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I See Burton as My Barcelona - Notes For Burton Albion
Friday, 13th Aug 2021 15:00 by TomTheWriter

Ahead of Town’s first away game of the season at Burton Albion, TomTheWriter assesses the mood in the opposition camp.

The games are beginning to come thick and fast for Ipswich Town, as they head to the Midlands for their first away game of the Gamechanger era proper.

Town’s trip to the Pirelli Stadium will see them take on a Burton Albion side buoyed by their opening-day victory away to Shrewsbury Town.

The Brewers ended last season in 16th place, but that doesn’t tell the full story. On January 2nd, Burton were sat bottom of the League One table, eight points adrift of safety having played two more games than Wimbledon, who occupied the 20th spot.

However, Burton would undergo a remarkable turnaround, coinciding with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s return to the club the day before and would go on to pick up 44 points from a possible 72, and finish 10 points clear of the relegation zone.

After Hasselbaink’s arrival, Kane Hemmings turned himself into one of League One’s deadliest strikers. Joe Powell pulled the strings in midfield, with winter arrival Jonny Smith adding some much-needed spark on the wing. Blackburn loanee Hayden Carter was imperious at the back, as they kept on climbing up the table.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

“It's amazing what Jimmy and [assistant] Dino [Maamria] have done since January 2nd after taking on the challenge of a squad on its knees, staring relegation in the face, supporters despondent and most already having accepted relegation.”

The return of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink breathed new life into the Pirelli Stadium with some supporters calling his work “a miracle and I hope this upward mobility carries through into next season”.

“The thing I like about Jimmy is he always appears calm and in control of his environment, but not in a way that could be misconstrued as to what he is expecting from those around him”, “The management team is about standards and hard work. Anybody not rising to those levels will not be given opportunities in this side.”

Jimmy’s relationship with Maamria has been the catalyst for the club’s success these past eight months and the hope is for a long and fruitful partnership between the pair.

“Our style of play is largely to do with gaining territory as quickly as possible and then squeezing to maintain it”, “We play a 4-2-3-1 base formation that turns into more of a 5-4-1 out of possession”, “Offensively, we play a direct style to quickly progress the ball up to the forward/wingers who are then able to build from the support they receive”, “We play our wingers inverted and, when they are in the final third, they come narrower to allow the full-backs to overlap.”

Jimmy’s high-energy and direct style leads Burton to being a very dangerous outfit on the turn, but their lack of goal threat currently has been of huge concern for the fanbase.

That Turnaround

“[Chairman] Ben [Robinson] has given Jake [Buxton] the tools to do the job by sanctioning the signing of a number of players from clubs that wanted to keep them, a better-quality keeper plus a number of youngsters on loan from the Premier League”, “Part of the thing that makes our club feel special is the investment in the people”, “The club needs to show it is doing everything in its power to stay at the level we are and not just accept relegation without a fight.”

Burton’s owner Ben Robinson was hopeful that then newly-appointed manager Jake Buxton could lead the Brewers into a new era post-Nigel Clough, but he struggled for results early on in his reign, leading to his expected demise at the end of the year.

“Gutted for Jake and, of course, the fans. I really hoped it would work out”, “I’ve always liked Jake and yes it would have been a massive gamble to give him the chance to put it right but I did think Ben was going to give him that chance”, “After we had lost to Barnet in the FA Cup in November, that was probably the right time for a change.”

Buxton’s unconvincing spell as Burton manager led to his departure from the club at the end of December, having taken over from Clough at the end of the 2019/20 season.

After Hasselbaink’s arrival at the Pirelli in January, he made sure to overhaul the squad with players he knew could help get the club out of trouble. Nine signings we made in total, including star winger Jonny Smith and defensive rock Hayden Carter. “A big squad overhaul in January and a by-in from the players and The Great Escape was achieved.”

The Squad

Hasselbaink’s overhaul of the squad didn’t finish in January of last season with many departures confirmed over the last few months. Three-year veteran Stephen Quinn re-joined ex-manager Nigel Clough at Mansfield Town with fitness-freak Ryan Edwards departing for pastures new in South Korea. “I suppose he's a lot closer to home, will be earning a lot more money and might be able to get himself in the Australia reckoning if he does well.”

“Decent player Owen Gallacher but probably not good enough for the current squad.” Full-back Owen Gallacher departed the club this summer, joining League Two Crawley Town on a free transfer.

Multiple players were released from their deals, including Neal Eardley and Colin Daniel, with Hasselbaink opting to decrease the average age of the squad drastically to fit a new identity in the changing room.

Compared to the squad that ended the 2020/21 season, Burton have worked hard to change the ethos of the club. Seven of the starting XI from Burton’s last game of the season remain with a couple of young talents filling out the squad this season.

“Our strongest attribute is our defensive core. I think our defensive model, built on denying more dangerous position around the area and delaying actions until the defence, is set is a real asset and helps to offset some of the shortcomings we maybe feel further forward.”

Defensively, Burton conceded 73 goals last season, but only 23 of those came under Hasselbaink’s tenure, which was a total of 24 games. It was a remarkable turnaround for a defence prone to leaking goals before his arrival.

However, at the other end of the pitch is where the issues lie. “Right now, it is that final piece in the puzzle of putting the ball in the net. If the opposition score then I do struggle to see where we would score two. It’s that simple for us at the minute with the injuries and we’re probably a couple of months away from seeing that turn around.”

Burton Albion 1-1* Oxford United

“We are in dire need of a striker. Can't rely on [Tom] Hamer’s long throw for 90 minutes”, “On another note, if [Kane] Hemmings was playing tonight and had the chances [Omari] Patrick spurned, we'd have won 3/4-1”, “My main concern tonight, apart from another injury, is that we will be asking the majority of those players to go again on Saturday and then again on Tuesday against two of the big guns of the league and I think JFH missed a trick tonight by not rotating a few.”

“Positive for me tonight was how good Ryan Leak looked and I think we could have a real star on our hands”, “Also thought Tom O'Connor quietly had a decent game as well and I think he will be one of those unsung players that you will only notice when they don't play”, “As the home team we certainly edged it but generally thought it was a fair result at 1-1.”

Hasselbaink made one change for Burton’s Carabao Cup defeat to Oxford United with the injured Jacob Maddox dropping out of the side for Joe Powell. Summer signing Frazer Blake-Tracey made his Burton debut last night off the bench, but there will be worries over one-time Town target Deji Oshilaja’s potentially serious injury.

Shrewsbury 0-1 Burton Albion

“Given we have lost our last first opening games, from memory it would be nice to get off to a positive start and not put ourselves under early pressure as regards the table”, “First and foremost avoid defeat in the opening game”.

“A good three points against a very rough and awkward Shrewsbury side”, “A winning start when most of the league decided to draw”, “We looked fitter, sharper and a team in supreme condition in comparison to Shrewsbury”, “Captain Brayford duly obliged with a looping header.”

Burton opened their campaign with a comfortable 1-0 victory away to Shrewsbury Town with Hasselbaink handing seven debuts out to his summer signings, but it was captain John Brayford on the scoresheet for the Brewers.

Goalkeepers

“Are we expecting [Ellery] Balcombe to be number one for next season? Would agree that this probably means [Kieran] O’Hara will leave as it wouldn't be financially viable to have three keepers, who probably all expect to play, on the books for next season”, “I guess this means O’Hara is leaving”, “Needs to improve a little bit, did the occasional flap for us last season.”

O’Hara was Burton’s star signing in the 2019/20 season, but his return last season saw him fall behind [Ben] Garratt in the goalkeeper ranks. With Balcombe arriving, he might have fallen down the order once more.

“Garratt did well in the second half of last season but was by no means secure all of the time”, Leading keeper Ben Garratt “is what you may describe as an “old-school” goalkeeper”, “You’re not going to see him taking any risks on the ball.”


Garratt has been Burton’s number one goalkeeper since the beginning of last season, overseeing both the disastrous start but excellent sprint to the finish. Looks to have nailed down the number one spot this season.

Ben Garratt stats

Balcombe has been “signed on loan from Brentford to compete with Garratt”, “[Doncaster] rated him very highly”.

Balcombe’s loan spell with Doncaster last season saw him dropped for Louis Jones at the back end of the campaign, but he “has a decent reputation and represented England at youth levels”, “Our goalkeeper coach, Andy Quy, worked briefly at Brentford so will know him from there.”

Defenders

“I became surprised how rarely we ever seemed to gain any advantage from Hamer's long throws”, “Tom Hamer, on the other side, is an outstanding footballer”.

Hamer’s arrival from Oldham Athletic in January was an astute signing, and worked out very well for Burton considering “he’s naturally a right-sided player but filled a void on the left last season and played a huge part in survival”.

“[Cameron] Borthwick-Jackson comes from Oldham, who had the worst defensive record in League Two, and their fans said he was poor”, “Injuries have potentially stopped him kicking on in his career but Dino knows him from Oldham and he’ll be a good option there”, “Good attacking output and would be exciting in the same side as Omari Patrick.”

player imageCameron Borthwick-Jackson during his time with Manchester United

Borthwick-Jackson was once a star product of the Manchester United academy, but injuries has seen him fall down the football pyramid. An upward jump to Burton could be the catalyst for success.

“[Ryan] Leak signs on a two-year deal!”, “came out of nowhere as a signing.” Ryan Leak is “a Burton-born lad but been playing in Spain the last two years”.

Leak’s arrival was met with scepticism, but his recent performances have suggested he is a smart pick-up from Hasselbaink. “He played against Leicester as an unknown trialist but impressed greatly in that game.”

“Welcome Tom [O’Connor], doubt you will regret joining the Brewers. Onwards and upwards young man”, “Another left-back! Just come off a decent loan spell at Gillingham”, “We have energy and defensive knowhow at defensive midfield with Tom O’Connor.”

Southampton’s O’Connor spent last season with fellow League One side Gillingham, filling the gaps at both left-back and centre midfield. Looks to be pinned to the midfield spot currently.

“I liked the [goal] from Fraser Blake-Tracey, nonchalantly stroked into the corner”, “Peterborough fans seemed to think he was decent when we signed him which is normally a decent marker.”

Blake-Tracey offered mixed reactions from Posh fans after his arrival at the Brewers, but he has already developed a nickname with the fans. “Outrageous Jorginho style penalty in the [friendly cup] shoot-out win over Leicester too!”

“So far only [the Deji] Oshilaja signing excites me”, “Some Charlton fans have said it is a good thing that Oshilaja has gone”, “Deji Oshilaja, [and O’Connor] both played very well against Shrewsbury and, in a stacked central midfield department, have set a very difficult level for the others to pass”, “Just read Deji left on crutches. Done his ankle and his knee.”

Deji Oshilaja left Charlton Athletic last summer and Burton have done well to snap him up before anyone else. A young, athletic centre-half, but a serious looking injury against Oxford might affect his season greatly.

Oshilaja came very close to joining the Blues from AFC Wimbledon in the summer of 2018. He was at Portman Road but the clubs were unable to agree a fee.

“I'm guessing [Kieran] Wallace is more a 'help him get fit' situation rather than offering him a new contract”, “Been really unlucky with injuries. Currently out with knee ligaments sustained against Charlton I think. Can fit in at left-back, centre-back or defensive midfield”, “Good to see him get a new one-year deal in the summer and hoping he can kick-on when he’s recovered. If fit, he’s a good player.”

One of the Clough originals still at the club, Wallace currently finds himself on the injury table, but has the experience some of the younger defenders do not have.

Full-Back

“I do think John Brayford continues to be one of the very best full-backs in this league”, “John has been around for the a few years and is very dependable and is our captain”, “John Brayford, Mr Dependable”, “Hamer and Brayford always an outlet but couldn’t do it in final third yesterday which was frustrating to watch.”

player imageJohn Brayford challenges ex-Blues striker Oli Hawkins

Captain fantastic Brayford is entering fifth season with Burton as a permanent addition, having spent two previous spells at the club before putting pen to paper.

player image

“I think we'll rotate between Hamer and Brayford through the season, given John is nearly 34 now”, “Poor defending that from Brayford”, “I think John Brayford has got a couple of crucial headed goals and again he's had a fantastic season.”

Despite entering his golden years, Brayford is still able to pop up for a goal here and there, scoring the winner last Saturday against Shrewsbury and was credited with Wednesday’s goal before it was ruled an own goal.

Centre-Back

Michael Bostwick is an “experienced centre-back formally of Lincoln and Peterborough”, “What a whole-hearted, committed player he is and we are starting to see why he is much-loved and highly-regarded by teams he has played for in the past.”

Like Brayford, Michael Bostwick is entering the latter years of his career, but that doesn’t slow him down. “Loves a battle and a challenge.”

player image

“Injured at the minute but a real old-fashioned type of defender”, “He had a tough first half of the season but was key towards the end and will be a contender when fit to start I’d imagine”, “Was very important for us last season as he formed a really good partnership with on-loan Hayden Carter.”

He had a resurrection of sorts last season, being the ideal partner for young Hayden Carter. Bostwick will be looking at [Conor] Shaughnessy and Leak once he returns from injury.

Midfielders

“Terry Taylor has really come through strong in the games he's played and might end up an important player”, “He never looks rushed on the ball and his positioning is excellent”, “Would be a top player in other sides but maybe doesn’t quite have the abilities as an out and out defender Jimmy likes the defensive midfielders to have.”

Winter window signing Taylor has all the attributes to go far in his career, but will struggle to fit into Hasselbank’s all-action, strong midfield that he wants from his pair.

“Happy days if Shaughnessy and Leak can form a partnership and become our first choice centre-backs”, “Looked very good at centre-back against Shrewsbury and at 6ft4 is a threat at the top end”, “We have wanted to sign him a couple of times but hadn’t quite worked out”, “Good, solid, versatile player. The type that restricts Taylor’s game time.”

player imageConor Shaughnessy up against former Blues loanee Luke Garbutt

Shaughnessy’s summer arrival from Rochdale was met with fanfare from the Brewers faithful, offering some much-needed aerial threat, and he will be hoping to capitalise on Hamer’s long-throw.

“I must confess I, probably like a few others, don’t remember a great deal about [Bryn Morris’s] first spell here.” The ex-Pompey midfielder “has played a lot in pre-season and I was surprised he didn’t start against Shrewsbury based on that.”

Like Terry Taylor, Bryn Morris might find it tough to fit into Jimmy’s team this season, because even though “he looks a good player at the level, decent on the ball, like Taylor, maybe not the natural defender that Oshilaja and O’Connor are”.

“I prefer [Michael] Mancienne in that deep midfield role”, “Positionally he’s excellent and comfortable on the ball”, “I think he probably has quite a big influence in the dressing room too.”

player imageMichael Mancienne battling Patson Daka in a recent friendly with Leicester City

Michael Mancienne was another of the January arrivals, having seen his career drift slightly since leaving Chelsea, but has the “experience of the highest level and seems a good guy to have around”.

“The emergence of Ciaran Gilligan from the academy is a positive.” The young starlet looking to mix it with the new players this season is Gilligan. “Seems a busy, confident young lad. Does catch the eye”, “He’s a busy little player, always wants to be involved, who keeps things simple and could be worth a fair bit to us one day. Has settled very well at this level and looks to have the ability to play at a level or two higher.”

“I've seen Jacob [Maddox] play before and he's a lively player.” Vitoria de Guimaraes midfielder Jacob Maddox, who has joined on loan, has “EFL experience already with a full season at Cheltenham and a brief period at Tranmere. Wants to get back into playing in this country so it sounds like we’re the perfect fit for him”, “More bad news on the injury front, Jacob is out for possibly eight weeks due to an ankle injury.”

January signing Jonny Smith has “excellent technique on the ball, quick feet and works very hard out of possession”, “Arguably our best player. I would say certainly technically our best player.”

Smith’s switch from Swindon Town to Burton saw him immediately add drive and energy to the frontline. “Very quick feet and can shift inside and finish into the far corner in a similar way to what Arjen Robben used to do.”

Unfortunate Timing

“[Danny] Rowe would be a keep for me, the way he has impacted games when he has had the chance”, “When he plays for us I’ve always been impressed by him”, “Can play centrally off a striker or in the wide positions and always looks to be bringing energy and skill to his role. Sounds like he hasn’t had the best run with injuries in his career which has hurt his progress.”

player imageDanny Rowe

Ex-Town winger Danny Rowe has enjoyed a fruitful spell with Burton, having been without a club since his release from the Tractor Boys in June of 2020 until he joined the Brewers in January. Rowe’s career with Ipswich was affected by injury, but he finally made his breakthrough at the beginning of the 2019/20 season, before injury scuppered his blossoming relationship with Luke Garbutt.

Winger

“It'll be interesting to see what happens in the summer”, “I think Lucas [Akins] will still feature heavily but we'll be able to give him more breathers and keep him much fresher. I think in recent years he's been relied on too heavily and it's affected his performances”, “Akins was not in the game at all and just couldn’t make any impact, possibly just one of those games up against some physical opponents.”

Now entering his eighth season with the club, Lucas Akins still finds himself as one of the first names on the teamsheet at the age of 32. His natural fitness and excellent versatility make him a key member of the Burton dressing room.

player image

“I don't think Lucas is playing quite at the level he was a few years back but he still has a lot to offer at this level, plus being able to play anywhere across the frontline or emergency defender”, “More effective out wide but has stepped into that [forward] role before and will occupy the defenders all game long.”

In the Shrewsbury game, Akins had to fill in for the absent Hemmings and Louis Moult as a makeshift striker. He was pushed back out to his favoured wide position for the Oxford game, but without making too much of an impact.

Central Midfield

“I can certainly see Joe Powell playing off a front man with his eye for goal”, “Every cloud has a silver lining, great opportunity for Joe Powell to show his obvious talent, as long as he puts the work in at the same time”, “Joe Powell has an eye for goal and likes to get a shot away, both [Powell and Edwards] like to get in the box.”

player imageJoe Powell battles Armando Dobra

Powell arrived at Burton in the winter transfer window of 2020, after leaving West Ham United. Offering exciting ball control and technical ability, Powell has Maddox hot on his heels this season.

player image

“I'd like to see us open contract talks with Joe Powell as he's only got one year left on his deal, unless we have a one-year extension clause”, “If he had a bit more pace and worked on his fitness then he could be a good player but for me he’s best when coming on for the last part of the game”, “Powell has got one helluva left-foot shot on him though.”

With his deal coming to an end, and the untimely injury to Jacob Maddox, Powell has the chance to show Hasselbaink that he deserves a new deal. With Burton’s injuries pilling up going forward, he will need to add some more goals to his game.

Attack

Omari Patrick was another summer signing from Hasselbaink, but he “seems to have mixed views from Carlisle”, “At left wing is the right-footed and very exciting Omari Patrick”, “A signing from Carlisle who could be anything and everything across that forward line for us this season.”

After the injuries to multiple attackers, Patrick filled the striker spot against Oxford and “I would imagine that Patrick is going to have to play in most of the upcoming fixtures as we have very few other options”.

“[Josh Parker] looks to have decent delivery from dead balls and I get the impression from both Charlton and Gills fans that he’s more of a wide forward than an out and out striker”, “Not an out-and-out goalscorer, but very quick and can pick out a pass”, “You've got to think that [Josh] Parker and O'Hara will go either permanently or out on loan.”

Parker was one of the only ‘uninspiring’ winter signings from the management team as he struggled for game time and looks to be on the verge of leaving this summer.

“I must admit to being very disappointed to see Louis Moult injured as I was really looking forward to seeing him in action and felt he could get on the end of things for us.”

Moult was snapped up on a free transfer from Preston North End last month, but his injury record has come back to bite the club. “We did look short upfront, such bad luck over Moult and Hemmings.”

player imageAdam Webster watches on as Louis Moult takes to the air during his Preston days

“[Aaron Amadi] Holloway does not have a great scoring record”, “He’s been signed to occupy defenders and help retain possession higher up the pitch. If he can do that and bring Maddox, Smith and Patrick into the play more then he’ll be a useful signing.”

Like the Mike Fondop signing last season, Amadi-Holloway looks to be used in the mould of a target man, bringing others into play rather than scoring for himself. “Headline stats are he is a striker who doesn’t score goals.”

Strikers

Kane Hemmings is “our main forward and scored 15 goals in 36 League One appearances last season”, “We need a striker who doesn’t need a lot of chances and that is Kane. Has that ability to be in those positions when the ball drops and comes across as a thoroughly decent bloke off the field to”, “Often leads the press and is very vocal with the guys around him.”

Hemmings’s first season back in England saw him score 15 times across the season, after leaving Dundee in Scotland. He started the season slow, but found a real groove under Hasselbaink.

player image

“Hemmings and Moult are a big miss to start the season”, “It didn’t look serious but the switch was instant and you sense he’s going to be out for a few weeks. He had looked sharp so that was disappointing”, Really lucky to have him. Currently looking at two or three weeks out with a hamstring issue.”

Despite his excellent end to last season, Hemmings will not be able to kick on immediately after suffering an injury in pre-season. He will not be fit for the visit of Ipswich, but should be back before the end of the month.

Burton fans’ on ITFC

“It’s hard to know what to make of Ipswich this season considering it’s essentially a reboot. As I’m writing this you are about to lose to Newport but the talent you have in that squad is unbelievable for this level”, “Even after the draw with Morecambe I still have either Ipswich or Rotherham as champions this season. I’m also a big fan of Paul Cook. He’s such a good manager in my book and you probably couldn’t be in better hands there.”

“Expect Scott Fraser to score or assist at least one goal so thinking we'll need to get at least two to pick up all three points”, “I previously said our biggest strength was our solid defensive core. I think any side that has both Joe Pigott and Scott Fraser maybe has the antidote for that. Ninety-plus minutes is a long time to shut sides out for and those two only need half an opportunity to make things happen.”

Expectation

“We appear to have made a load of new signings with the intention of having a really strong squad and going for promotion this season”, “I think Jimmy/Dino have uplifted a lot of people and created a fair bit of interest”, “I get the impression we are not just going to make the numbers up in League One this season.”

“I think we’re going to see a very committed, full-blooded encounter with both fanbases playing a big role. Our management team are meticulous in their approach and I’m sure will be watching the Morecambe match with interest to see any areas that we can hurt Town, or be hurt by Town”, “Our players will feel they can compete with anybody over 90 minutes in this league and will be 100 per cent up for this one. I’m going for this one ending in a hard-fought 1-1 draw.”

Websites

There is only one forum for a die-hard Burton Albion fan, and that is Brewed in 1950. A comprehensive collection of all things Burton Albion, including the daily reports from Staffordshire Live.

@Rob_BAFC delivers some excellent in-depth reviews of the Burton Albion squad and games, and has been instrumental in the creation of this preview.


Photo: Action Images



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jabberjackson added 15:20 - Aug 13
Wow, amazing rundown - well done Tom
A burton thesis right there
Can we expect this every week?
1

DropCliffsNotBombs added 15:27 - Aug 13
Busy cnt 👍
2

Fenoit added 15:56 - Aug 13
Nice work! Thanks Tom.
4

Chondzoresk added 16:43 - Aug 13
Excellent report and read. You are the new ‘Harry from Bath’Thank you.
2

BlueandTruesince82 added 20:50 - Aug 13
Great to have the back and I'm sure Harry must approve.

Sounds like Burron fancy themselves as dark horses this year and I would say fairly.

I think Jimmy is an example of how sometimes a manager just fits a club, Not done much at other clubs but both stints with Burton so far very good.

Think they will be tough tomorrow
0

GiveusaWave added 21:19 - Aug 13
Great stuff. Well done!
0


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