|[Blog] A Nervous Close Season|
Written by Superfrans on Friday, 3rd Jun 2011 13:24
With just a fortnight until next season’s fixtures are announced, and a month until pre-season kicks off, us Town fans are getting understandably twitchy – especially with so many players having left since the end of last season.
To put it in context, Town fielded 37 players in league and cup competitions last season. Of those players, 16 are no longer at the club, accounting for 231 appearances (out of a total of 730, either starts or from the bench). That’s 43% of our players gone, accounting for 32% of our appearances – including nine players who turned out in ITFC blue a dozen or more times last season. In anyone’s book, that’s a significant exodus.
The debate over the past few days has surrounded the speed (or otherwise) at which these departed players are being replaced and the squad rebuilt. And, as things stand, none of them have.
Should we panic? Of course not. The time we need to have players in place is for the start of pre-season, the first week of July. That’s a good month away.
The next deadline will be the beginning of the season proper and that isn’t until the first week of August – and the door shuts finally on new permanent signings on August 31, with loans still possible after that. There is a long way to go and we should all expect plenty of activity right through into September (and beyond).
Should we be nervous? My feeling is, yes, we should. I certainly am. Not because I lack faith in Paul Jewell – I am very confident in him as our manager and his ability to fashion a new-look ITFC side. I already have my new replica shirt on order and can’t wait until the fixtures are announced. But, in a way, I am staring into the new season totally blind. I am hopeful that we start the new season with as many as five or six new first-teamers, but (like everyone) have no idea who they are likely to be. It was this thought which led me to look a bit closer at some of the candidates we should be looking at to fill just one of our vacancies – a striker who will elbow his grandma out of the way to score a goal, arguably the longest standing gap in our squad. Personally, I would like us to sign one experienced Championship (or Premier League) striker, along with one or two understudies from the lower divisions (one experienced, the other young and full of potential).
But someone with a Championship pedigree is the best place to start – so I thought I'd have a look at last season's top strikers and see who might be worth going for. Here is a list of the 15 highest scorers in the Championship last season and their current status:
Danny Graham - Watford (24 goals) – Probably off to Swansea
Scouring this list, I was immediately struck by how few of them will be in our division next season – and who would therefore not be available to us. Of these 15 strikers, five have been promoted and two more have been (or are about to be) signed by Premier League clubs - Graham to Swansea, Morison to Norwich. Of the players left, I am convinced that Long will be snapped up by a Premier League club too, along with Bothroyd, so are unrealistic targets for us.
The only players left are Leeds’ Becchio and Gradel, plus Leicester’s King (little realistic chance of getting any of them), Rodriguez of Burnley, Sharp of Donny and McGugan (who looks like he is going to Derby). Of course, there are other candidates - but even Mackail-Smith from Peterborough looks Premiership-bound.
Personally, I think we will either play a waiting game for Billy Sharp and make another bid in a month or so, when Donny Rovers feel their options have narrowed and that they have maximised the potential income from his sale – or we will be back in for Michael Chopra for a second successive summer and finally get our man. But what is clear is that there are not a massive number of options.
Nerves are understandable, I guess. But patience is important too. It may certainly prove to be a virtue in what promises to be a long, stressful summer.
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