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[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
Grant Holt - Norwich (21) - Promoted
Shane Long - Reading (21) – Still with Reading
Luciano Becchio - Leeds (19) - Still with Leeds
Scott Sinclair - Swansea (19) - Promoted
Adel Taarabt - QPR (19) - Promoted
Jay Bothroyd - Cardiff (18) - Available
Max Gradel - Leeds (18) - Still with Leeds
Andy King - Leicester (15) - Still with Leicester
Steve Morison - Millwall (15) - To Norwich
Billy Sharp - Doncaster (15) – Still with Donny
Jay Rodriguez - Burnley (14) - Still with Burnley
Heidar Helguson - QPR (13) - Promoted
Simeon Jackson - Norwich (13) - Promoted
Lewis McGugan - Forest (13) – Probably off to Derby

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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jas0999 added 20:09 - Jun 3
A good post, but IMO it's far more worrying than a lot of fans are making out. The first point I would make is Norwich - who as we all know are now a PL side - sorted most of their transfer business BEFORE pre-season training started last season. A coincidence that they prospered from this? I think not. Bedding players in EARLY is the way forward. We as usual left it far too late. Have lesson's be learnt? I hope so, but fear not. Re the playing staff, for me there were only FOUR stand out performers last year:

1. Norris - club captain and leading goal scorer
2. McAuley - perhaps our only solid/consistent defender
3. Wickham - when he played upfront and not out of position.
4. Bullard - only a loanee, but most creative player

Of those four, one has returned from the loan spell and foolishly two have left on free transfers. With question marks over Wickham's future - for me it is VERY worrying.

Based on previous experience, it would be unfair to suggest that Clegg has excelled with transfer/ player term negotiations. Can he succeed this year and actually land the managers targets? Does PJ have a Plan A, B and possibly C? Can he sell the club to players? Do they want to join? Time will tell. We must give PJ the benefit of the doubt.

I agree there is still time and there is no need to panic, but ITFC have on far too many occasions let the fans down that unfortunately it is difficult to be optimistic. It was afterall PJ and NOT the fans who 'bigged up' the prospect of players joining the week after the season finished - it's now almost FOUR WEEKS later and ... well, nothing. Perhaps the club and PJ are guilty of raising expectation?

Marshalls_Mullet added 14:41 - Jun 6
"The first point I would make is Norwich - who as we all know are now a PL side - sorted most of their transfer business BEFORE pre-season training started last season. A coincidence that they prospered from this?"

Thats not a valid point. That gives us nearly a full month to get the players in place (a la Norwich), and you have no idea how close we may be behind the scenes!!

pazelle added 19:36 - Jun 6
We don't have anything representing a captain or a dead ball specialist yet either, so I am also worried until this is sorted but hope that it is ASAP.

On that list, Jay Rodriguez always impressed me...
Not sure his value to Burnley though

pazelle added 19:52 - Jun 6
Ar, he's a Burnley youth product who supports Burnley and would only move for Prem footy! Another to wipe off the list! Seriously though, if the best scouting we can do is look at the top scorers charts we've got no chance - I hope that Belgium isn't the only country we have been scouting, but fear that it is!

Come on you stupid Blues! Go to Holland with a suitcase of cash!

tractorboybig added 07:42 - Jun 8
I beleive there is truly no ambition by the owner of this club. I dont know why he does what he is doing,he certainly hasn't got the balls to tell us he just lets his mouth piece clegg do the talking. Clegg gets a lot of stick but he is only his masters voice. Evans should come clean and be honest with us, but of course that will not sell season tickets.
We have to accept that it is evans money running the club,but remember that ITFC still have to pay him our multi million debt back.
The supporters on this site must live up to the reality of today. We are a doncaster. peterborogh or brighton. The days when we were a proud family feeling club are long gone. No one of exception is coming this close season. All there has been is a mass exodus of those who could get out. Sad days ahead o very sad days ahead.
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