A Squad Review
Boaz Myhill has arrived from Aston Villa with the expectation of being a 'great prospect' sat squarely on his shoulders. To date he has done nothing to suggest that he won't indeed fulfil this potential. His youth, tremendous frame and keenness to command his area all add up to an exciting talent who could well make the position his own for a very long time to come.
Matt Duke's arrival from Burton Albion serves notice to Myhill that the keeper's jersey may take some holding onto. He was Burton's player of the year last year and at 27 years of age will look at this move as his last big chance to prove himself at a higher level. One already gets the impression he has not just come to warm the bench.
How about the department of defence? Let's compartmentalise the defence into 3 distinct disciplines, Centre Backs, Right Backs and Left Backs. Starting with Centre Backs;
To start we have Taylor's first signing, Damien Delaney. Such a physique coupled with a good left foot make for an impressive player and one who, at the moment, looks as though he is going to get better and better. Another of Taylor's utility signing's, he has now made the left sided centre back position his own with some towering performances.
After a patchy start to his City career Marc Joseph has emerged as a solid, reliable player with a turn of pace and has now formed a dependable partnership with Delaney in the centre of defence.
Richard Hinds's utility value to the team cannot be over estimated. He started last season at centre back but has also proved his worth at Right Back. Performances in midfield have not proved quite as successful, but his defensive versatility is a real bonus.
Leon Cort has arrived from Southend United with Taylor suggesting he has the same potential as Delaney. It will be interesting to see whether this is the case and if he can oust Joseph from the starting line up. A badly bruised toe in pre-season training looks like delaying his assault.
Next it's the Right Back berth.
Alton Thelwell's career with City has been dogged by injuries, but recent performances suggest he has potential and his versatility has been proven with some solid performances at Left Back during Dawson's enforced absence. When he and Dawson are fit, the right back berth appears to be his.
Scott Wiseman now looks as though he, and not the unfortunate Lee Marshall, is going to provide the necessary competition for Thelwell. Wiseman's year on year improvement as he progressed through City's youth ranks has resulted in a number of impressive performances for the Reserves. His potential has been duly rewarded with a two-year contract.
Now for the Left Backs,
Andy Dawson's arrival from Scunthorpe United, with the disputed title of 'best left back in the third division', would seem worthy after an impressive start to his tigers career. A very dependable performer with a liking for Beckham-esque free kicks.
Roland Edge has arrived from Hibernian with the reputation of a no nonsense defender. He will have his work cut out deposing Dawson, but what he may lack in attacking prowess, it sounds as if he might well make up for it with his defensive qualities.
Nathan Peat looks as though he will have to prove his worth by putting in some good performances for Lincoln, were he has gone on loan. Considering his lack of first team action over the last two years, some have been surprised by his latest contract extension. He will need to perform well at Lincoln if he is to further his career with his hometown club.
With the defence sorted we move onto the midfield. In Centre Midfield we need plenty of options.
Ian Ashbee is a reliable player with a no-nonsense approach. He may not possess much in the creativity department, but his enthusiasm and drive have made him an influential captain. His vocal presence and organisational skills should not be underestimated.
If Nick Barmby can produce anything close to what we know he is capable of and can remain fairly injury free we could be on the fringe of something quite special. The 'local lad come home' tag carries it's own pressures, but surely no more than cutting it with 5 different Premiership clubs and turning out for England on 23 occasions.
Then we have the precocious talent of Stuart Green. I don't think there's any need for me to wax lyrical. Suffice to say that his undoubted ability has won the day and his role in the squad is secure. He provides essential strength in depth for the 'playmaker' role contested by Barmby.
Junior Lewis's attributes are subtle but essential to a successful team. Though he is never going to score many goals, set them up or make long telling passes, his awkward, athletic style and knack of disrupting the oppositions play make him a useful squad member. He offers experience and strength to the midfield as either cover or support for the all action Ashbee.
Russell Fry is a young talent of whom much is expected. Being handed a three year contract at only 16 years of age was a firm signal of City's belief and also a clear message of 'hands off' to would be suitors. So far injuries have blighted his progress, but a good pre season will hopefully see him emerge from the shadows.
Jason Price not only gives the team attacking width, but also provides essential balance, with Elliott operating in a similar role on the left. He offers all you could want from a winger, pace, goals and a good work ethic.
Ryan France arrived from non-league Alfreton Town with a bang. Not many players make scoring debuts in a 6-1 victory. The early signs are very good as he possesses good feet, pace and a prodigious leap. He is the heir apparent to Price should injuries or suspension arise.
The final midfield berth is Left Midfield.
Once again we have a very special talent in Stuart Elliott. Deceptively quick and good in the air, his potential; like so many of this team; will be truly recognised as City progress through the leagues. Like Price, pace and goals are his biggest assets and of late the defensive aspect of his game has also improved.
Michael Keane's arrival from Preston North End in a £50,000 deal brings something different to the Tigers squad. He has something of a 'bad boy' reputation, which if managed correctly, could provide the spark required to dig out performances when things aren't quite going to plan.
And so we arrive at the final, and some might say the most important area of the team, the Centre Forwards. After all, without goals you don't win matches, regardless of your defensive and creative prowess.
Ben Burgess is the attacking lynchpin through which City develop most of their attacks. At 6ft 3in and 14st you'd be forgiven for assuming his game is all about physical presence and aerial dominance, and to some extent it is, but he has good feet and links play extremely well. The horrific knee injury suffered at the end of last season has effectively ruled him out of the entire campaign. Hopefully for Ben and City he makes a full recovery and returns to the fold in time for the 2005/06 season.
Danny Allsopp arrived from Notts County for £100,000 with a 'goal every other game' record. He maintained this ratio during our promotion campaign with his direct style of play and quick turn of pace.
Jonathan Walters's arrival from Bolton Wanderers is providing Allsopp with stiff competition for a starting position. He is similar in build and style to Allsopp, and has the same blistering pace.
Delroy Facey has signed for the Tigers in the face of stiff competition from teams like Crystal Palace, who have just been promoted to the Premier League. Having shot to prominence at Huddersfield with his electric pace and eye for goal he was quickly snapped up by Bolton. Injuries and a lack of first team opportunities have stifled his career. If he can find the form from his Huddersfield days he could prove to be a considerable force in League One this season.
Aaron Wilbraham was not a name known to most Tigers fans before his £100,000 capture from Stockport County. Bought as a direct replacement for Burgess, at 6ft 3in and 13st he fits the bill. Lets hope he's as much a handful for opposition defenders as his predecessor Burgess was last season.
Clayton Donaldson's performances, and more importantly, goals for the juniors and reserves, have resulted in a two-year contract. At such an early stage in his career, it is too early to assess his capabilities, suffice to say his potential has been recognised and rewarded. A season long loan spell at Harrogate Town could prove to be a good move in his development.
In summary, City's squad of 22 actually ends up at 26;
Goalkeepers: Myhill, Duke
Centre Backs: Delaney, Joseph, Cort, Hinds
Right Backs: Thelwell, Wiseman
Left Backs: Dawson, Edge, Peat
Central Midfielders: Ashbee, Barmby, Green, Lewis, Fry
Right Midfielders: Price, France
Left Midfielders: Elliott, Keane
Centre Forwards: Allsopp, Burgess, Walters, Donaldson, Facey, Wilbraham
For the first time in a long time I feel confident in stating that when injury, suspension, international duty or lack of form appear, we have more than enough quality replacements in every position to cope admirably.