By Andrew Baxter
This season could be crucial in the career of the huge centre-back and the Irish youngster. For Luke Oliver, the 2011/12 Player of the Season, a first team place is no longer guaranteed. For Carl McHugh, who benefitted from Oliver and Andrew Davies’ injuries to make 28 first team appearances last season, including against Arsenal and Aston Villa, and in the League Cup Final, the challenge is to repeat that.
With the quality in the squad, five centre backs (Oliver, McHugh, Davies, Rory McArdle and Michael Nelson) are competing for two defensive berths. Something has to give.
For Oliver, a lack of game time in pre-season means he has a lot of catching up to do. A starting place against Bristol City looks well beyond him, but the ultimate aim during the first half of the season must be to cement his place back in the starting eleven. A regular before his injury, Oliver must re-capture the form he produced back then, in order to be a key figure in the squad.
As for McHugh, first team football will be the target for this season. Should he not be in the side at the start, a loan spell at a good level is needed to speed up his development and increase his quality. The rise and rise of McHugh over last season was stunning, as he has grown from being an unknown trialist to keeping the likes of Callum McManaman (the Wigan winger, who tore Vincent Kompany to shreds in the FA Cup final) and Lucas Podolski at bay.
However, sitting on the bench will not help McHugh develop; and with City choosing not to run a reserve side this season, a loan spell may be the best option for the 20-year-old.
To conclude, this season will be crucial for both Luke Oliver and Carl McHugh, but for contrasting reasons.
Categories: Season Preview