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Season Preview 2011-12 Part 2 31/07/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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Poland again?  Oh.  Part 2….

BRISTOL CITY

INS: Yannick Bolasie (Plymouth Argyle, Undisclosed), Ryan Taylor (Rotherham United, Undisclosed), Neil Kilkenny (Leeds United, Free)

OUTS: Stephen Henderson (Portsmouth, Undisclosed), John Akinde (Crawley Town, Free), Ivan Sproule (Hibernian, Free), Patrick Hoban, Jimmy Keohane

OUR EX-ROBINS: Sean Dyche, Chris Iwelumo

THEIR EX-ORNS: David James, Lee Johnson, Keith Millen (Manager)

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: An enjoyable 2-0 win at Ashton Gate early last season featuring an astonishing turbo-powered performance by Don Cowie, and a rather less enjoyable 3-1 reverse at Vicarage Road in February.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

James
Skuse      Carey         Nyatanga       McAllister
Adomah       Cissé         Kilkenny       Woolford
Stead         Maynard

VERDICT: Keith Millen. A solid bloke, a more important player for us than our mind’s eye probably recognises having once being part of a glut of signings that helped see off relegation and then, several years later, a regular part of a back three (along with Page and Mooney) as we won our first trophy in 20 years.  The next season he got injured early on, missed the insane run to Wembley and never played for the club again.  At the start of the Prem season, as the autograph-hunting kidz were clustering around the injured Tommy Mooney at the foot of the Rookery, Keith stood to one side, slightly embarrassed and unnoticed.  They didn’t know who he was.

Keith Millen is now the manager of Bristol City, and again hasn’t perhaps been dealt a hand that will permit him to be looked back on fondly or fairly.  City have a huge squad, many of whom recruited by Millen’s predecessors and many of whom on excessive salaries, making them unshiftable. Nobody wants Nicky Hunt on a big wedge for some reason.  Heaven knows we’ve been there.  Critically for Millen, this also means that he’s got limited scope in the transfer market, which is a problem when your defence looks as flaky as the Robins’.  There’s some quality there, and City managed to finish just behind us last season despite missing talisman Nicky Maynard for most of it.  Fancy that flattered them though, and they’ll struggle this season although like Barnsley they’re in the box labelled “could go down” rather than “will go down”.

BURNLEY

INS: Ben Mee (Manchester City, Season Loan), Kieran Trippier (Manchester City, Season Loan)

OUTS: Chris Eagles (Bolton Wanderers, Undisclosed), Chris Iwelumo (Watford, Undisclosed),  Tyrone Mears (Bolton Wanderers, Undisclosed), Stephen Thompson (St.Mirren, Free), Graham Alexander, Chris Anderson, Michael King, Nik Kudiersky, Chris Lynch, Kevin McDonald, Remco van der Schaaf, Clarke Carlisle (Preston North End, Season Loan)

OUR EX-CLARETS: Chris Iwelumo

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Two defeats to the Clarets last season; a 3-2 reverse at Turf Moor secured by an iffy late Graham Alexander penalty, and a more comprehensive defeat at Vicarage Road featuring an uncomfortable mix-up between Scott Loach and Dale Bennett early doors.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Grant
Trippier            Bikey            Mee                Fox
Marney         McCann         Bartley        Wallace
Rodriguez      Austin

VERDICT: Heaven knows, we remember how this feels.  The rules of the game have changed for Birmingham, Blackpool and West Ham of course, but Burnley were relegated under the same deal as we were in 2007… which means that they had one season to get it right, to bounce back, before needing to cut their cloth.  You’ll notice that they’re still here.  A year ago it felt as if the Clarets had done it “right”… by strengthening without gambling they had, OK, been relegated after a season but used the revenues to build the club in a way that might be sustainable.

That assessment was inaccurate, judging by the summer’s dealings at the time of writing. Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears have gone to Bolton, Chris Iwelumo has also moved on as we know, and manager Eddie Howe hasn’t as yet been able to add to his permanent staff this summer.  It may be that the Clarets will do business late in the window, exploiting the loan market to supplement increased reliance on their younger professionals as we have;  if so, the opening day of the season with their squad incomplete and the locals anxious might not be a bad time to get this traditionally unprofitable fixture out of the way.  As it stands, Burnley look weak in midfield beyond Chris McCann, and will rely heavily on player of the year Rodriguez for goals.  Bottom half, but clear of trouble.

CARDIFF CITY

INS: Joe Mason (Plymouth Argyle, £250,000), Kenny Miller (Bursaspor, Undisclosed), Aron Gunnarsson (Coventry City, Undisclosed compensation package), Craig Conway (Dundee United, Free), Don Cowie (Watford, Free), Rob Earnshaw (Nottingham Forest, Free), Rudy Gestede (Metz, Free), Andrew Taylor (Middlesbrough, Free), Filip Kiss (Slovan Bratislava, Season Loan)

OUTS: Michael Chopra (Ipswich Town, £1,500,000), Jay Bothroyd (Queens Park Rangers, Free), Chris Burke (Birmingham City, Free), Adam Matthews (Celtic, Free), Martin John, Gavin Rae

OUR EX-BLUEBIRDS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Neal Ardley (Academy Manager), Richard Collinge (Medical), Don Cowie, David Kerslake  (Assistant Manager), Malky Mackay (Manager), Joe McBride (First Team Coach), Andrew Taylor

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A thumping, Buckley-fuelled victory in December in which we managed to spurn an early penalty and still win 4-1, and a reverse at Cardiff a month later where our winning run came to an end after we went 3-0 down and couldn’t quite claw it back.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Marshall
McNaughton     Gerrard         Hudson        Taylor
Cowie     Gunnarsson        Whittingham        Conway
Miller        Earnshaw

VERDICT: Don Cowie was the one that pissed me off.  I suspect I’m not the only one.  Malky leaving was a huge disappointment, but as suggested at the end of last season not hugely surprising in itself;  the losses of Kerslake, McBride and Collinge all had a depressing inevitability about them given the sort of club Mackay moved to, frankly I’m delighted that Sean Dyche didn’t make the same decision.  Andrew Taylor and Craig Conway… both players that we thought we might sign, in Taylor’s case one that we were painfully close to signing (if only Gordon Strachan hadn’t been quite so unhinged and lasted until January).  Mackay owes his knowledge of both to his time working for us, but would be an idiot not to exploit that knowledge in his new position. Cowie though… Cowie felt underhand and deceitful.  I suspect that it may have made a difference if we’d known what the score with his contract was; whatever the dawning realisation inside the club, the first most of us knew that the Scot wasn’t under contract was when his move to Cardiff was announced.  Again, one could argue that Mackay was merely being professional, serving the interests of his new employers.  From our position, it felt like a rug was being pulled from under us. GT’s comments at the time were singularly unimpressed, accompanied by the smell of bridges being burned.

City have undergone a comprehensive revamp over the summer of course, on the pitch as well as of it.  There can be little doubt that a great big broom was needed… several years of not quite making it left a number of senior players out of contract and of an age where they really wanted to be negotiating elsewhere in the absence of a top-flight pay day.  If it was a surprise that Mackay chose Cardiff – one suspected that he might have got less risky offers – there can surely be no surprise, or indeed criticism, of Cardiff’s desire to go for Mackay in the circumstances.  Just the job really, you’d have thought.  If Dave Jones seemed to rely on expensive loans of Premiership cast-offs, Mackay… well, we know.  Last season’s fourteenth place might have been inconspicuous in the end, viewed from the outside.  Uninspiring, almost.  But we know different, we know the context and we watched the football.  As stated before on these pages, I haven’t enjoyed a campaign as much since we got promoted in 1999, such was the vim and character of the side in defiance of expectation.  Two of the key men in the particularly enjoyable run of late 2010 will be in blue next season in a side that has been almost wholly revamped;  indeed, only Whittingham of the front six suggested above was at Cardiff last term.  The pieces aren’t all going to just fall into place, but despite having lost big names like Bothroyd, Chopra, and Burke, City look to have built a more competitive squad.  Earnshaw and Miller doesn’t feel like the most obvious partnership but fellow new recruits, Mason and Gestede, provide younger, rawer options and have showed up well in pre-season.  Wonder if they were on our list too, unbeknown to us.  Doesn’t matter really, I suppose.  City won’t be competing for automatic promotion, but sixth place at least will be as up-for-grabs as ever.  City have a good shout as anyone, and unburdened by the weight of expectation they might well do it this time.

COVENTRY CITY

INS: Chris Dunn (Northampton Town, Undisclosed), Joe Murphy (Scunthorpe United, Free)

OUTS: Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff City, Undisclosed compensation package), Marlon King (Birmingham City, Free), Stephen O’Halloran (Carlisle United, Free), Isaac Osbourne (Aberdeen, Free), Keiren Westwood (Sunderland, Free), Michael McIndoe, Michael Quirke, Lee Carsley (retired)

OUR EX-SKY BLUES: John Eustace

THEIR EX-ORNS: Steve Harrison (Assistant Manager)

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A 2-2 draw in the first home game of last season, featuring John Eustace’s Goal of the Season and a draw snatched from the jaws of victory, and a limp defeat at the Ricoh in April.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Murphy
Clarke         Crainie           Turner         Hussey
Clingan
Bell                                Baker
McSheffrey
Eastwood       Jutkiewicz

VERDICT: Coventry City’s recent history has something artful about it.  34 years in the top flight up to 2001, at least the last twenty years of it utterly inconspicuous (excepting that magnificent Cup Final in 1987 – Spurs had hardly been gracious victors in the semi, lest we forget).  On relegation to the second tier… they continued in much the same vein.  Ten seasons in Div 2 now, only once have they finished in the top ten (despite, bizarrely, apparently anticipating promotion every season – not this time, mind) and, significantly, seventeenth or lower in each of the last four.  Aidy Boothroyd’s appointment last year proved to be the latest in a series of grotesque management decisions (Iain Dowie?  Chris Coleman?); new guy Andy Thorn, who I remember looking nothing like as old as that in the middle of Wimbledon’s defence, comes across as decent but impotent and already frustrated by the constraints of managing a side losing money hand over fist, thanks in no small part to the legacy of tenant-status at a half-full Ricoh Arena.  Cruelly appropriate that the representation of the City badge on their latest kit depicts the elephant in white.

A side that hovered above the drop zone last season has since lost, in Westwood, Gunnarsson and King, three of its four outstanding players;  the only incoming moves have been replacement goalkeepers, and whilst Joe Murphy is an experienced stopper he’s nothing like in Westwood’s class.  Rumours of administration persist with the boardroom situation murky and unhappy; any further incomings will be loans and freebies, but City will hardly be the most attractive proposition for someone looking for a club at this level.  Sammy Clingan is a decent midfielder, but he’s not guaranteed to be around by the end of August; there are good kids coming through, and defenders who would be adequate at least in a stronger team, but with or without a ten point penalty there’s only one way Cov are going this season.  Very bottom, and one less relegation spot for the rest of us to worry about.

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Comments»

1. rousman 2 - 31/07/2011

If you take out Leicester & West Ham, the division is very open as far as third place & the other 3 play-off places is concerned I think £10 pounds e/way on Cardiff at 20/1 is a good bet because either way you could be a winner if MM turns out to be another BR (sacked by Christmas) then happy days if they do well you could have a nice winning bet.

2. Ja - 01/08/2011

Enjoying reading the Preview, good read keep it going.

Being from Newport (originally) my dislike for the BlueTits is only slighly less than that of that shower from up the M1, Manky the honerable going the was a shame but Cowie like you said has P’d us all off.

It’s going to be a bumpy first month or so for the GB’s as everyone gets use to SD and each other, let’s hope the Fans keep the faith.


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