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Briefing Notes for the New Season – Part One
Thursday, 25th Jul 2013 12:00 by HarryFromBath

In the first of a series of pre-season reports, HarryFromBath assesses the mood around the Championship clubs by delving into their forums. Middlesbrough, Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday are under the spotlight in today’s notes.

Middlesbrough

“Don't think I’ve ever been less optimistic for a new season”

After a poor second half to last season, Boro have been quiet in the transfer market this summer. Josef Varga, a 25-year-old midfielder from Debrecen in Hungary on loan, and 31-year-old Dean Whitehead from Stoke (pictured below), and the returning former Chelsea keeper Ross Turnbull are their only notable signings thus far.

With players like Scott McDonald, Nicky Bailey, Andre Bikey, Kieron Dyer and Julio Arca all released, and defender Stephen McManus joining Motherwell, supporters are now getting quite anxious to see who will fill their boots.

“We just need two or three more quality players to make the difference.”

“Why are we getting ourselves in a pickle over this transfer situation? Is it the fear of having to accept that we are where we are and that being a mediocre mid-table team is the best we can hope for not just this season but many seasons ahead?”

“You'd have to be deluded to think we can finish anywhere near top six with what is there at present.” “This summer so far has been in my opinion run of the mill for Boro and a reflection on where the club truly lay. The club will continue to be linked to player that realistically we don't have a snowball's hell in chance of getting, but this takes the focus from the club's demise.”

“I'm not panicking. I'm sure the club expected to be knocked back by the majority of the more audacious targets. I'm also sure that we had a contingency plan for when these players did knock us back. Just be patient.”

“Tony isn’t the reason for our problems.”

“Having only watched Boro under four managers, McLaren, Southgate, Strachan and Mogga [Tony Mowbray], I can honestly say that it has been slightly worse under Mogga than the other three for me. We haven’t got a hope of attracting any players that other Championship teams want at the moment.”

“I know Mogga has indicated that his preferred targets have drifted away it would be good to hear the reasons why they were not captured or is that too much to hope?” There is clearly a mood of lingering frustration, but fans – for now – are backing their manager.

“If you go to a club that has been completely broken by the clown that preceded you it does take a long time to fix things. Sure I think Mogga has made plenty of mistakes but I can gradually see our steadying the ship.” Most Boro fans think that Gordon Strachan’s brief reign did immense damage.

“There are two gaping holes in the side yet to be filled.”

“…a striker and a centre-back.” “I'm on a downer at the moment, but I might as well point out we only finished five points off relegation and have since moved on our top scorer.”

“We have a stronger first team then last season in my opinion, but the squad is clearly thin. I'm very disappointed that we're missing out on so many of our primary targets, but there's no need to panic.” “Stronger first team? I would say we were stronger in the midfield but not in defence and certainly not up front!”

“There is still plenty of time left to find good players and still enough strength in depth to see us potentially have a strong start to the season. There is plenty of room for optimism in my opinion. But those holes must be filled adequately at some point, or we're in trouble.”

Boro Supporters Thoughts on ITFC

In a ‘Who should we worry about?’ thread, most fans went for the relegated three plus Watford and Bolton. We were mentioned once: “Watch Ipswich. Mick is the best manager in the league. His Ipswich side went from relegation candidates to a team that lost very few games under his guidance. They are a real wild card.”

Leeds United

“I'll settle for season of progress…”

Leeds manager Brian McDermott has been moving deftly in the summer market. He has signed Oldham’s striker and FA Cup hero Matt Smith (pictured), Reading veteran striker Noel Hunt and they have paid out £1 million for the highly-rated Crewe captain and midfielder Luke Murphy.

He has also released some of the fringe players like former Ipswich loanee Patrick Kisnorbo, defender Paul Connolly and keeper Paul Rachubka. Striker Steve Morison has been loaned to his former club Millwall, his transfer from the Budgies having been deemed a failure by most supporters.

“I’m with the ‘glad the club is moving forward again’ (albeit at a slow pace) brigade.”

“…more entertaining football, tighter defence along with the previously mentioned changes behind the scenes with season tickets and the club radio.”

“It’s so far so good, the players we have brought in seem to tick the boxes and we have so far kept the players we need to.”

“Since getting back in the Championship we have slowly gone backwards in a Michael Jackson moonwalk style, slowly and systematically selling off all the best players and never once attempting to replace them. This season (so far, touch wood), we have added quality, and kept the better players. That's progress.”

“Under Ken Bates, talented young players like Sam Byram would have been sold to a team like Manchester City. Thank God that this isn’t happening anymore.”

Pre-Season

Leeds have had a mixed time results-wise, losing to Ferencvaros and Walsall, but comfortably beating Stevenage. McDermott has been working with a midfield diamond, and praise has been more for effort than any technical wizardry.

”I think everyone knows we need more pace, problem is quick players come at a premium... I do like the idea of the midfield diamond, but we need quick full-backs with good work-rate and positioning for that.”

“We need to move players on before we can dive into the market.”

“If players and X and Y can't be shifted now, there's no guarantee they will be later in the transfer window, and I wouldn't borrow money now on the basis of paying it back when that happens.”

“It's frustrating, but if we are with the exact same squad come September 1st, I'll still consider it a progress on previous seasons, based on the fact that we've kept our best players and added something to them. Granted it is not a lot, but it is something.”

“Come on GFH.”

Owners Gulf Finance House are still unloved by supporters, but they are gaining respect for entering negotiations for lucrative sponsorship deals with companies like Red Bull.

By and large, the vocal minority are still looking for them to get their chequebook out: “McDermott appears to be a decent manager but he's no miracle worker. What's that saying about silk purses and pigs ears?”

“GHF say they will take us to the Premiership in two years. Why? Because they paid a million pounds for one player, and have added to the board, and have made improvements to the training ground?”

“I understand the need to balance the books...”

There was an illuminating exchange between a supporter favouring a chequebook-based approach to transfers, and another fan who has read up on the FFP rules.

“...but anyone taking over such a BIG club like Leeds should be coming in with SOME money to spend. £5 to £7 million is the least I expected, it doesn't mean we would be guaranteed promotion. It would mean we were back in the game. It looks to be much the same as before to me.”

This was the reply. “For the coming season, Leeds will breach the 'Fair Play' rules if we were to incur losses of more than £3 million - which, if they were to invest the £5 million to £7 million - would be highly likely. If, for example, we were to lose £8 million and get promotion, then the impact of this would be a fine of the order of £5 million [FFP sanctions come in in 2014/15 - TWTD Ed].”

“This fine would rise by £800,000 for every £1,000,000 over that limit. If we were to not get promoted, a transfer embargo would be applied the following season until we could demonstrate balancing our books. That represents a potential "meltdown" of our playing strength.”

Sheffield Wednesday

“It’s been another totally underwhelming transfer window.”

Much of manager Dave Jones's work this summer has been around consolidating his existing squad. Players like Miguel Llera, David Prutton (pictured), Jermaine Johnson and Lewis Buxton have extended their contracts.

Jeremy Helan signed from Manchester City, having played on loan for the Wendies last year and Congolese Jacques Maghoma is one genuinely new face, having joined from Burton Albion, where he made over 150 appearances in four years. With both new signings playing on the wing, Owls are confident that Jones will focus on wide play this season.

Eighteen-year-old winger Hayden White left for Bolton without playing for the first XI, striker Chris O’Grady went up the road to Barnsley and former Town loan keeper Stephen Bywater went to Millwall.

“Some quality players have gone to clubs we should be competing in the market with.”

“At present we are a bottom six side. Add a couple of strikers, a centre-back and midfielder and we may squeeze into the top half in 12th. For sure what is coming in won't be of the quality needed expect possibly Leroy Lita, and there won't be enough of them.”

“This club fannies around every window signing sub-standard players. All we had to do was sign quality five players - a centre-back, a midfielder and a winger plus two strikers. So far we have signed Helan, who did very little in all honesty, and Maghoma who is unproven at this level.”

With the small budget generating little transfer excitement, most Owls are hopeful of survival at best, but there is always hope: “Carlton Palmer has tipped us to win the league!”

“A consortium from mainland China and Hong Kong…”

“…whose lawyers are examining Wednesday’s books, are led by former Hong Kong footballer Sammy Yu, the one-time Birmingham vice-chairman. Yu and his associates have finally given up on attempts to buy Birmingham after six months of negotiations with Carson Yeung.”

The club could be up for sale, and supporters are not sure what to make of the news.

Milan Mandaric [the current owner] commented recently that the club was losing £5 million annually. The Owlstalk website said that he was looking for a figure in the order of £15 million from a buyer. “It could be an Abramovic type of takeover.” “Knowing our luck, it will be more like Blackburn Rovers.”

“I know nothing but do believe there is something in this as we have been unusually hesitant in the transfer market.” “I think the unfortunate thing is, it is almost impossible in the current game to have any real success without foreign investment - sad but true.”

“My main concern regarding a takeover would be the possible change of manager. I like the early signs of DJ's legacy, and it's too early for yet another change. Milan could try and secure his position, but any new owner could reserve the right to change the manager just as he did.”

“I've always liked Chopra…

..as a player that is. Always thought he was underrated and never really reached his full potential because he's a bit of a bell end. A fully fit and focused Michael Chopra, up front with Leroy Lita, would do some damage at this level. I can't see Dave Jones going for both though.” “Gosh, hope it’s just lazy journalism and I hope there's no truth in it.”

Most discussions around Chopra have followed the same talent versus mentality debate we have had here. Owls have additionally been debating whether he and/or Lita should be their main striker next season.

“Hearing Michael Chopra will sign for Blackpool.” “Lucky Escape.” “Let's just hope we bring Lita in.” “I'm at ease about this, or at least I will be when Lita signs on the dotted line.” “McCarthy must be a f***ing idiot getting rid of Chopra, after all them goals he scored for Ipswich last season. Oh, hang on how many did he score again?”

This was an interesting angle: “To be fair some managers seem to get the best out of certain players. Mick McCarthy does come across as a bit of a tosser at times, whereas Jones seems to get players enjoying their football a bit more. 'Chops' probably just didn't enjoy his time at Ipswich, and that could be down to his managers.”

Owls' thoughts on ITFC and the Season

A thread on pre-season odds had the relegated three, plus Bolton and Watford. We were mention once: “I’m going for an Ipswich top six finish.” One Owl in a ‘who have we missed’ thread said that “Berra was abysmal for Wolves last year. I’m glad we haven't gone for him.” Noted.

Forums

The best Middlesbrough forum is One Boro .The best Leeds forum is Marching on Together , and the best Wednesday forum is the excellent Owlstalks .

In the second part of this series, I will look at the remaining Yorkshire teams of Barnsley, Huddersfield Town and newly promoted Doncaster Rovers.

Photo: Action Images



Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.



IamSpartacus added 12:05 - Jul 25
A good addition... obviously just fans views & opinions, but interesting to factor them in as we approach the new season.
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AbujaBlue added 12:30 - Jul 25
As someone who likes to check forums from other teams every once in a while this is simply a great read. Kudos to the time spent researching for this, and I look forward to the next instalments!
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ntoms97 added 12:38 - Jul 25
Like the "going for a town top six" comments I believe this is our year!!
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Ipswich121 added 12:45 - Jul 25
Very good and interesting read, thanks. Great article Harry.
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BlueFinn added 12:47 - Jul 25
Nice work Harry! Keep them coming!! This is a notoriously challenging league to predict and it's always good to know what other supporters think of their teams.
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Tractorog added 13:17 - Jul 25
Great read, thanks Harry.
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BigginBlue added 13:33 - Jul 25
So pleased your blogs have finally been moved to main news harry.Great reads throughout last season, long may they continue!
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whosroundisitanyway added 13:59 - Jul 25
What a mine of infomation you are Harry.
Very interesting read. If fans optimism is a guide to success in the coming season then we don't appear to have much competition.......yet.
Looking forward to the views of the next trio of premiership wanabees.
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TR11BLU added 14:11 - Jul 25
Excellent article Harry, really enjoyed last seasons blogs too so keep up the good work.

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megamoth added 14:18 - Jul 25
Harry - you, sir are an absolute legend. Love your work
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GREYBLUE added 14:41 - Jul 25
Good article thanks
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N2_Blue added 15:27 - Jul 25
Harry, your enthusiam for doing these reports is incredible, I love reading the viewpoint of other fans and your blogs are now one of my favourite reads.

Hope you can keep up the tremendous work, I know many TWTD members really love these!
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HarryfromBath added 17:16 - Jul 25
Many, many thanks everyone for your kind comments, which are hugely appreciated.

ntoms, from what I have gleaned, I think that we really are flying below the radar in most supporters perceptions. The relegated three, plus Watford and Bolton really are the expected promotion candidates.

We have had a few mentions in the dark horses category. Millwall and Bournemouth are the most regularly mentioned teams in this category. I think that this is just how we want it.
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JCBLUE added 18:27 - Jul 25
Fabulous insight Harry and great to see your articles where they deserve to be. Well done Phil too!!
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RegencyBlue added 20:05 - Jul 25
Nice one Harry!
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BuckieBlue added 20:36 - Jul 25
Thanks Harry. You should get some season end reward for all your work!
Always interesting to see how other fans think.
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ShropshireBluenago09 added 21:49 - Jul 25
Has Prutton turned into Joey Barton?
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Sindre94 added 01:04 - Jul 26
Fantastic blog, keep them coming mateyy:)
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