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Season Preview Part 3 10/08/2012

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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For a horrible night, this lot disappeared into the ether.  No, in the grand scheme of things it wouldn’t have mattered but I’d rather burn up a load of time on something that actually makes the blog.  Anyway… my co-editor helped recover this situation and so we continue…

CARDIFF CITY

INS: Kim Bo-Hyung (Cerezo Osaka, £2,000,000), Heidar Helguson (Queens Park Rangers, Undisclosed), Jordon Mutch (Birmingham City, Undisclosed), Etien Velikonja (NK Maribor, Undisclosed), Joe Lewis (Peterborough United, Free)

OUTS: Anthony Gerrard (Huddersfield Town, Undisclosed), Kenny Miller (Vancouver Whitecaps, Undisclosed), Tom Heaton (Bristol City, Free), Jon Parkin (Fleetwood Town, Free), Paul Quinn (Doncaster Rovers, Free), Aaron Wildig (Shrewsbury Town, Free), Alex Evans, Jon Meades, Jordan Santiago

OUR EX-BLUEBIRDS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Neal Ardley (Academy Manager), Richard Collinge (Medical), Don Cowie, Heidar Helguson, Martin Hodge (Opposition Analyst), David Kerslake (Assistant Manager), Malky Mackay (Manager), Joe McBride (First Team Coach), Iain Moody (Head of Player Recruitment), Jordon Mutch, Andrew Taylor

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Two 1-1 draws last season, each concluded with a late equaliser from the away side.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Marshall
McNaughton         Turner            Hudson                  Taylor
Cowie        Gunnarsson      Whittingham        Kim
Mutch
Velikonja

VERDICT: Various developments in football in recent(ish) years have provoked pondering over what it is that we actually support. Is it the entity, the club itself, the company, the brand? Irrespective of where it plays, for example? And if not, then what? The badge? The name? Or the whole thing, the collective, the community?

The colours, in the grand scheme of things, are not in themselves vital. They’re important, of course, they’re part of our memories and associations, the stuff that loyalties are built off. But clubs have changed colourschemes before and the world didn’t collapse… we became the Hornets in the summer of 1959 and the following season saw our first Football League promotion, a cup run and Holton and Uphill scoring a millionty one goals.

It’s what the decision to switch from blue to red – or rather the imposition of this condition – indicates that’s the problem. The times when most clubs, even second tier clubs, were owned by local businessmen feel like a long time ago; when overseas takeovers happen – we should know – the line about respecting the values and traditions of the club is almost a given. Cardiff’s new owners have pissed all over that. You can argue that year upon year of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul whilst seemingly holding out for a promotion bail-out created the situation that led to City not being able to turn this preposterous condition down. But City fans have still every right to be pissed off.

Meanwhile, Malky Mackay has recruited yet more familiar faces, and if the signing of Jordon Mutch was a surprise, the capture of H is almost heartbreaking. There’s going to come a time when his little black book is going to run out of names, of course, and it will be interesting to see how City’s recruitment policy fares then; for the moment, City have loads of options in midfield and up front, and if the full back positions still look a little wobbly defensively you’d fancy Cardiff for another play-off tilt at worst.

CHARLTON ATHLETIC

INS: Lawrie Wilson (Stevenage, Undisclosed), Jordan Cook (Sunderland, Free), Salim Kerkar (Rangers, Free)

OUTS: Gary Doherty (Wycombe Wanderers, Free), Conor Gough (Bristol Rovers, Free), Freddie Warren (Barnet, Free), Mikel Alonso, Jason Euell, Tosan Popo

OUR EX-ADDICKS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Alex Dyer (Assistant Manager), Johnnie Jackson, Chris Powell (Manager)

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Two wins as Charlton went down in 2008/09, the first under Aidy Boothroyd at Vicarage Road in August in a match settled by Tommy Smith, the second under Brendan Rodgers at the Valley in April in which Grzegorz Rasiak scored the Goal of the Season as the ‘orns came from behind.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Hamer
Solly                Cort         Morrison       Wiggins
Stephens          Hollands           Jackson
Haynes               Kermorgant                    Cook

VERDICT: Always hard to make judgements about teams coming up of course; the last couple of years have seen sides galloping through to successive promotions, or at least putting significant pressure on the top of the table. The comprehensive margin of the Addicks’ promotion last season suggests that they are best placed to take the division by storm this time, but frankly I can’t see it. There aren’t enough goals in the side, the squad is thin and the summer strengthening looks limited at the time of writing. There is clearly a decent side there – right back Chris Solly is highly sought after, and others such as former Watford target Rhoys Wiggins have good reputations but there’s relatively little experience at second tier level.  Fourteenth.

CRYSTAL PALACE

INS: Joel Ward (Portsmouth, £400,000), Peter Ramage (Queens Park Rangers, Free), Aaron Wilbraham (Norwich City, Free), Aaron Martin (Southampton, Season Loan)

OUTS: Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton, Tribunal), Darren Ambrose (Birmingham City, Undisclosed), Sean Scannell (Huddersfield Town, Undisclosed), Jake Caprice (Blackpool, Free), Anthony Gardner (Sheffield Wednesday, Free), Lee Hills (Stevenage, Free), Calvin Andrew, Charlie Holness, Nathaniel Pinney

OUR EX-EAGLES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Two of last season’s lowest points; a painfully easy 2-0 win in October and an incongruous hammering at Selhurst Park in February.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Speroni
Ward       McCarthy         Martin           Parr
Williams         O’Keefe                Jedinak          Moxey
Zaha               Murray

VERDICT: Palace started well last season, but only won six games in the League from late-October (when they sat third); we won 14 in the same period.  They didn’t register a win in their last nine, and the balance of players in/out as it stands doesn’t look great.  Clyne has been about to leave for a while, but a star turn has nonetheless been replaced by a steady if versatile Joel Ward.  Ambrose and Scannell may not have delivered consistently (I’ve expressed my reservations about Darren Ambrose already in the Birmingham piece) but both nonetheless created chances and scored goals, whilst in Gardner an experienced stopper has been lost.  Expecting replacements to match the contribution of the departees is optimistic… and Palace were hardly setting the world alight in any case.

That said the impressive Palace production line continues to turn out first team players – Stuart O’Keefe is established in midfield, 18 year-old starlet Jonathan Williams will get more game time and should the Eagles continue to resist offers for Zaha the only question will be where Dougie Freedman chooses to play him – he’s the squad’s only senior winger, but his contribution might be needed in the centre.  Freedman has done reasonably well in the transfer market too, Mile Jedinak and Jonathan Pore being the two big successes of last summer.  On the face of it, Palace should stay up but you worry about the resilience of the set-up if things start to go wrong.  The squad is thin, very young and reliant on a couple of key players.  Freedman has, as isn’t unusual, been extremely cautious and defensive when put under pressure.  I’ll back Palace to stay up again, but it wouldn’t take a lot…  we could have done with playing them a bit later in the season, frankly, when our squad has bedded in a bit, and theirs may be exposed.

DERBY COUNTY

INS: Paul Coutts (Preston North End, Undisclosed), Michael Jacobs (Northampton Town, Undisclosed), Richard Keogh (Coventry City, Undisclosed), James O’Connor (Doncaster Rovers, Undisclosed). Michael Hoganson (Newcastle United, Free)

OUTS: Jason Shackell (Burnley, £1,100,000), Miles Addison (AFC Bournemouth, Undisclosed), Chris Maguire (Sheffield Wednesday, Undisclosed), Ryan Connolly (Sligo Rovers, Free), Paul Green (Leeds United, Free), James Severn (Scunthorpe United, Free), Aaron Cole, Chris Jones, Callum Ball (Coventry City, Season Loan), Lee Croft (Oldham Athletic, Season Loan)

OUR EX-RAMS: John Eustace

THEIR EX-ORNS: Theo Robinson

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A smash and grab win by Derby at Vicarage Road that was more disciplined away performance and less travesty of justice than some accounts recorded, and an Alex Kacaniklic-inspired triumph at Pride Park in February.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Fielding
Brayford     Keogh       Buxton     Roberts
Coutts      Hendrick      Bryson        Jacobs
Ward           Robinson

VERDICT: The Rams finished last season with a virtually identical record to ourselves, same points, same GD, twelfth instead of eleventh by virtue of six fewer goals scored.  Expectation is perhaps higher at Pride Park however, and patience with Nigel Clough’s steady building is running a little thin.  The bizarre sale of Jason Shackell to Burnley may prove to have been a tipping point; with the talented but injury prone skipper Shaun Barker out for the entirety of the forthcoming season it seems an odd decision and has been greeted as such.  Recruiting Coventry’s player of the season Richard Keogh won’t hurt, but Keogh was POTS in a relegated side and will be doing well if he matches Shackell’s contribution.  With Paul Green heading back to Yorkshire with Leeds, Derby look horribly short of nous and experience.  Some decent young players – Coutts and Jacobs were both sought after, Hendrick and O’Brien looked terrific at Vicarage Road a year ago – but not enough goals, and not enough cover.  Won’t be involved in the relegation scrap, but won’t be finishing top half again either in what could be a pivotal season for Clough, long-term plan or otherwise.

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