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End of Term Report Part 7 04/06/2012

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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26- Britt Assombalonga

Unusually, but not uniquely, amongst home-bred youngsters, a season of dramatic progress for Britt.  Having made the bench for the QPR pitch-invasion game, Britt appeared on the fringes of first team involvement with Massey and Whichelow just two young attacking players apparently higher up the pecking order.  Two prolific loan spells, at Wealdstone and Braintree, thrust him into the spotlight and Sean recalled him from Braintree to involve him in the first team.  In all honesty, he doesn’t look ready yet; quick and powerful, he’s also extremely raw. Bullied out of his debut against Coventry by experienced defenders, he struggled to make an impact in three subsequent outings.  His non-league exploits suggest more to come, however, and in becoming the landmark 50th Academy graduate to debut in the first team (albeit definitions and qualifications rather blur around the edges) he drew attention to the club’s proud record of development.

Next Season: Rumours have already surfaced of an extended loan to the lower divisions, which sounds eminently sensible.

27- Gavin Massey

With Gavin Massey having been in or around the squad for three seasons now, it’s easy to forget that’s he’s still a teenager.  Ross Jenkins suffered and suffers from similar assumptions that a boat had somehow been missed simply because he’s been involved for a while without ever quite establishing himself, overlooking his very young age at his earliest involvement.  Nonetheless, we’re still waiting to be wowed by Massey at some point, expectation heightened by earlier rumours of Liverpool’s interest, and it hasn’t quite happened yet.  Quick, nimble and tidy without being razor-sharp or prolific, it feels as if he still needs to establish what sort of player he’s going to be.  This season saw most of his action come on loan, first with Yeovil and then in an interrupted spell at Colchester under John Ward; his recall, in the wake of Troy Deeney’s hamstring injury, saw him provide by all accounts the silver lining of another tedious afternoon at Selhurst Park before heading back to Essex.

Next Season:  Out of contract next summer, the return of the seven-sub bench should benefit Gavin as much as anyone; hopefully this will be the season that he establishes himself.

29- Adam Thompson

This is the test case, really.  We’ll get on to the season-long and rather exhausted debate about use of kids in general terms in the final section of this review… but if Sean’s argument, that young players were being brought on too quickly and needed to be developed more carefully, is to hold any water then there has to come a point where you say “OK, he’s done that, ticked every box, looked excellent wherever and whenever he’s played.  Now let’s get him in the team”.  After a hugely impressive first season, or half-season, of involvement last term Thompson spent much of this campaign on loan at Brentford over two spells.  In between he made the bench for the Bradford cup tie, but not onto the pitch.  Thoroughly convincing at Griffin Park by all accounts, there are obviously no shortage of obstacles to a slot either at right-back (where his League action has been so far) or centre back (where he has played for Northern Ireland and where he’s surely destined to establish himself).  But now he needs that opportunity.  He can’t do a lot more with what he’s had, journeymen squad-fillers are only defensible if they’re not blocking the path of someone who’s ready.

Next Season:  We’ll hopefully see a lot more of Adam in the coming campaign.

30- Jonathan Bond

Based on one-and-a-bit appearances, and allowing that I missed the “bit”, there’s not a whole lot to say.  Bond looked positive and confident against Bradford, one mighty punch setting up the break from which Craig Forsyth scored the game’s most memorable goal.  But, you know, one game.  It’s stuff off the pitch that says more about Bond’s prospects.  Because Bond started sixteen games for four different sides last season… not half bad for an eighteen year old goalkeeper (he turned 19 in mid-May).  It’s one thing taking a teenage winger or striker on loan, quite another to take, and trust, a goalkeeper.  Scott Loach went out on loan regularly as a youngster of course, but he was an exception rather than the norm, and a very decent young keeper himself.  Bond was trusted by three different clubs at sequentially increasing levels, which should be hugely encouraging.

Next Season:  The goalkeeping situation seems to be in a state of flux at the moment;  Gilmartin out, Kuszczak gone and (one assumes) not returning, Loach’s tenure far from secure.  Bond should expect to be backup at least, but perversely would probably be playing less football as a result.

31- Tom James

Just odd, really.  Odd and incongruous.  We’ve again not much to base a judgement on of course… five competent enough minutes (plus added time) on the left of midfield in that Bradford game, one can only assume that he didn’t quite do enough.  But to take the bold step of giving a young lad from a much lower level a contract… I’m not knocking it, not at all.  But it seems rather out of character for Sean to be taking such risks (albeit James didn’t end up getting much action).  There are many adjectives – positive ones – that one could (and I will) use to describe the manager’s first season in charge, but “cavalier” and “romantic” probably wouldn’t be near the top of anyone’s list.  Giving James a contract was both.

Next Season:  We’ll gain an insight into quite how optimistic a punt James was by the level that he drops back to.

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Comments»

1. Roger Smith - 04/06/2012

“We’ll hopefully see a lot more of Adam in the coming campaign”.

But at who’s expense? As you say, there is no shortage of obstacles in either of his positions, even if Mariappa departs. Nor are we short of midfielders, if used as a wide player providing cover for the full back behind him (or vice versa with Hodson).

Matt Rowson - 04/06/2012

Seven subs will help. I think Mariappa will leave; I’m surprised that Mirfin’s staying, much as I think he’s better than we’ve seen. I’d hope that Thompson and Bennett would be the cover for Nos and Taylor.

Kris - 04/06/2012

Indeed a good question. I haven’t seen Adam Thompson play much but as he is behind Doyley and Hodson at RB and behind Nos and Tiny at centerback – I find it unlikely he’ll get much time on the pitch. Mind you – our two first choice centerbacks are no spring chickens nor are they immune to injury. So having youngsters as competent and experienced as we have (Bennett and Thommo) is a massive blessing. I just hope we keep them at the Vic rather than another long loan.

The return of 7 subs is great news for our youngsters. That is handing a lifeline to a number of the players who have – correctly – been given their last chance in this and 6 previous posts. The fact that Whichelow, Massey, Mingoia, Jenkins and others now have a chance of being in the mix and therefore a chance of playing more will motivate them in training and can only be a good thing for us.

2. oldhorn - 05/06/2012

Sadly for us, but happily for Mariappa, he will leave. I only hope we get a decent fee for him. Taylor and Nosworthy are no spring chickens, but their experience is absolutely invaluable. Back up of Bennett and Thompson? I wouldn’t be too worried about that at all. However, if we do feel the need to raid the market, relatively cheap/experienced centre backs are much easier to find and afford than strikers.

Mirfin? Never got that one in the first place. Why sign a central defender from a poor, relegated team. I watched him at Bristol Rovers last season in the league cup, (bloody late home that night/following morning I can tell you!!!) and he looked very comfortable…..against a league 2 team…which I believe is his level.

Assombalonga? Not quite ready yet, but I agree that another decent length loan to a league 1/2 team will help him develop to our benefit.

Massey? I have a chum who plays five a side with him and says he’s a lot stronger than he actually looks. Not strong enough for the championship yet ……but not far off. Surely another one that would benefit from a decent league 1 loan before challenging for a place at the Vic.

Matt Rowson - 06/06/2012

Being pedantic about your Mirfin point… I seem to remember signing a striker from each of the relegated clubs one summer and getting promoted ? (King from Forest, Henderson from Gillingham, Junior from Walsall who admittedly didn’t stay very long…)


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