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Season Preview – Part 1 03/08/2014

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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Is everybody ready?  Tough. Four today, four tomorrow.  You get the idea.  Enjoy.

BIRMINGHAM CITY

INS: Denny Johnstone (Celtic, Undisclosed), David Cotterill (Doncaster Rovers, Free), Clayton Donaldson (Brentford, Free), Marc Duffy (Doncaster Rovers, Free), David Edgar (Burnley, Free), Stephen Gleeson (Franchise FC, Free), Jonathan Grounds (Oldham Athletic, Free), Gavin Gunning (Dundee United, Free), Navid Nasseri (Bury, Free), Wes Thomas (Rotherham United, Free), Grant Hall (Tottenham Hotspur, Season Loan)

OUTS: Chris Burke (Nottingham Forest, Free), Wade Elliott (Bristol City, Free), Aaron Martin (Yeovil Town, Free), Hayden Mullins (Notts County, Free), Darren Ambrose, Brian Howard, Peter Lovenkrands, Nikola Zigic, Koby Arthur (Cheltenham Town, Six Month Loan), Amari’i Bell (Mansfield Town, Season Loan), Scott Allan (West Bromwich Albion, End of Loan), Tyler Blackett (Manchester United, End of Loan), Shane Ferguson (Newcastle United, End of Loan), Emyr Hughes (Manchester City, End of Loan), Jordan Ibe (Liverpool, End of Loan), Federico Macheda (Manchester United, End of Loan), Albert Rusnak (Manchester City, End of Loan), Tom Thorpe (Manchester United, End of Loan)

OUR EX-BLUES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Paul Robinson

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Two one-goal victories making it four wins on the hop against the Blues, and three in which Bluenose Troy Deeney has found the net.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Randolph
Eardley               Hall                 Edgar             Robinson
Duffy           Gleeson              Adeyemi       Cotterill
Donaldson          Thomas

VERDICT: I thought Blues would go down last season, frankly.  Picking up one point from their final six games they almost did as well, their last victory of the season at Doncaster perhaps proving crucial for both sides as Blues stayed up and Donny went down on goal difference.  Over the summer Birmingham have shed the last of their big earners (Burke, Zigic, Mullins) and embarked upon another huge overhaul of their squad which is now large and packed with game triers… no stars, but plenty of energy and effort.  Their recruitment looks pretty good to me… signing out of contract Cotterill and Duffy rubs the salt into Donny’s wounds, Gleeson comes from Franchise with a good reputation.  At this point in time you worry about goalscoring options, although in Clayton Donaldson Lee Clark has made what looks like a good gamble given his limited budget.  Meanwhile City fans are still desperate for a takeover to go through and condemn the miserable Carson Yeung era to history…  in that context, staying up again would probably do.  There’s no prospect of City finishing above halfway, but you’d fancy them to survive a little more comfortably this time around.


BLACKBURN ROVERS

INS: Chris Brown (Doncaster Rovers, Free), Luke Varney (Leeds United, Free), Alex Baptiste (Bolton Wanderers, Season Loan)

OUTS: Alan Judge (Brentford, Undisclosed), Ryan Edwards (Morecambe, Free), David Goodwillie (Aberdeen, Free), Alex Marrow (Carlisle United, Free), William Beesley, DJ Campbell, Robbie Cotton, Dickson Etuhu, Hugo Fernandez Molina, Tomothy Payne, Deniz Pero, Aaron Tumwa, Matthew Urwin, Josh Lewis (Fleetwood Town, Six Month Loan), Bryan Dabo (Montpelier, End of Loan), Liam Feeney (Millwall, End of Loan), Michael Keane (Manchester United, End of Loan)

OUR EX-ROVERS: Keith Andrews

THEIR EX-ORNS: Lee Williamson

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Another Jordan Rhodes 1-0 defeat at Ewood Park and a ding-dong 3-3 at Vicarage Road which saw Marco Cassetti’s only goal for the Hornets.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Robinson
Baptiste            Hanley         Kilgallon        Spurr
Marshall           Evans           Cairney        Conway
Gestede       Rhodes

VERDICT: Ironic, really, that having been a basket case for so long, Venkys-led Blackburn have halted what looked like it might be a relentless downward slide by being so utterly sensible.  There’s nothing… radically innovative about the team above.  Nothing flash, nothing daft.  A solid 4-4-2 with wingers, a target man, a poacher and a solid back four.  The free transfer signing of Chris Brown rather says it all – unpretentious, pragmatic, sensible, and as a backup target man adding to the considerable amount of cover that Rovers have in most positions.  They’re rather dependent on Rhodes for goals perhaps – Gestede, Brown and Varney will do a job, but not score buckets of goals if Rhodes picks up a knock.  Nonetheless, this is a squad that will finish above halfway and may do a more convincing job of challenging for the play-offs than the rather theoretical pursuit of sixth place of last season.

BLACKPOOL

INS: Peter Clarke (Huddersfield Town, Undisclosed), José Miguel Cubero (Herediano, Undisclosed), Tomasz Cywka (Barnsley, Free), Nathan Delfounesco (Aston Villa, Free), Jacob Mellis (Barnsley, Free), Sergey Zenyov (Karpaty Lviv, Free)

OUTS: Tom Ince (Hull City, Undisclosed), Harrison McGahey (Sheffield United, Tribunal), Chris Basham (Sheffield United, Free), Neal Bishop (Scunthorpe United, Free), Kirk Broadfoot (Rotherham United, Free), Craig Cathcart (Watford, Free), James Caton (Shrewsbury Town, Free), Barry Ferguson (Clyde, Free), Ricardo Fuller (Millwall, Free), Matt Gilks (Burnley, Free), Chris Kettings (Crystal Palace, Free), Liam Tomsett (AFC Fylde, Free), Nathan Tyson (Doncaster Rovers, Free), Louis Atkinson, Anderson Banvo, Jake Caprice, Michael Chopra, Adam Dodd, Rob Earnshaw, Nathan Eccleston, Elliot Grandin, Faris Haroun, Isaiah Osbourne, Tony Warner

OUR EX-SEASIDERS: Craig Cathcart

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A late and painful single-goal defeat to a Tom Ince strike at Bloomfield Road that saw Almen Abdi’s involvement in the season curtailed, and a 4-0 thumping in March that saw Mathias Ranégie score twice on his home debut.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

?
McMahon    MacKenzie         Clarke          Dunne
Mellis        Cubero       Perkins        Cywka
Delfounesco    Zenyov

VERDICT: It’s a fair bit of work putting these previews together.  I know it probably reads like every other pile of half-arsed tosh that’s clogging up the internet this week, but a comprehensive pile of tosh takes time to cultivate.  The transfer activity list starts first, as soon as the season ends really… you don’t want to be buggering around in late July trying to identify which Brighton players left quietly as their contracts expired early in the close season.  Then the skeleton starts to form… start compiling the blog posts, fill in the factual and easily rattled off stuff.  Finally, work your way through the teams scouring blogs and messageboards for insights and putative line-ups.  Some flexibility in there of course… not strictly necessary to work from Birmingham through to Wolves in order.  Up to a point.  Can you see where this is heading?  I’ve been holding off here for stuff to develop, and in fairness they’ve signed five players this week and counting.  Nonetheless…

Some of the Blackpool bit is easy, some of it much more difficult.  The line-up, for example, still rather needs to take shape with the goalkeeping position, for which Ben Alnwick appeared to be lined up before giving up and heading off to be second choice at Peterborough, is a rather critical vacancy.  And, christ, if I’m running out of time to put this piece together (writing at 11.30 on Friday night with this piece up on Sunday and a Udinese report to do tomorrow) then it kinda follows that Blackpool are running out of time too.  So here’s the easy bit.  I really thought that Blackpool would go down last season.  Instead, they won five of their first six and only lost twice before the end of November.  Good job too, since they only won three more games from that point, losing 20 and staying up by 2 points thanks to an unlikely win at Wigan at the end of April.  Since then the Seasiders have shipped off caretake Barry Ferguson and brought in Jose Riga as manager; anyone who could leave has done so, several of the eight in contract during the summer would have followed if they possibly could by all accounts.  The club’s chairman Karl Oyston, meanwhile, has publicly fallen out with both his new manager (silent pre- and post-Saturday’s friendly with Burnley) and President and shareholder Latvian Valeri Belokon, who has criticised the owners’ prioritising their own profit over the club’s success.  A populist statement, but it’s difficult not to sympathise; the Seasiders’ financially disciplined year in the top flight should have been the basis for building the infrastructure of the club but instead there IS no infrastructure, and very few players.  “Where’s the money gone” has never been more apt. It’s not something you’d wish on any club, and post-Holloway and post-Ince there are certainly no axes to be ground with Blackpool.  But let’s return to the easy bit. I remember from the years when we were looking over our shoulders in this division that you had to be pretty bad to get relegated.  There are normally one or two basket cases, so you’re trying not to be the worst of the rest.  And there has surely never been a basket case quite like this.  Very bottom.  And then some.

BOLTON WANDERERS

INS: Neil Danns (Leicester City, Free), Dorian Dervite (Charlton Athletic, Free), Liam Feeney (Millwall, Free), Andy Hughes (Charlton Athletic, Fre), Dean Moxey (Crystal Palace, Free), Liam Trotter (Millwall, Free), Andy Robinson (Southampton, Free), Quade Taylor (Crystal Palace, Free), Kevin McNaughton (Cardiff City, Season Loan)

OUTS: Marvin Sordell (Burnley, Undisclosed), Chris Eagles, Zat Knight, Arran Lee-Barrett, Jay Lynch, Tyrone Mears, Andre Moritz, Andy Robinson, Keith Andrews (Watford, Season Loan), Alex Baptiste (Blackburn, Season Loan), Joe Riley (Oxford United, Six Month Loan), Alan Hutton (Aston Villa, End of Loan), Lukasz Jutkiewicz (Middlesbrough, End of Loan)

OUR EX-TROTTERS: Keith Andrews (kinda)

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Two of the most painful performances of the season… a 1-0 defeat as Zola’s Watford career began to hurtle downhill and a lamentable 2-0 reverse at the Reebok (or whatever) in February.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Lonergan
McNaughton    Mills         Ream         Moxey
Feeney       Spearing       Medo       Danns
Davies      Beckford

VERDICT: About to start their third season back in the Championship, it seems a while now since Bolton were established in the top flight.  Still lumbered with eye-watering debts, the impressive surge that almost carried Wanderers into the play-offs in 2013 wasn’t replicated last season as Wanderers ended the season a point behind us in mid-table.  Since then, Dougie Freedman has missed out on his no 1 target Lukas Jutkiewicz who, along with another former Wanderer Marvin Sordell, has joined Sean Dyche’s Burnley in the top flight.  A significant success in a loan from January until the end of last season, Jutkiewicz leaves a hole in the side that Bolton will find it hard to fill.  The rest of the side looks fairly solid and there is good cover in midfield in particular, but with only the haphazard Beckford providing much of a goal threat as it stands.  With an adequate replacement for Jutkiewicz and a prevailing wind Wanderers might nudge into the top half, but given the churning nature of the Championship it seems quite possible that Wanderers will find themselves in a precarious league position at some point during the season.  Quite how far Bolton’s nerve holds and quite how high Dougie Freedman’s still reasonable stock holds out will be interesting to watch.  Fifteenth.

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Comments»

1. Hunsbury Hornet4 - 03/08/2014

I wondered where you’d got to….welcome back.
My only concern regarding Blackpool is that I’ve already booked an overnight stay at a Premier Inn on the seafront on the night of our match up there. If they can’t field a team, I might have to spend the night in a bloody bingo hall or something.

Matt Rowson - 03/08/2014

Rude not to tap in here… “I’d take your boots, mate, you might get a game…”

2. Hunsbury Hornet4 - 04/08/2014

I’m nearly 70 Matt – not sure I’d last the 90 minutes, and with no subs on the bench….


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