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Season Preview Part 1 28/07/2013

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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OK.  Here we go… four today, four more tomorrow.  And so on.

BARNSLEY

INS: Dale Jennings (Bayern Munich, £250,000), Chris O’Grady (Sheffield Wednesday, Undisclosed), John Cofie (Manchester United, Free), Christian Dibble (Bury, Free), Jean-Yves M’Voto (Oldham Athletic, Free), Lewin Nyatanga (Bristol City, Free)

OUTS: Matt Done (Rochdale, Free), John Rooney (Bury, Free), Stephen Foster (Tranmere Rovers, Free), Rob Edwards, Marlon Harewood, Lukas Lidakevicius, Toni Silva

OUR EX-TYKES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A 4-1 tonking in December including a brace from Troy and a tricky finish from Mark Yeates, and a 1-0 defeat at Oakwell where our understrength midfield wilted under Barnsley pressure.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Steele
Crainie        M’Voto   Nyatanga
Perkins           Etuhu
O’Brien                      Mellis                   Golbourne
O’Grady         Dagnall

VERDICT: It’s becoming a bit of a tradition that, conscious of the proliferation of previews such as this at this time of year and notwithstanding the eagerness with which folk will devour them in anticipation of next weekend’s kick-off, the need to start the preview feature with an eye-catching stand-out piece on Barnsley is a something of a challenge.  Barnsley isn’t the fixture that many go looking for on the fixture list in mid-June, bluntly.

But I’m developing an affection for the Tykes, characterised as much by the thoroughly competent going-over with which they punished our below par performance at Oakwell as by their willingness to roll over at our place in December.   There are no pretensions about Barnsley, they’re either busting a gut, making the most of what they’ve got, or they’re unapologetically rubbish.  That particular spell of rubbishness at the end of 2012 cost Keith Hill his job, and it will be interesting to see how David Flitcroft goes with a full season.  There’s many a manager who’s done very well initially simply by virtue of not being the last bloke, but struggled a bit when it comes to progressing beyond that.  I’d like the candid Flitcroft to do well, and in switching to 3-5-2, increasingly popular in the Championship it would seem, he’s at least not playing it safe.  The squad looks stronger on balance, and deeper, but there aren’t nearly enough goals there for a top half finish.  Injury disasters aside I’d have the Tykes a bit more comfortable than last time round, but no cigar and no guarantee of safety either. Sixteenth.

BIRMINGHAM CITY

INS: Tom Adeyemi (Norwich City, Free), Neal Eardley (Blackpool, Free), Matt Green (Mansfield Town, Free), Olly Lee (Barnet, Free), Lee Novak (Huddersfield Town, Free), Darren Randolph (Motherwell, Free), Andrew Shinnie (Inverness CT, Free), Scott Allan (West Bromwich Albion, Season Loan), Kyle Bartley (Swansea City, Season Loan), Dan Burn (Fulham, Season Loan), Shane Ferguson (Newcastle United, Season Loan)

OUTS: Curtis Davies (Hull City, £2,250,000), Foday Nabay (Fulham, £200,000), Nathan Redmond (Norwich City, Undisclosed), Steven Caldwell (Toronto, Free), Fraser Kerr (Motherwell, Free), Jack Deaman, Keith Fahey, Morgaro Gomis, Graham Hutchison, Pablo Ibanez, Akwasi Asante (Shrewsbury Town, Short Term Loan), Amari’i Bell (Nuneaton Town, Six Month Loan), Jack Butland (Stoke City, End of Loan)

OUR EX-BLUES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Marlon King, Paul Robinson

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Two comfortable wins, including Matej Vydra and Almen Abdi’s first goals at Vicarage Road, and a 4-0 demolition job at St.Andrews in March

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Randolph
Burn                Mullins             Robinson
Eardley         Burke           Lee          Ambrose      Ferguson
Novak          Zigic

VERDICT: Nobody should need reminding of quite how lucky we’ve been in terms of the owners that fate has dealt us.  We’ve had a few of our own to compare and contrast over recent seasons after all.  But as Blues owner Carson Yeung enters a third year with his assets frozen in the wake of money laundering allegations and successive trial postponements, City serve as yet another case study leaving us grateful for (“the football is delicious…”) the Pozzo Family.  In that three year period since relegation as League Cup winners City have finished a strong fourth and a credible twelfth… but layers are being stripped away over time.  The nature of their recruitment over the summer speaks volumes  – a base of tough, solid scrappers but an awfully large number of punts on lower division maybes.  Some of them might come off, but Lee Clark needs rather more than some of them.

Googling to look back at the history of the Carson Yeung story reveals headlines two years ago predicting that Brum would be the next Pompey, the basket case of the time.  This summer for Blues is actually rather more reminiscent of Coventry’s two years ago when, in losing their best players (including, significantly, Marlon King) and patching together replacements they set themselves up for a relegation campaign – and it’s significant that they went down despite making a decent fist of it.  Lee Clark has lost Curtis Davies, Nathan Redmond and Jack Butland (effectively), whilst Marlon King and Peter Lovenkrands are amongst several who have been asked to find new clubs and Robbo, a Watford legend but one that looked past his best in Leeds’ defence at Elland Road eighteen months ago, has been appointed captain.  Lee Clark did well to claw a top half finish last season.  He’ll do well to stay clear of the bottom three this time.


BLACKBURN ROVERS

INS: Alex Marrow (Crystal Palace, Undisclosed), DJ Campbell (Queens Park Rangers, Free), Simon Eastwood (Portsmouth, Free), Alan Judge (Notts County, Free), Matt Kilgallon (Sunderland, Free), Chris Taylor (Millwall, Free), Todd Kane (Chelsea, Season Loan)

OUTS: Martin Olsson (Norwich City, £2,000,000), Chris Dilo (St.Mirren, Free), Micah Evans, Nuno Gomes, Reece Hands, Ryan Humphreys, Danny Laverty, Jamie MacLaren, Danny Murphy, Osayamen Osawe, Peter Wylie, Anton Forrester (Bury, Six Month Loan), David Goodwillie (Dundee United, Six Month Loan), Nuno Henrique  (Arouca, Loan), Jack O’Connell (Rochdale, Six Month Loan), David Bentley (Tottenham, End of Loan), David Jones (Wigan, End of Loan), Colin Kazim-Richards (Galatasaray, End of Loan), Grzegorz Sandomierski (Genk, End of Loan), Cameron Stewart (Hull City, End of Loan)

OUR EX-ROVERS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Lee Williamson

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: An injury time defeat at Ewood Park in October and a bad tempered Forestieri-fuelled victory at Vicarage Road as the season closed.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Kean
Kane            Dann           Hanley         Henley
Lowe           Marrow
Judge                   Rochina                    Taylor
Rhodes

VERDICT: It’s odd how some clubs appear to have a core character.  Something against which any managerial changes, changes in status, changes in means or playing staff can only constitute a temporary resistant force such that when these are removed, the club gravitates back towards its natural state as if held to it by a rubber band.  Rovers were a top flight side for a long time…  a good twenty years, give or take a brief and always temporary drop back down in 1999.  For very little of that time were they any less than staple mid-table fare, strong enough to give anyone a game but not every week.

In comes a Venkys-shaped spanner and all of that has been ripped to shreds.  Blackburn’s fate always looked the least predictable of last season’s relegated sides (or so we thought… I’m not sure anyone saw Wolves’ cataclysm coming) but for the coming season it’s quite the opposite.  Blackburn have reverted to pre-Jack Walker type… stolid, blunt and mid-table.  Gary Bowyer’s managerial credentials have yet to be tested, but with a far from reliable board behind him he’s going to need to be some manager if the side is to challenge.  Squint at our Forestieri-inspired demolition job at the end of last season and the brutal, aggressive Leon Best could easily have been Steve Livingstone or Simon Garner of old.  Some messageboard correspondents are even whispering that the goals of  Jordan Rhodes are all that are separating Rovers from a relegation scrap.  I can’t see that, there are some genuine basket cases in this division this season (see below), but they won’t be troubling the promotion picture either.  Twelfth.

BLACKPOOL

INS: Michael Chopra (Ipswich Town, Undisclosed), Steven Davies (Bristol City, Undisclosed), Bobby Grant (Rochdale, Undisclosed), Gary MacKenzie (Franchise FC, Undisclosed)

OUTS: Alex Baptiste (Bolton Wanderers, Free), Paul Bignot (Grimsby Town, Free), Stephen Crainey (Wigan Athletic, Free), Neal Eardley (Birmingham City, Free), Ashley Eastham (Rochdale, Free), Tiago Gomes (APOEL, Free), Kevin Phillips (Crystal Palace, Free), Ludovic Sylvestre (Caykur Rizespor, Free), Alex Addai, Gerardo Bruma, Matthew Challoner, Adda Djeziri, Elliot Grandin, Jamie Menagh, Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Curtis Thompson, Chris Kettings (York City, Season Loan), Matt Derbyshire (Nottm Forest, End of Loan)

OUR EX-SEASIDERS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Craig Cathcart, Michael Chopra

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: We lost leads in both games against the Seasiders last season, with late goals in the two games ultimately costing us three points in total and the charming Paul Ince celebrating his first win as Blackpool boss with customary good grace at Vicarage Road.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Gilks
Broadfoot        MacKenzie         Cathcart          Harris
Osbourne      Ferguson
M.Phillips         Grant                 Ince
Chopra

VERDICT: Sometimes you don’t need to be paying a lot of attention to get a bad feeling about something.  Take Blackpool.  Ian Holloway, it’s easy to forget, was at the helm at Bloomfield Road as recently as November… in body at least, if not in spirit.  In truth he cut quite a subdued character in his final months at the club, with reports from within suggesting that “we hadn’t really done much training” in the weeks prior to his departure.  And when someone with the chirpy, salt-of-the-earth enthusiasm and lack of cynicism which characterises “Olly” loses his joie de vivre, something must be up.  Enter Michael Appleton… but only briefly, two months, thirteen games, eight of them drawn.  And then off again, of his own accord.  Given that Appleton had stuck things out for twelve months at Portsmouth, this didn’t send a great signal either.  And then the charming, self-effacing Paul Ince arrived in February, Dad of the star player in a fashion that emulates grass roots cub scout team football management.  Despite the inspirational presence of Ince Jr, the Seasiders continued to hover around lower mid-table, finishing five points (if several places) clear of the drop.

Since when Blackpool have hit the always pivotal second summer since relegation with the consequent impact on budgets, something that chairman Oyston has apparently been observing attentively.  Rumours earlier in the summer had Ince being the fourth successive ‘pool manager to offer his resignation, this one refused.  The squad has been decimated by summer departures, including those of a number of senior players – but not, at the time of writing, Ince Jr – with Ince Sr grumpily bemoaning his lot as sides made up largely of trialists have struggled in pre-season. At a difficult transition stage with an unremarkable team, this season would be a challenge to an otherwise stable, well-run club.  You’d question whether either of those terms applies to the Seasiders. I’d be astonished if Ince Sr lasts the season; either way, Blackpool have a survival scrap on their hands.  Relegation.

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Comments»

1. Peter Bell - Cherry Chimes - 28/07/2013

Wow! Lots of research, very helpful. Will be keen to see what you have to say about AFC Bournemouth. Look forward to the game on 10 August. Watford are one of the teams I expect to go up. Zola has assembled an impressive squad!

2. Hunsbury Hornet4 - 28/07/2013

Compulsive reading. Once again I have to abandon (for the time being) my book on the autobiography of a west end call girl, to read the altogether more dulcet and informative words of one of my favourite writers. Cheers Matt.


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