By Tom Swithinbank
Part two of the WOAP pundit team’s verdict on the new season, following part one, sees Tom, Alex, Katie and Mahesh discuss City’s promotion prospects.
Which couple of players are you most looking forward to seeing this coming season?
Alex: I’m most excited about watching the new wide men, Anderson, Marshall and Morris. City were missing that directness on the flanks last season, which might not have made them a worse team, but definitely made them a less fun team to watch.
Given the bumper crowds in for this season, if these new widemen can deliver on their promise of pace and skill on the flanks, they could play a huge role in getting the crowd onside early in games and get the people going.With such strong competition on the flanks with three genuine starters fighting for two spots – this will increase to four when Morais returns – watching these players battle it out should be a fun watch all year long.
In addition to battle on the flanks, not a new signing as such, but I’m also really looking forward to see where Billy Knott can go this season. He showed a lot of promise in flashes throughout last year, and in particular in important matches, he came to the fore again and again. He does seem to have that big game temperament, even at 22, and has a great connection with the fans.
Given the new world of week in-week out ‘big’ games at home with the bumper crowds, I have a suspicion that Knott may be set to make the leap.
Katie: Billy Clarke, as he was my player of the year last season. I love watching his movements, his flair in the final third, his confidence on the ball – I think my favourite passages of play last year were the build-up to the two goals at Halifax, and he produced the goal of 2014 with that finish at Chesterfield.
He’s such an intelligent player and really offers something different for our forward line to work with. He was superb again on Saturday, and I’m excited about where he could lead us. I think Anderson looks a quality acquisition and hope we sign Jussi Jääskeläinen – they raise the ceiling of the squad and could prove to be a real difference for our squad this season.
Tom: I think Josh Morris looks set to be an exciting signing and having watched the Carlisle highlights, it was great to see him driving at the opposition defence and a decent strike for the goal too.
The two that stand out for me however are Knott and Routis. Whilst they both had difficult moments last season, nevertheless, they show great promise and could re-emerge akin to new signings for us this year. Technique doesn’t always get you as far as it should in sport and in English football especially – I would love the technique that these two show to prevail.
They show great bravery to get on the ball and make something happen and this is what we should be teaching our young footballers on pitches across the country. I really hope it works out for them…and us!
Mahesh: It’s has to be the wingers from the new signings. Marshall, Morris and now Paul Anderson. We were deprived of balance last season on the wings, so it will be good to see the return of “Parkinson 101”. That being, out and out wingers who attack their opposite numbers.
The player who I hope/think will benefit most is James Hanson. I for one am extremely pleased to see him stay in West Yorkshire and think this team really is being built around him. Hopefully the new wide men will provide him with the service he needs to score us more goals. We know it won’t always be pretty but let’s play to his strengths.
What would your starting 11 be for the opening games including any ‘question marks’ that are yet to signed?
Alex: I’d probably lean towards continuity in the early running. As the season goes on, with the flexibility of players like Morris, Davies, Marshall and Clarke, as well as the likes of Tony McMahon, Christopher Routis et al, Parkinson could get really interesting with his line-ups and tactics.
Based on the opposition, they could line up in a bunch of different ways in any given week, and we saw a little bit of this towards the end of last year. But to start out the year I’d probably expect a bit of a return to the 2013 vintage 4-4-2, with: Jaaskelainen; Darby, Clarke, McArdle, Meredith; Anderson, Knott, Liddle, Morris; Clarke and Hanson.
Katie: I don’t know how Parkinson will treat the York game in terms of resting players, but I think I’d maybe go 4-4-1-1 for the league, and really try and utilise the width that Morris and Marshall will provide. For me, it’s Darby (stomach illness impending) / McMahon, Clarke, McArdle, Meredith, Marshall, Knott, Liddle, Morris, then Hanson up top and Clarke slightly behind.
I’d be tempted to swap Liddle for Routis if the opposition demanded it, as both players have a completely different set of strengths that change the outlook of our midfield.
Tom: I would hope that Anderson can put pressure on Marshall and Morris and that Routis can make a claim for a midfield slot. I wonder what will happen with Sheehan, I doubt very much he will manage to get in ahead of Meredith, so might he move on?
Mahesh: I heard Ben Williams played well at Burnley, however he didn’t leave me with much confidence last season as our first choice. He is an able back up but he doesn’t have an aura around him like, I don’t know, someone like Jussi Jaaskelainen.
The fans have lost a security blanket in Andrew Davies. Whilst obviously not a direct positional replacement, I feel Jaaskelainen would bring an element of this security back to the side, and feeling amongst the fans.
The back four is as it is with Nathan Clarke replacing Davies. Morris and Anderson join Liddle and Knott in the a midfield four. Hanson and Clarke to lead the line.
Finally, there is a generally a lot of negativity around (twitter!) How do you feel at the moment about the coming season, are we promotion contenders?
Alex: I think we should be contenders, right? Betfair have us as fifth favourites for a start. Last year we only just missed the play offs, almost exclusively down to frequent self-sabotage at the end of games, and not killing teams off when we had the chance.
But in truth, even if they had have scrambled in to 6th place, we’d probably have been hammered by Preston anyway. We were a way off being genuine contenders. This time, given the losses of the MK Dons, Preston and Bristol City, the division will likely be weaker overall than last time out, and beyond the top three or four teams, there really isn’t much around to be scared of.
If City can start well and get some momentum for the bumper home crowds to get behind, we could ride that wave all the way through.
Katie: I’m one of those people that completely buries their head in the sand during pre-season and sticks their fingers in their ears – I don’t like to judge the unfinished article, and think it’s pointless panicking and worrying about who’s going to sign when the club are working hard behind the scenes to make things happen.
It’s not like Parkinson has been too busy with Celebrity Masterchef to completely overlook the Andrew Davies-shaped hole at the back. As a result, a lot of this negativity has passed me by, but I think there’s a new-found belief following the Anderson signing and possible arrival of Jussi Jääskeläinen.
On recent viewing, I’m confident in the progress that has been made. I think we are promotion contenders, and I think there is a unity about this squad that will see them grow stronger over the season. They are capable and intelligent footballers, but have the physicality and guile to prosper in this division. Things are looking good, and the mood in the fanbase has definitely changed in the last few days.
Tom: Yes of course! I am surprised at the lack of belief at the moment. We only missed out on the play offs last year by a couple of wins…at the time of writing: Parkinson still wants four more signings after what looks like a great signing on paper in Anderson, Knott and Routis are improving young players compared to last year, I think Morris looks a better player than Halliday and Luke James certainly better than one of my all time worst in Claret and Amber – Zoko!
I am hoping that Parkinson and the staff will have started to prove a few Twitter doom merchants wrong in a few weeks time.
Mahesh: Prior to Saturday, I thought we were a couple of signings away from being a contending side. We’re a further couple of players from being a contending squad. Unfortunately it’s not happened straight away and it’s this time that may have caused unrest. Fans have been bored without football and will talk to death the most mundane football issues (thankfully I have the Ashes to complain/cheer about!)
However, the news regarding Anderson has really lifted the place. We just need to trust the management and be patient.