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End of Term Report Part 5 04/06/2018

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

18- Andre Gray

Football players don’t have to be likeable.  Bastards, for example, have a role.  Ask Real Madrid, ask Sergio Ramos.  A cartoon character, a leader, a bastard.  He’s captained his side to the Champions’ League three times, he’s a knobhead, he doesn’t care and nor do Madrid because he’s their knobhead.  Marlon King.  Also, patently, not a very nice man… characteristics cast into light more sharply after he left Watford but even at the time you knew.  We all knew.  But whilst he was scoring goals, the roaring, snarling spearhead of the side it didn’t matter (up to a point).

If you’re struggling a bit, coming across as an idiot loses its charm somewhat, such as it is.  In Gray’s case, cupping your hand to your ear in response to perceived injustices having ended a run without a goal…. well.  Once, ill-judged, generously.  Twice, just crass.  He must have received some stick I guess to have reacted that way at all but it was really very tame indeed in the context of a record signing who was making a habit of bottling one-on-ones.  In the job he’s in he really has to be a bit thicker-skinned than that.  Not a reaction that left you rooting for the guy.

Nonetheless, he’s a better player than his modest goal return might suggest and we’ve looked a better side with him in it.  In particular it’s to be hoped that Javi can be persuaded to roll out the two-up-front recklessness of the final home game of the season against Newcastle;  both Troy and Andre looked all the better for it.

Next Season:  Rumours persist of another move with suggestions in the second half of the campaign that he’d been offered to Cardiff.  The Pozzos aren’t known to dawdle over their decisions, but it would still just about be surprising to see him go.

19- Will Hughes

Another tremendous signing from a summer of 2017 in which the incoming hit-rate was remarkably high.  Hughes took a while to force a look in and when he got it, having scored against West Ham and Newcastle in his second and third Premier League starts he did his hamstring against Manchester United three days later and aggravatingly sat out the next three months.

But when he returned, and virtually throughout his time on the pitch, he’s been an absolute joy. A whirlwind of mischief and energy and guile and a little bit of devilment, in this and his tendency to run himself to a verge-of-fainting standstill on about 75 minutes he’s an echo of another former Derby County youth who signed 20 years ago this summer.  Quite how this impossible treasure trove of midfielders fits together if and when everyone is fit is anyone’s guess but that’s a problem to worry about if and when it ever comes.  Will is a force for good wherever he’s accommodated.

Next Season:  A popular theory when Will joined a year ago was that he might be better suited to the Premier League than the more brutal intensity of the second tier.  He’s certainly not looked out of place, and if he can finally have a season free of the injuries that delayed his ascent to the highest tier, full international recognition is far from out of the question.

21- Kiko Femenía

A season of two halves for Kiko.  A relatively low key signing last summer he became one of the key components of the side that flourished under Marco Silva early in the season, revelling in the wing back role that showcased his stamina and acceleration.  The sight of Kiko roaring unnoted and untracked into space on the overlap was one of the defining images of that successful spell.

Whilst a number of other things were going wrong in early December, Kiko’s hamstring popping saw him sit out two months.  He returned to a new head coach and a back four that didn’t suit him nearly as well.  His outings under Javi Gracia were as a winger ahead of Daryl Janmaat at right back, and whilst the team struggled – we only earned a point from the six games he started on his return – Femenía in particular had little impact, only twice completing 90 minutes.

Next Season:  Like the rest of the squad, Kiko needs an injury-free run and a decent pre-season.  Thereafter we’ll maybe find out whether he’s versatile enough to be something other than a terrific wing back.

22- Marvin Zeegelaar

Zeegelaar signed on deadline day, quite transparently a last-minute means of filling a vacancy which had had someone else’s name on it.  His debut had to wait until West Ham’s visit in November, within seconds of which Andy Carroll’s elbow provided an uncompromising introduction to the English game.

Popular wisdom seems to be that Zeegelaar has been a low-cost failure, emergency cover at left back who isn’t quite up to it.  Certainly there were games – particularly at Vicarage Road – where Marvin was exposed, but his form was patchy rather than inadequate, his preference for going forward rather than backward common with most of our full backs.  His rampage up the left flank at St James Park was a major factor in the victory, and he played a full part in the stonking win over Chelsea from a wing back role.  Five days later however his slip at the London Stadium gave a mundane West Ham side an opening.  Marvin was replaced twenty minutes later and didn’t play for the side again, not managing as much as a place on the bench after the West Brom win in early March.

Next Season:  The much travelled Zeegelaar has, at the age of 27, played in the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Turkey and the UK.  It seems likely that he’ll be finding another home before the end of the summer.  Jose Holebas turns 34 this month and we need a succession plan at the very least.  Marvin was passable cover, but isn’t a long term heir.


1. crisb - 04/06/2018

it probably says more about my search history (although lord knows how) than your site, but there’s a delightfully apt advert that appears on this page from time to time, promising to ‘treat bunions, effectively’. if nothing else it brings in to focus two things: 1) we’ve always had crap injury problems 2) we definitely pick from a higher grade of injury prone player than last century.

good work, for some reason in a world cup year the post season lack of football is felt more keenly than when you’ve just got the best part of 3 football free months, this is like an oasis in the desert! 🙂

Matt Rowson - 04/06/2018

Thanks… actually the imminence of the WC makes it feel tolerable to me. Best of luck getting through it, anyway….

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