The Midweek Player Focus #22: Alan Connell

By Joe Cockburn

Alan Connell signed for Bradford City this summer as table-toppers Swindon’s top scorer. He only played half the games. Swindon paid “an undisclosed six figure sum” for his services, believed to be around £115,000, just 12 months prior. Something must be good about this guy.

So far, so good. Connell looks just the player City have craved for so long. A player fantastic at holding the ball up, and creating something that most other players can not. And just this week, Phil Parkinson seems to have found a formation perfect for undoubtedly one of his most technically gifted players.

The 4-3-1-2 is ably suited to the striker, allowing him to drop off and be on the ball as much as he likes. When Gary Jones is back fit and with Ritchie Jones racing up ahead of him, it could be the perfect formula. It just fits.

Connell’s greatest ability is holding the ball up, there is no doubt about that. It is questionable, though, whether he is sensible enough to play that role. For me, he seems to try and be too fancy, too cute, and that doesn’t work. Often a simple couple of touches and lay off to the full-back is all that is required. But, again, that is also a strength, which brings something new to the team.

Connell’s first thought is always to go forward. This is almost a new revelation for our team. Will Atkinson is one whose first thought is always backwards, along with Ricky Ravenhill and even Nahki Wells is so often wasting a promising attack with a backwards pass. It is great to see someone who has the bravery and endeavour to attempt a clever little pass forwards.

Then comes the next negative – if it is considered a negative. Alan Connell is often too clever for the other players in the team. He will see something that some team mates aren’t clever enough to spot. He will play a little ball over the top which catches James Hanson on his heels, or knock one through someone’s legs to a player who hasn’t made the run he should yet. Which brings me to my next point:

Alan Connell should play with Nahki Wells.

If we have a clever player like Connell up top, why do we need a big man like James Hanson? Connell isn’t afraid to put his head where it hurts either. And if you need a target, stick Garry Thompson on one of the wings. We hardly have any wingers at the moment. It could be his route to the team.

Also, with the midfield quality of Jones and Nathan Doyle, as well as full-backs who are more than comfortable on the ball, we do not need someone who is simply on the pitch to win headers from goal kicks and long throws. With Connell, we can become a clever team.

A team who doesn’t need to worry about winning all the aerial battles, because we have League One quality across the whole pitch. And some are even better than that.

That is the baseline fact. Alan Connell can be the turning factor in this team becoming what it can. A good, solid, footballing team. A team who doesn’t have to rely on the striker winning a flick on for a quick striker to finish it off. Yes Hanson works hard, but so does Connell. He chases absolutely everything down, never letting the defenders have any time on the ball whatsoever.

This begs the question as to whether the manager has the guts to drop Hanson. Can we last a game without a big man up front? Wells and Connell would be a formidable partnership in League One, never mind League Two.

Of course, we have the 4-3-1-2, which Parkinson trialled against Hartlepool. I didn’t go to the game but reports suggest it went well. However the lack of width means there is no out ball. No-one to exploit the space that there is out wide, and the game could very easily become bogged down in midfield. And without Gary Jones, it immediately becomes much harder. Ravenhill and Doyle aren’t going to race forward at every opportunity. With the burden all falling to Ritchie Jones as a result, the player will undoubtedly tire and leaves the side short in numbers in attack.

Central to this working, is that man. Alan Connell. There aren’t many players around like him, with his ability and footballing brain, and we could have a real player on our hands. Someone we cannot afford to waste on the bench every weekend.

He has his flaws, as does every player playing at this level. His finishing seems to be lacking, having managed to not score two one on ones. Then his cracker against Accrington puts this to bed. But there are other players who can score. There is no-one else who can play with his know-how and ability.

As I said, something must be good about this guy.

Categories: Midweek Player Focus

Tags: , , , , , ,

12 replies

  1. Well spotted !

  2. Good read . I feel parky may have no choice in giving him a run in the team.
    as everybody knows im a massive hanson fan but recently hes looked tired.
    My issue is the signing of gary thompson ?
    We struggle for wideplayers but hes played upfront , a position he believes is his position? Well for me hines on one flank and thompson

    • On the other? What about young adam baker? Cant he play wide ? .
      Adam baker didnt get a run out at pool ?

    • Hanson tired! Mid-October and 6 months of the season to go!! The answer is that Hanson is a donkey, full stop. I could list his failings but don’t wish to upset the contributor Wayne. I can’t think of any pluses other than the odd headed goal. He was great in Guiseley’s front line, then playing in the NPL.

      • I’m sorrry Chris but please can you list his so-called failings? It is the easiest thing in the world to call someone a donkey, but less so to explain why. And personally I find it ridiclous that Hanson is in his FOURTH professional season at City and people still mention Guiseley as though that makes him inferior. So what if he used to play non-league, that is not a reason to say he is not good enough for this level.

        Hanson does look tired. That’s because he has played almost every game this season and over the past few weeks when we’ve been playing Saturday-Tuesday. But then again Davies and Oliver look tired, Atkinson looks tired, Doyle looks tired. Hanson is no different.

      • 1. Unable to run, at medium pace, or flat-out, i.e. never beats defenders when on the run.
        2. Heading is appalling, i.e. he persistently heads the ball to nobody (how he can be called a striker when he can’t find his own men is beyond me). Indeed, he often heads the ball upowards rather than sideways as dangerous strikers do!
        3. His best plays are often when he defends and clears the ball from set-pieces, but he’s a striker!! Maybe he should convert and go to cventral defending?
        4. Often out on the wing when his place is in the 18 yd box. Watch Nahki Wells’ movement and compare please.
        I could go on, but my hot chocolate is going cold.

      • I don’t really understand how point one can be a valid criticism. He does not have great pace for sure but then targetmen rarely do.

        I think Hanson’s heading and hold up play are excellent. It was a shame that he and Wells were not on the same wavelength on Saturday, but usually Hanson is very good at finding his strike partner. I think the sheer number of headers and flick ons Hanson wins is really impressive. When on form he is really difficult to play against, as evidenced by the number of defenders he has bullied.

        Point three again makes little sense. He is good at this stuff and that is surely a bonus. Why that is something to use against him I don’t know. I fondly remember Lee Mills being equally effective at defending and how much this helped the team.

        And point four…to me he takes up good positions and as a targetman playing alongside someone who likes to run in behind the defence (Wells) he does exactly the right things. Hanson successfully drags defenders out of position and makes room for Wells and others to run onto. I think this is very intelligent on Hanson’s part and I can’t understand why you would think otherwise.

        I make no apologies for sticking up for Hanson. Not perfect for sure, not in top form at the moment most definitely. But the amount of stick he always gets is just bewildering. I don’t see any notably better targetmen at this level.

  3. I can see Connell playing on Saturday, but so will Hanson. A team that has dominated all comers at home isn’t going to be changed other than those made due to injuries and international call ups. I’m a big fan of Connell’s and he will play up front with Wells but that wont happen on Saturday. Hanson is a fine player and certainly deserves his place as does Connell, but if BCFC do play 442 i fancy Connell will start on the bench. Having said that, Parkinson may decide to play Connell just behind the front two, a system i’d go for, this way he could play in both Hanson and Wells with his you pointed out so well.. intelligent play. A good read Joe!!

  4. You appear to like Hanson whatever my comments, I do not and when watching City I’m not easily fooled (another e.g. is Zavon Hines). My wish is for a Promotion Team, but without Hanson leading the line. In other words with a goal scoring striker in the no. 9 shirt, by that I mean 20+ goals. You must have seen Tom Pope perform first half [against Port Vale], an example of a positive footballing striker in our division (he tore Oxford apart last night on BSKYB). He’s a good example of what I’d prefer in the no. 9 shirt for City. I go back to the late 50s/60s as a speccie and saw Derek Stokes, John McCole and David Layne in that order chronologically. They were 3rd Division strikers, i.e. League 1 as is now. They scored plenty of goals; have a look at their records, apps to goals scored. Bobby Campbell was my next ‘hero’, his records were obtained in Divs 4, 3 + 2, although I admit he didn’t fare as well when he moved up to Division 2 (Championship), both @ Derby and City. We are a Fourth Division team, but need goals on a regular basis. I’m sure with the right partner Wells will prosper. If he doesen’t, then our promotion aspirations may have to wait another year. I’d even play Alan Connell as his partner short-term to see how they get on.

    • Hi Chris

      You’re right we aren’t going to agree, and to be honest I don’t want Width of a Post to be a place for angry arguments so I apologise for my tone. Let’s agree to disagree and continue constructive debate.

      One thing though, is I don’t really get the number of people praising Tom Pope recently and comparing Hanson unfavourably. Yes Pope is in good form, but his career stats are worse than Hanson and he has struggled in the past.

      James Hanson has so far started 124 games and made 16 sub appearances, with 41 goals. His ratio from starting games is 1 goal every 3.02 games, and his ratio including subs is 1 goal every 3.41 games. So he is a 1 in 3 striker, which I personally think is good.

      Pope has started 140 games in his career with 55 sub, and scored 43 goals. His goal ratio from starting is 1 goal every 3.25 games and including subs it is 1 goal every 4.53 games. This is worse than Hanson.

      • Stats from the 1950/60s for players I quoted in an earlier missive :-
        Derek Stokes 1 goal every 2.1 games; 2.35 games @ Huddersfield Town, U23 caps also.
        John McCole 1 goal every 1.87 games; 1 goal every 1.6 games @ Leeds United; 1 goal every 1.84 games in his early career @ Falkirk.
        David Layne 1 goal every 1.47 games; 1 goal every 1.42 games @ Sheff. Wed.No substitute appearances in those days.

  5. ‘Hanson is a donkey’: congratulations for effectively booing one of your own players Chris. I don’t like this sort of negativity, it’s not constructive, and it is just plain wrong anyway. As Jason correctly points out, he’s actually more effective than someone whom you suggest is a better striker somehow, and again Jason has correctly pointed out some of his other qualities in defending set-plays, which isn’t an instead of, but a great extra dimension to his all-round game. We should be grateful for that, not intimating that he should be up the other end of the pitch scoring a goal at the same time instead. He’s not perfect – who is – and he’s developing year-on-year to be a more fully-rounded player, who in conjunction with the other different types of striker we have currenly is, I believe, a great asset to City. The variety he helps provide is such an essential ingredient to a successful team.

%d bloggers like this: