Stephen McGinn

I don’t think we’ve ever done “most improved player”, have we? Bit of a backhanded compliment, admittedly, but McGinn would surely be a candidate. My co-editor was convinced and alert to the young Scot’s value long before I was… I suspect there are still doubters, there’ll be replies to this posting as such, but not from anyone paying attention. From not knowing quite what he was for, a scrawny, lightweight midfielder who looked rather out of place in his early showings out wide, his qualities emerged as the season progressed… a deft cleverness, an ability to spot and deliver a pass, a keenness to attack the box and the wit to time his runs effectively. Some of our best football was played when we tried McGinn pushed up behind lone striker Graham; before his injury he’d made seven goals and scored twice from 27 starts, during much of which he’d been shunted around the midfield, gamely filling in wherever he was asked to do so. The clincher? When did we actually miss Jordon Mutch? In January, when he went back to Birmingham? Or at the end of February, when McGinn did his ligaments at Doncaster?

Next Season: It’ll be a while before McGinn is back in contention. A shame, since his rate of improvement before the injury had been dramatic. Get well soon, Stephen.

16 – Michael Bryan

There’s something there. Something clever and impish, something to work with. Quick feet, a willingness to run with the ball. There’s quite a lot missing too, though, and these are things often missing in young wide players (albeit, admittedly, many of Bryan’s outings this season were more central). A lack of judgement, a lack of knowing quite when to release the ball. This might come. Maybe. And a complete lack of physical presence, and not unrelated a tendency to duck out of challenges. Bryan needs to bulk up a little bit; if his slight frame becomes less of an issue, he might be able to get himself out of the odd wrong call. There’s a footballer there somewhere. Still needs a bit of work though.

Next Season: Assuming we’ve exercised our one-year extension on the one-year contract signed last summer, one imagines that Michael’s got a bit of convincing to do.

17 – Dale Bennett

Here’s one that could still go either way. Physically outstanding, quick, strong, brave. Another inch or two taller and he’d be a perfect centre back. Except… there’s a few too many cock-ups in there at the moment. That’s what you get in youngsters in pressure positions though, and the smart money’s still on an excellent career for our third-choice stopper even if, as with the likes of David Holdsworth and Jay Demerit before him, it may be that Bennett will look most comfortable alongside someone who can do the organising and the directing, leaving him to concentrate on the doing. Like Hodson, Bennett came back strongly from the odd iffy moment in the season just gone, his new contract well-earned and welcome.

Next Season: The dependability of the Taylor/Mariappa partnership gave Bennett splinters in his backside and much of his League action at full back. Our third-pick at centre back should get more of a run next time around.

18 – Jordon Mutch

At the start of the campaign, as Jordon Mutch was caught in possession yet again against Leeds United one minute and then tried another over-ambitious shot from outside the area the next, the optimistic hope was expressed that, like Henri Lansbury before him, Mutch might merely require a little time and patience to adapt before demonstrating his top flight pedigree. So it proved, and then some; Mutch’s transformation was more dramatic than Lansbury’s had been the previous season, starting from what was probably a lower base in those unconvincing early outings and reaching a higher level than the Arsenal loan had consistently achieved. He also made the transformation more rapidly, quickly finding his feet and exerting an influence that belied his eighteen years. For a while he was as fundamental to our attacking play as Danny Graham, invariably at the front of the cavalry charge as we exposed teams on the break on countless occasions in December. Then, as we know, Birmingham suffered an ill-timed midfield injury crisis in January and Mutch’s loan, due to be extended, ended with Matty Whichelow’s comically late winner at Scunthorpe. Birmingham, frustratingly, saw fit to afford our erstwhile key man a mere three league starts before the end of the campaign.

Next Season: Any lingering hopes we had of seeing Mutch in a yellow shirt again surely ended with Birmingham’s dramatic final-day relegation (no sniggering at the back). Mutch will be a key man in the Blues team next term.

20 – Marvin Sordell

Graham gets the plaudits, and rightly so. But Marvin Sordell’s season was if anything even more exciting. For a 20-year-old striker to end his first full season on 15 goals and still have the luxury of remaining somewhat low profile in the light of his strike partner’s achievement was surely exactly as Malky would have scripted it. Marvin’s a young player too, and his form wobbled on occasions, but at his best Sordell’s pace and aggression were uncontainable. Perhaps his most eye-catching, exciting performances were both off the bench, at Leicester and in particular at home to Doncaster. In each case not only did a brace of terrifyingly well-taken goals change the game, but the youngster had seized an ill-behaved match by the scruff of the neck and given it a good slapping about. Sorted. Brilliant.

Next Season: We’ll learn a lot about Sordell if Danny Graham moves on. If Graham doesn’t move on, the pair of them will again score a stupid number of goals.

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Comments»

1. Sotv - 25/05/2011

Glad you decided not to snigger at the back, because leeds had their own dramatic end of season as they worked had to avoid the extra games of the play off’s. Sniggering at the back could be transformed into full blown belly laughter at the front 😉

2. Marcus - 26/05/2011

I sensed there was something odd about Bryan’s lengthy absence in the 2nd half of the season. Sometimes it was said to be an ankle (or some such) but at either times didn’t he have “personal issues to deal with” or some such? Not that I want to pry or need to know the details, just commenting.

Shames as he has great talent/potential but was probably the only youngster to go backwards this season in my view.

3. Simon T - 26/05/2011

Hi Matt – long time reader first time commenter and a huge fan of bhappy.

Just a thought about the amount of goals we let in this year – 71 in total and well above average for the league.

You would have thought that with M. Taylor, Mariappa, Doyley and Loach (as well as Eustace) playing the majority of games we might have kept it a bit tighter at the back.

Despite our well documented left back troubles, we let in almost exactly the same number of goals with A. Taylor as without (1.53 per game vs 1.56).

I agree that the players mentioned above all had good (some very good) seasons, but why are we thinking this when we let in quite a lot of goals?!

Matt Rowson - 26/05/2011

Hi Simon

had a similar conversation with Nick in Part 2. All I’d add to that is that I don’t think Loach had a great season, actually, much as he’s maybe gotten more stick as a consequence than is entirely reasonable. Plus… there’s context isn’t there? Yes, we shipped a lot of goals but we finished fourteenth and were much higher than that for most of the season and that’s better than expected.

Re your Taylor stats, the goals scored with/without are more revealing. 2.1 per game with Taylor, 1.4 without. Taylor allowed us to pin teams in, gave us better shape. We may have conceded as many goals, it mattered less.

The team’s success and failure is judged on many things, I wouldn’t put goals conceded high on that list. We finished 14th, slightly disappointing in the context of the season, better than I expected. The players’ performances were above par in general, way above par in many cases including most of those you mention. So… the team achieved more than expected, and was likeable in doing so. Both more important to me than goals conceded, frankly. The defenders contributed to the team, the team played a certain way and did pretty well doing so.

Simon T - 26/05/2011

Hi Matt

Don’t get my wrong I’ve been delighted with this season which has been superb entertainment. I would also much rather be a score-lots-let-in-lots kinda team then, well, a Swansea.

It just struck me that these players are good and have played well, yet somehow collectively have let in a few more than they themselves would probably have liked.

It is a lot of fun to watch though – let’s hope next season is as entertaining.

4. Southbourne Sid - 27/05/2011

I think that the tendancy to blame the back four and/or Scott Loach for the number of goals that we’ve let in is not totally fair. True, there have been individual mistakes by defenders, and the odd howler from Loach. However, defence is the duty of all of the team. We’ve let in a number of goals from long range shots. Are these all down to Scott Loach? How many of the opponents firing the shots in have been under pressure when they shot?
I used to work with a Liverpool fan a few years back. He always maintained that their most important defender was Ian Rush, and that you had to defend from the front.
With the number of inexperienced midfield and forward players in the squad, it’s not too suprising that the midfield has been quite porous at times.
This isn’t a gripe about the team, I think it’s been a very entertaining season, and our final position was much better than I had anticipated back in August.

5. smarkymark - 27/05/2011

Nothing wrong with “a Swansea” – every time I’ve seen them play this season they have been entertaining admittedly helped when you have players like Sinclair and Dyer at your disposal.

6. randall94 - 27/05/2011

You can’t have seen them at the Vic this season then Smarkymark? I’ve never been so bored – and yet simultaneously relieved that Brenda had walked out on us.

7. smarkymark - 29/05/2011

Yes I did see them at the Vic and yes in that particular match they were boring to watch even though they beat us comfortably! However, since then especially at home they have been entertaining in the matches I’ve seen.That said,many were highlights…


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