Season Preview 2011-12 Part 3 01/08/2011Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
“TELL ME WHY I don’t like Mondays, TELL ME WHY I don’t like Mondays….”. Oh, hello Palace.
INS: Kagisho Dikgacoi (Fulham, £400,000 + clauses), Jonathan Parr (Aalesund, Undisclosed), Mile Jedinak (Genclerbirligi, Free), Glenn Murray (Brighton & Hove Albion, Free)
OUTS: Adam Barrett (AFC Bournemouth, Undisclosed), Neil Danns (Leicester City, Free), Claude Davis, Kieran Djilali, Alassane N’Diaye (Southend United, Season Loan)
OUR EX-EAGLES: None
THEIR EX-ORNS: None
RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A 3-2 defeat at Selhurst which we dominated in every aspect bar the crucial one, and a 1-1 draw in the fog at Vicarage Road in which Andi Weimann scored his first goal for the Orns.
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:
Clyne McCarthy Holland Moxey
VERDICT: In discussing this season’s fixtures over the last few days, it was reflected that with Burnley (A) being the season opener and thus, unusually, worth looking forward to, and with Middlesbrough being on the telly in an equally rare attack of helpfulness from schedulers, Crystal Palace away feels like the hardest away trip in the fixture list next season. That reflects, in part, the ludicrous complexity and sapping duration of a trip to Croydon, not to mention cost both of travel and of the reliably overpriced tickets for the Arthur Wait stand. It also reflects the notorious microclimate of drizzle that surrounds Selhurst Park. But it’s more than that.
There’s something inherently grubby and unpleasant about Palace. Not evil or malicious… just persistently disagreeable. Like a smell of damp, or a watered down pint. They dodged a bullet last season for the second year in succession and have since lost Neil Danns and loan signings Anthony Gardner and James Vaughan, while Darren Ambrose continues to be linked with former boss Warnock at QPR. The signings of Dikgacoi and Jedinak will toughen up the midfield, but the Eagles are short of options at centre-back and I’m not convinced by Glenn Murray as a source of goals – his strike rate of 1 in 2 has been earned in the lower divisions, and comes with accusations of being languid and occasionally uninterested. One has to wonder why it’s taken him until 27 to reach the second tier. So… on balance, the Eagles should be strong candidates for the drop, but the knowledge that they’ll stay up is only partly fuelled by the number of good kids they’ve got coming through. Palace will stay up because that’s what they do. Twenty first.
INS: Craig Bryson (Kilmarnock, Undisclosed), Frank Fielding (Blackburn Rovers, Undisclosed), Adam Legzdins (Burton Albion, Undisclosed), Chris Maguire (Aberdeen, Undisclosed), Theo Robinson (Millwall, Undisclosed), Jason Shackell (Barnsley, Undisclosed), Jamie Ward (Sheffield United, Undisclosed), Nathan Tyson (Nottingham Forest, Free)
OUTS: Luke Varney (Portsmouth, £750,000), Ben Pringle (Rotherham United, Nominal), Arnaud Mendy (Macclesfield Town, Free), Chris Porter (Sheffield United, Free), Greg Mills, Robbie Savage (retired), Miles Addison (Barnsley, Six Month Loan), Ross Atkins (Burton Albion, Season Loan)
OUR EX-RAMS: John Eustace. Ha.
THEIR EX-ORNS: Theo Robinson
RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A 4-1 tonking at Pride Park that featured Matt Whichelow’s exquisite first goal for the Orns, and a 3-0 levelling of the scores in January in which Martin Taylor was dominant.
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:
Brayford Barker Shackell Roberts
Bryson Ward Maguire
VERDICT: While everyone else chilling out in the post-season dead zone in May Nigel Clough was getting to it in the transfer market, completing or agreeing a good number of signings by the middle of June. Whether the motivation was to make the most of a limited transfer pot or to steal a march on competition for players’ signatures the result is a large squad, high on options but limited in star quality. Defensively the side looks very solid with the first choice back five pretty formidable, but you’d have to worry again about whether the side will score enough goals. In midfield there appears to be a multitude of options with at least ten senior candidates, two of which newly-signed Scotsmen (this summer’s Division Two fashion accessory).
A number of players appear to be persona non grata, with squad numbers not issued to several and another, winger Lee Croft, seemingly finding his way back in from the cold. Derby also seem to perpetually struggle with injuries, which may merely be a trick of the light caused by a large squad – someone’s going to be injured. Altogether it doesn’t feel like a very happy camp, although perhaps I’m being unduly influenced by the fact that Nigel Clough doesn’t smile very much. Anyway… difficult to see Derby shipping too many, but they’ve finished below halfway in each of the last three seasons and I can’t see them doing better this time. Further away from trouble than last year’s nineteenth, but no cigar.
INS: Tommy Spurr (Sheffield Wednesday, Undisclosed), Kyle Bennett (Bury, Tribunal), James Baxendale (Leeds United, Free), Rachid Bouhenna (Sedan, Free), Chris Brown (Preston North End, Free), Richard Naylor (Leeds United, Free), Ryan Mason (Tottenham Hotspur, Six Month Loan)
OUTS: Waide Fairhurst (Macclesfield Town, Undisclosed), Ryan Burge (Port Vale, Free), Wayne Thomas (Atromitos, Free), Byron Webster (Northampton Town, Free), Steve Brooker, Dennis Souza, Dean Shiels (Kilmarnock, Six Month Loan)
OUR EX-ROVERS: None
THEIR EX-ORNS: James Chambers
RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Two draws last season… a 2-2 at the Vic in August when two stunning goals from sub Marvin Sordell turned the game around before a late Donny equaliser, and a 1-1 in February that saw John Eustace pick up a red card and Stephen McGinn suffer his crushing ligament injury.
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:
Chambers Friend Naylor Spurr
Coppinger Stock Woods Bennett
VERDICT: Smaller clubs that do well at this level tend to end up facing a conundrum. Firstly there’s the fact that for the likes of Donny, merely treading water at this level, if not an absolute ceiling to their ambition, constitutes no small achievement. Secondly, that you’re going to have to end up rebuilding a side with that handicap… the side that got you up and got you stable may have been good enough but inevitably the cream of that crop will move on and you’ll need to replace them without the budgetary freedom of the teams you’re competing with, and with the knowledge that the players you sign will be aware that the chances of you building a side capable of promotion are slim. Rotherham, Colchester and Crewe all foundered at this stage after a decent season or two. Sooner or later, also, you’re going to be hit by the sort of crippling injury situation that bigger squads would be better able to ride. Such appears to be the situation at Rovers at the moment; the likes of Matt Mills, Gareth Roberts and Ritchie Wellens have moved on since promotion, and the side goes into the new season with Brian Stock, Martin Wooods and James Chambers out with long-term injuries. A twelve game winless run at the tail end of last season looks like being extended to 13 given that Rovers open with the debut game at Brighton’s new place – there’s a nice symbolism about that, given the sides’ not-too-distant shared woes and Fans United fixture, but I’m sure Rovers would rather the honour of being the ground’s first competitive visitors went somewhere else. Difficult to predict anything but relegation for Rovers this season, sadly.
INS: Jack Hobbs (Leicester City, £850,000), Joe Dudgeon (Manchester United, Undisclosed), Corry Evans (Manchester United, Undisclosed), Dele Adebola (Nottingham Forest, Free), Adriano Basso (Wolverhampton Wanderers, Free), Paul McKenna (Nottingham Forest, Free), Robbie Brady (Manchester United, Six month loan), Peter Gulacsi (Liverpool, Season Loan)
OUTS: Nolberto Solano (Hartlepool United, Free), Tijani Belaid, Matt Duke, Craig Fagan, Anthony Gardner, Liam Cooper (Huddersfield Town, Season Loan), Mark Cullen (Bury, Six Month Loan)
OUR EX-TIGERS: Mark Yeates
THEIR EX-ORNS: None
RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A poor nil-nil at their place in August, and an exhausted 2-1 defeat at ours in April. August and April, how’d that work then? I’ve mentioned before that the Germans somehow get by with flipping the fixtures of the first half of the season to form the fixtures for the second? Oh. I have.
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:
Rosenior Hobbs Chester Dudgeon
Koren McKenna Evans Brady
VERDICT: Hull are probably the most mid-table side in the division. There’s no department that looks weak… but there’s nothing that makes you think, “bloody hell, they’ll do something” either. So… without knowing much about Gulacsi, the first choice defence looks reasonably solid. And yet… Jack Hobbs is a fine reactive defender, bold, aggressive. But he needs someone alongside him to tell him where to be really, a bit Jay Demerit in that respect. Nor is there much cover in the centre in particular. Midfield… plenty of experience, a few options with the likes of youngster Tom Cairney and perhaps Seyi Olofinjana also competing for position. All a bit narrow though, isn’t it? Robert Koren’s a decent midfielder but he’s not a winger; the closest thing to a viable wide midfielder would appear to be Zinedine Kilbane but at 34, he’s hardly going to be beating his man too often even if selected. Up front… the obligatory four strikers, with Dele Adebola and Jay Simpson providing options. Hardly intimidating options though, and a lot is invested in Fryatt. Then there’s the Jimmy Bullard thing. That one felt ridiculous at the time, no less so with the benefit of hindsight. We’ll get on to Kevin Nolan with West Ham in a few days’ time…. On balance, Hull won’t do any worse than last season, but it’s a squad that says “solid” rather than exciting. Ninth.