By Tom Swithinbank
With just a couple of weeks to go to the new season and the squad taking shape, Katie Whyatt, Alex Scott, Mahesh Johal and Tom Swithinbank look at the big on-pitch issues from the summer.
First of all do you agree with the decisions that have been made regarding releasing players from last year?
Alex: It’s hard to say so definitively one way or the other until all the replacements are in, but for the most part, I’m on board. The only two decisions that give me pause were over Andy Halliday and Andrew Davies. The latter I’ve rambled on about long enough already, and the former, who I did enjoy as a player – any excuse – would only have been a rotation player this season anyway. Parkinson has already proven himself many times that he knows what he’s doing.
Katie: I think I’ve come to agree, yeah. Like Alex, the major quibble I had was the release of Andrew Davies, and I think, despite injuries almost halving the number of appearances he would have made for us, the quality of his replacement will characterise a large part of City’s season.
My worry is that we may have underestimated how hard it will be to find a centre half that will understand McArdle and the rest of the back four in the way Davies did. I’ve always resolutely bought into the idea that the quality Davies brought justified his absences, but I’m not privy to the information Phil Parkinson is and don’t have to work within the constraints of a budget; we might even have a stronger defence if it doesn’t have to be completed with an understudy part-way through.
Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that I trust this management team, completely. This is a big call, but Parkinson has proven himself repeatedly; in view of the time remaining to bring in a replacement, I believe he’s probably got this one right.
Tom: Initially, I wasn’t sure about Andrew Davies but I think he is replaceable; the fact that other League One clubs were unwilling to offer him a superior contract indicates that we made a sound decision.
I disagree slightly with Kate in that I think any new centre half should, in theory, find it relatively simple to slot in to the team given that the existing three defenders are such a solid unit in terms of organisation, positioning and communication – credit must go to the Steve Parkin’s coaching over the past three years.
My final word regarding released players (correct me if i’m wrong!) is that every player released by Phil Parkinson has gone down the football pyramid…Davies, Stead, Doyle, Jones, Thompson, Atkinson.. the list goes on. He must know what he is doing!
Mahesh: Reluctantly, yes. I would have loved to have seen Andrew Davies in a claret and amber shirt again but we have to back the manager on this one. Both Alex and Katie sum up mine, and probably a lot of fans thoughts on this, so I won’t exhaust the point too much more.
Along with Davies it also felt sad to say goodbye to Jon Stead. Out of all the players going into contract negotiations, he was the one I would have banked on signing. I still find it interesting that it took so long for both parties to conclude that it was not meant to be. Maybe Football Manager has given me a false perception of the negotiating process?
It was clear that we needed a new goalkeeper and centre back and now a new right winger; in your opinion do we need to strengthen in other areas?
Alex: Whilst losing Filipe Morais hurts City’s depth somewhat, Parkinson has clearly put a premium on versatility in his squad players over the past two summers, and they are as well-equipped as any to deal with the injuries that will, and already are, coming.
Other than the areas you already noted, my only concern at this point would be pretty much the same as the concern for the last 18 months. To make a legitimate run at promotion, you need to win games consistently. And to win games consistently, you need to score goals consistently.
Steven Davies and Luke James have come in for Aaron Mclean and Jon Stead, but is that going to be enough? Paul Anderson, Mark Marshall and Josh Morris have decent goal scoring records in the past, but Parkinson hasn’t built a team here that scored goals from midfield in four seasons – last year they only managed 13 goals from midfield.
I can’t imagine any more signings in the front line, and in all likelihood, the manager’s lot is cast with these four guys. But again lies the question, can you make a genuine promotion run relying primarily on James Hanson and Billy Clarke for goals?
Katie: I’d probably like another squad player or two, maybe in the vein of McMahon. Having only seen Luke James and Steven Davies for the best part of half an hour against Carlisle, I can’t possibly comment on whether they’re the answer to the goalscoring problem, but I can’t envisage Parkinson choosing to bring in any more strikers when he already has Clarke, Davies, Hanson, James and now Lewis on the books, for all the latter is one for the future.
From what little I’ve seen, I’d hedge Marshall, Morris and Knott have more goals in them than any midfield we’ve had before under Parkinson, and it’s worth noting Clarke may have broken the twenty barrier had he had featured more. If the Carlisle game is anything to go by, he’ll hit the ground running in August, but I’m still worried about whether he’ll be able to keep finding the net long enough to keep us competing at the top of the table.
Tom: Two weeks ago, Phil Parkinson said he wants five more players. I would hope that the other two positions will come in the form of a versatile centre midfielder and an attacking midfielder that can also play on the right hand side.
Every club wants a ’20 goal man’, but the reality is that it is very difficult to a) find the player and b) get them to score 20 goals (there were only four players that scored 20 in League One last year). I don’t think we have anyone that is going to score more than 15 goals but I do think we have a very strong and diverse group of strikers and as Katie says, a few midfielders who have scored a few goals in the past.
Mahesh: All I ask for from those signings is some pace. Others may disagree, but I don’t think you can be a successful side in this day and age without pace.
I would also like more depth in central midfield. In the last two seasons, I think the lack of competition and quality has hurt us in that position. Yes, we have versatile players (like Routis and McMahon) who can do a job but I think we need players who can push the likes of Knott and Liddle for places.
Focusing on Routis in particular, the praise he has received this preseason has interested me. There’s no doubt he has footballing ability however he reminds me of a League One version of David Luiz.
I haven’t been to any pre season games so I ask you dear reader for some of your thoughts. What is his position now? Has he matured so much from the Preston game in April that some feel he could be considered a starter? Is he a player that you would be confident in doing a role for the team?
In part two, the WOAP pundits discuss the new signings and the club’s prospects for the coming season.