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End of Term Report Part 1 14/05/2012

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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Partly thanks to the fact that the last game I went to was Brighton it feels as if the season ended months ago, and yet, as I write, the Premier League still has a set of fixtures to play.  Better get on with this, before my daughters bury me in allotment mud in their frantic search for potatoes and I forget all about it.  Last season’s effort begins at the foot of the May 2011 pages, if you’re so inclined.

1 – Scott Loach

Nothing like starting with an easy one, is there?  Scott followed a season in which he was called into the England squad despite facing local criticism with another that didn’t go entirely smoothly.  Whilst acknowledging again that a goalkeeper’s mistakes tend to be painfully visible, it’s reasonable to conclude that Scott is currently some distance from the national squad.  Loach was briefly dropped – for the first time in his senior career – during the first half of the season, and was then displaced by loan signing Tomasz Kuszczak before coming back strongly in the final game of the campaign.  Whilst it might be argued that you don’t turn down the opportunity to bring in a player of Kuszczak’s quality and experience if it’s possible to do so, it’s nonetheless difficult to believe that we would have signed the Pole if Loach had been on top of his game. Of particular concern, more  than the fact that a still-young goalkeeper was making mistakes, was both the nature of those mistakes and the impact that they appeared to have on the defence in front of him.  Errors of concentration more than bad judgement or physical deficiencies;  on the one hand, the sort of thing that can be ironed out… on the other, why is he making them at all? David James had similar problems in his earlier career of course, but James’ peaks were much higher than Loach’s, and his mistakes perhaps more tolerable as a consequence.  That his defence appeared to have lost confidence in him, with angry words exchanged on more than one occasion, meant that something probably had to happen.  Whether this results in Scott reclaiming his position as first choice or sees him move on is a pretty open question at the time of writing.

Next Season: a tipping point, I think.  Scott will either be sold, or definitively reclaim his first choice mantle.  Difficult to see much scope for anything in between.

2- Lee Hodson

The mantle of Most Neglected Youngster, a recurring theme throughout the season on this site and elsewhere, probably rested here when the music stopped.  Whilst Hodson’s emergence marked him out as an exciting prospect in previous seasons there was always a suggestion of vulnerability that went hand-in-hand with all the good stuff.  2010/11 saw him come through some iffy form a defiantly better player;  this year’s performances suggested that his susceptibility to aerial attack had been all but eradicated. Repeatedly during Lee’s four mid-season months in the first team picture teams would target him with crossfield balls to a big bloke bombing in at the far post.  Time and again he stood up to this challenge.  Admittedly we weren’t doing too badly in his absence at the end of the campaign, and it’s also interesting that for all Lee’s supposed attacking prowess his crosses laid on one solitary goal for the second season in succession.  Nonetheless, such was the strength of his performances that it’s difficult to understand how he isn’t nailed on for a starting position, with Doyley and Dickinson competing for the left back slot.

Next Season:  Established first-choice right-back.

3- Carl Dickinson

I must confess to having been quite excited by this signing. A proper left-back with a tough reputation, popular at his previous club (if not necessarily so at all the sides who had earlier borrowed him) here was ostensibly someone capable of filling the Robbo-shaped hole in the squad vacated some eight years earlier. That suggestion lasted no longer than a bizarre show-stealing opening-day performance at Turf Moor which saw Dickinson caught flat-footed on any number of occasions and spend much of the first half seemingly shouting at himself.  His recovery in that game anticipated his recovery during the season;  early on there was much anxiety at his propensity to be exposed by a quick winger, a belief that his performances on the pitch didn’t really qualify him for the fist-waving rabble-rousing role he clearly fancies.  He dug in though, and became less of a conspicuous weak-spot as the season progressed.

Next Season:  Carl’s best consistent form in 2011/12 was passable, but no more.  Will be under pressure for his starting spot.

4- John Eustace

Player of the Season runner-up or otherwise, there’s a danger of underestimating the value of John Eustace.  The leadership, the drive are the characteristics that automatically spring to mind, but are too easily taken for granted, a great big hole if he wasn’t there.  This season, more than previously, we’ve also seen evidence of a surprising versatility;  initially fielded as the more defensive partner in the take-no-crap midfield pairing with Hogg, the whole thing worked much more convincingly when they switched roles and Eustace chipped in with a few goals – ten over the last two seasons.  John will be 33 in November, but having missed several years through injury earlier in his career his legs might have more left in them than his age would suggest.  Having stayed at Vicarage Road on at least two occasions over the past four-and-a-half years when his time appeared to be up, we can but hope that a new deal is in the offing for the club captain.  A hugely significant member of the side.

Next Season: More of the same, and hopefully a new deal.


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Comments»

1. jamieparkins - 14/05/2012

The Dickinson one is interesting. The fact that he is left footed and chips in with goals means that he should start the season as first choice and it’s his to lose. The marked improvement in the last 2 months was pleasing but still there are two areas to focus on

1. Distribution. Going forward we need to see more first time crosses from 20-35 yards out. That’s what we should demand from a full back. Winger lays the ball back and the player should have the confidence to ping it in. The pace and surprise is required to have at least a chance of scoring. I wonder how much the Vic Road surface has to do with that but I tend to think its more a skill/confidence thing.

2. Concentration. If he can take Lloyd’s greatest attribute and manage the front/rear post and in doing so simply minimise the risk then again he’ll be worth his place. I don’t ask for much more from a full back. It’s one less thing for the center backs to worry about and the source of most of Dickinson’s mistakes last season.

Matt Rowson - 14/05/2012

fair points. the new pitch might be a game changer for all sorts of reasons.

2. sw17 - 14/05/2012

Loach – Its not as if his problems are difficult to define. Agreed about the crazy concentration-problem mistakes, but those he can learn from himself.

Its about his seeming inability to deal with balls above his head when other players are around. The kind of thing you’d think that a goalkeeping coach could really analyse, get him to work on & improve. But it doesnt seem to be happening…even in that Boro game when everything else was good.

He certainly improved on the speed with which he advanced to the edge of the area to cut out danger as the season went-on, So he is capable of learning & putting things learnt into practice.

But seemingly he is just too stressed when a crowd of guys put pressure on him. It would be good if he stayed & improved. Never good to lose the ‘investment’ in him over the years.

3. Tim Turner - 14/05/2012

Re Hodson: never mind “difficult to understand”, his complete disappearance from the matchday squad for the last couple of months of the season was baffling. You have to wonder if he’s run over Sean Dyche’s dog, or done something else to displease him.

I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if he moves on over the summer. Lloydy is still in the prime of his career, and if he and Dickinson are both fit in August, I would expect them to be the starting full-backs. If an enterprising club came in with a bid, I wouldn’t blame Lee for leaving. It would be a shame, of course, but – as I suspect you’ll be discussing when you get to Messrs Bennett and Jenkins – there comes a point when a promising young player needs to force their way into the first team or look elsewhere for a game.

Matt Rowson - 14/05/2012

In fairness – as was pointed out to me in discussing this point – Hodson’s not really a sub is he, with four outfield players on the bench. You need a centreback, and more attacking options predominantly given that Mariappa can play RB if need be, and Buaben obviously filled in there. Nor do I think there’s any danger of him leaving just yet, he’s still a youngster. But like you, I’d have had him in the team.

4. NickB - 15/05/2012

At the risk of being uncontroversial, impossible to find holes in any of those assessments.

5. ollyparenting - 15/05/2012

Quite a quartet to get us underway with … amazing to read such a range of fortunes & perceptions in our first four squad numbers.
Loach – isn’t the comparison with James a tad unfair? James was a charismatic basketball-palying giant who was destined to get 50+ England caps. Loach seems like a quiet lad who happens to be a very good keeper. I hope his confidence is given the chance to recover and he goes on to be our #1 for many years to come.
Hodson – surely Matty W pips him for ‘Most Neglected Youngster’?

Matt Rowson - 15/05/2012

James/Loach… yes, OK. It was the lack of concentration that I was comparing, and the fact that it doesn’t need to be an insurmountable impediment.

Hodson/Whichelow… two disappointing loans mitigate against Whichelow to an extent, although I agree that given his hugely positive season last time out you’d never have predicted how this would turn out. We’ll get there, obviously… but Hodson WAS given a run, was brilliant, and then disappeared anyway…

sw17 - 15/05/2012

On the basis of Matt W’s speedy skilful Peterborough cameo, I’m amazed that the Div 4 clubs didnt go for him in a big way.

6. JohnF - 15/05/2012

Re:Whichelow. Lots of talent but cameos aren’t enough. Need to work hard all the time and get your attitude right. Hodson: like you Matt I am baffled, and from reports so is he. On assists see Rowson on helping hands and the danger of stats. Loach: I wonder about the coaching but Kuszczak may have helped in this regard. Eustace; really notice when he has an off day with his passing. Rowson and Grant: essential to make it all really enjoyable.

7. IainJ - 17/05/2012

Re: Hodson. I agree that on form alone, his sudden disappearance from the 1st team fold was unfathomable. Fortunately after a poor run of form in the previous season, he was clearly back to his best in the first half of this season. In the closing week of the season I landed on the only explanantion i could make sense of, quite simple really. Dyche didnt like the idea of two youngsters in tandem down the right hand side. So with Murray’s emergence, he preferred Doyley to assist and use his experience to avoid a Hodson/Murray combination to be exposed and/or caught out of position.

Matt Rowson - 17/05/2012

Not a bad shout Iain, although Murray was playing on the left a fair bit. I’d also dispute that Hodson recovered his form early this season… I thought he came out of the trough pretty decisively before the end of last season and was in great form by the end. He didn’t actually feature this season until the very end of October (peterborough, coincidentally? when we hit a bit of form)

SteveG - 20/05/2012

I’m with Iain on this, although I’d also add the thought that while Yeates was playing right midfield, a Hodson/Yeates combination looked distinctly more attractive than Doyley/Yeates and even though this might have arisen by accident to start with, Dyche at least had the sense to stick with it when it was obvious that it was working better than the alternatives. The introduction of Murray changed all sorts of things, not least the relative value to the team of Doyley and Hodson at RB.

Given the long-held (and justified) support for the qualities of Lloyd Doyley in these pages, Hodson in means Doyley out – or at least moved. And while Dickinson hasn’t set the world alight, it’s not obvious to me that Doyley at left back is a superior choice for the balance of the team.

So I don’t think it’s a wholly daft decision, although if I were Hodson, I’d be pissed off as well.

This isn’t a bad squad, but the 11 best individuals that we’ve got don’t make a coherent team…in the unlikely event that we do still have Mariappa at the start of next season, should he experiment with 3-5-2? Anyone for Hodson and Forsyth as wing backs?? But where does that leave Lloyd?

Who’d be a manager?


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