Monday, 14 July 2008



Pld W D L F A
2 2 0 0 7 0

Well if we start the season like that I'll be more than happy. I know the teams are nothing like the quality of tier two, but you can only beat what is in front of you. As Ian Holloway would say "we got the girl in the taxi home" To be fair, at Ebbsfleet, we had her sister and best friend in the cab too.

Welling. Well it was the first game, the conditions were terrible. I have only myself to blame, I have been to the Welling game every year for over ten years, and every year both my Dad and I declare that the following season we will secure a seat. This year the tickets were available in advance, and it's hardly as though we were going to be put off by the weather. All in all I was very satisfied with the performance. Luke Varney looked very impressive. I still think he will justify the £2.5m transfer fee in due course. Fleetwood looked like he has all the tools required, but failed to score from a couple of chances that I would have expected him to. This could be for a number of reasons, and to be fair he was in the right place at the right time, and with so many goals last season he clearly must know where the net is, so I'll assume that he will start to score sooner rather than later. Hudson looked very, very strong at the back. I don't think he missed anything in the air (something that we have needed) and he is clearly a leader. Both Semedo and Fortune looked strong alongside Hudson, and I believe that Semedo will be a defender this season, which I have no worries about. Lloyd Sam looked ok, but I think there must be much more to come from him. I believe that this is a big season for Lloyd. He is no longer a kid, and at this level he should be making much more of a contribution over the course of a season than he did last season. Jerome Thomas looked like he really wanted it, but to be fair I think he did so at Welling last season as well. With just one year left on his contract, and with the likelihood that he is earning more than we can afford with no parachute payments, I believe the club should be looking very closely at what we could sell him for this summer. I guess January would be a good time to find a desperate club, but I would expect the player to hang on for a free transfer by that point, so sadly I'm tempted to suggest it might be time for him to move on. Shelvey came on and again failed to give any indication that he is only sixteen. There is little to say about this young man, as from the little I've seen of him he has everything, and I can't find one element of his game that stands out as being weaker than the rest. I guess the real test will be when he has played a dozen games and fatigue sets in, but something tells me that he will be an ever present and win the player of the year award this season. Long at right back looked good going forward, but not quite ready for the first team yet. Wagstaff looked like he would be the toast of the youth team had Shelvey not be there. Bearing in mind how long it took Scott Parker to establish himself in the first team I think that a dozen first team appearances would be a good season for young Scott, and I believe that he will not disgrace himself. Yussuff looked a little lightweight on the wing, but showed in the middle that he does have some ability. I suspect that we will, however, see little of him in the first team this season. Dean Sinclair was, in my view, very poor. There also seemed to be a reluctance from the other players to pass to him. Maybe I imagined that, but either way I believe that by the time we have so few players available that we need to play him, we will be in serious trouble. even if we don't sign another midfielder and we sell ZZ, he must be behind Holland, Shelvey, Racon, Semedo, Ambrose and Harry Arter and Josh Wright. I never really knew why we bought him in the first place, but either way I think we should consider moving him on now.

Ebbsfleet. As a non-league team playing a tier two side the last thing you want to do is concede a goal in the first minute. It was an o.g. but I don't think that really matters, it set the tone and we were rampant. Special mention again for Luke Varney, Mark Hudson and Jonjo Shelvey. As you can imagine there is not much criticism from a game where we score six and concede none. Ebbsfleet have a player with one of those haircuts that suggests that he must be good, or at least think he is. Their left back, Sacha Opinel, seemed very popular with the crowd, so I'm going to assume that it is the former, but Wagstaff made him look less than average all afternoon. I genuinely believe that we have a real contender in Scott, and he could be significant this season, even if he only plays a limited role. Other points that I noticed: Andy Gray looked more like the player we (thought) we'd signed; Racon looked impressive in midfield (better than the cameo at right back at Welling); Semedo looked comfortable at right back; Thomas, again, looked up for it; Elliot confirmed what I saw at Plymouth last May, he is good enough. If we miss Weaver for periods this season I will not be nervous with Rob in goal. Fortune played in both games and looked good enough, although Semedo and Fortune looked weaker than Hudson and either of them. However we were six-nil up and the game was coming to an end, so I'll not be too judgemental. Moo2kill came on and looked great going forward, didn't see enough of him defending to comment to be honest. Dean Sinclair was, again, not really good enough, although he did have a decent shot late on.

So, overall I am more than happy with what I've seen. With Marcus Bent due to leave today and with Big Chris already gone that reduces the number of strikers from ridiculous to just a little bit silly. Marcus Bent never looked like he was going to deliver for us, even though he clearly has the ability. As a lazy person myself, I can hardly criticise him for not giving his all, despite what he earns, but I can't help being surprised that Cardiff would want him. Having said that, I thought there mad to sign Hasslebaink last summer, and I suppose we should remember, that their Chairman is the man that oversaw the player purchases at Leeds that (allegedly) started the chain reaction that saw them fall from European Cup semi-finalists, to tier three.

Big Chris, unlike Marcus Bent, goes with my best wishes. He was signed as an established tier two striker that has height and not limited ability. He was our leading scorer last season, and scored some very important (and enjoyable) goals. The winner at Southampton will probably stay with me for a long time. He was criticised for being the target of the long ball at times last season, but I believe that this is harsh as he was not the one whacking the ball up from defence. Either way I agree that we are probably not going to need him enough this season to justify keeping him, and with the fee being estimated at circa £900k we have made a decent profit on him. Compare that to McLeod, Gray and certainly McCarthy.

There seems to be rumours about Faye and Stoke. I believe that if we can remove him from the wage bill Pardew will be able to bring in the midfielder and or defender that he thinks he needs. Injury seems to have put pay to ZZ's move to the Premiership, but I have a niggling feeling that Bougherra will be off. Maybe that's why Semedo has been drafted back into defence, and why Pardew thinks we need to strengthen there. However, £2.5m would be too much to turn down. I know that's what we paid for him, but right now £2.5m is a massive sum for a club with such budget constraints.

The team are of to Spain now, and unlike Valencia two years ago, I have no intention of following them. I guess that means no more transfers for the time being.

VIva Espania!

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