How the players rated at Wembley (and how far they could take the club from here)

By Alex Scott and Tim Penfold

When Tim and I were asked to come up with some player ratings after Saturday’s [redacted] at the hands of Millwall (too soon) we tried to think of the most useful scale upon which to rate the players (1-10 is so 2000 and late). As it turns out, the most useful prism for us to use might have been the ability to dodge pitch invaders, but I’m not sure I’ve focused enough on the skills of dodging, ducking, dipping, diving and dodging enough throughout the season to give an informed view.

Instead I proposed to rate the players on a scale of my own creation, based on how ready they looked to play in the Championship. My initial title for this was “The Marcus Stewart Spectrum”, who in my head was the “most” Championship player I could think of.

Unfortunately, as with most of my ideas, Tim pointed out the flaws mercilessly and with a special sort of glee, relying heavily on Ipswich 2000/01. He then proposed another name, which was so perfect I suffered from a severe bout of self-loathing for not coming up with it myself (its been a tough couple of days).

Anyway, without further ado, we present “The Nugent Scale” named for the Championship’s Lord and Saviour Dave Nugent. Not only is Big Dave’s career record divided almost the totally on party lines (Championship – 320 apps, 108 goals; Premiership – 97 apps, 14 goals), he also managed to get called up to the England squad (and generate the best goals/min ratio in the history of English football – as well as cementing himself in the Goal Stealing Hall of Fame (GSHOF)) all whilst starring in the Championship. If you want to make it in the Championship, The Nuge is the standard you have to reach.

So without further ado, how did the players on Saturday fared on the Nugent Scale?

Colin Doyle – 60% Nuge

Alex: The City keeper didn’t have much opportunity to showcase his skills at Wembley after his defence again restricted the opposition’s opportunities in front of goal. He couldn’t be blamed for the goal itself, and did stand up quite well to a barrage of in-swinging corners from one of the biggest and strongest sides in the division. After a slightly up and down season, there are questions about whether he could cut it a higher level, but a solid enough display yesterday.

Tim: Not much to disagree with.  He had no chance with the goal, and dealt with the corners (and the Millwall players constantly blocking him off) well.  His distribution was a little bit poor though – the tactics of aiming for the wing-backs on half way meant that every clearance had to be perfect, and therefore any slight inaccuracy was amplified.  A solid if unspectacular season.

Tony McMahon – 50% Nuge

T: He got up and down the flank well, and his delivery, especially from set pieces, deserved better, but his decision making was sometimes poor (yes, I’m still annoyed about him shooting from an impossible angle when we had four players in the six yard box in the 95th minute).  At the higher level his lack of genuine pace will eventually catch him out.

A: I think this is slightly harsh. Whilst he didn’t have his best game on Saturday, he did what he could going forward, and offered an outlet, even if the final ball was sometimes lacking.  I think his set piece delivery and intangibles (diving for free kicks, fouling without getting caught, general winding up of opposition) would make a lot of other problems go away, and in the right situation he could probably do a job. Though I guess your take is probably fair; top of League One seems about right at this point in his career. And as you say, that moment he had in injury time may haunt him for a while.

Rory McArdle – 70% Nuge

A: Rory capped off a solid second half of the season with probably his toughest assignment of the year up against Steve Morison and Lee Gregory. He and the rest of the back three fought hard, but in the end, couldn’t contain the pair. McArdle has shown enough in his career to demonstrate that he could certainly compete in the lower end of the Championship, and he reinforced that again yesterday. We’ll understand his market value soon enough as he’s now out of contract.

T: I’ve said for the last couple of seasons that he’s the best natural defender in the lower leagues, and against the most awkward and physical strike force in the division he acquitted himself very well.  He wasn’t really tested technically – the back three system made it difficult for Millwall to press our centre backs – but did enough to show that he’s improved that side of his game this season.  Should’ve scored though.

Romain Vincelot – 65% Nuge

T: The back three generally worked well at Wembley, and Vincelot was at the heart of that.  He was often the spare man, mopping up after McArdle or KP had scrapped for the initial header and bringing the ball out.  He’s technically excellent for a centre half, and his versatility would make him a fine squad option at a higher level, but, like many of this team, he’s either at his peak or slightly past it, so the only way he’s going to get there is by winning promotion.

A: Yeah, I guess on balance the back three worked. If they left just NKP and McArdle alone, I think that would have invited disaster, and for the most part the back three looked solid enough. After the substitutions, with three men left further forward the midfield was outmanned (and was eventually their downfall) so I wonder whether Vincelot could have stepped forward at that point to try and sort out the team’s balance. Though I doubt it would have changed anything. Another good performance by Vincelot though as you say. He’s been a great signing.

Nathaniel Knight-Percival – 65% Nuge

T: If any of this squad are capable of “doing a Wayne Jacobs” and going all the way to the highest level unexpectedly, I’d have a sneaking suspicion that Knight-Percival might be that man.  He’s gone from the star defender in a poor defence to a very solid part of a good defence and, after some initial wobbles, his pairing with McArdle has gone from strength to strength.  He, like the rest of the back three, handled Gregory and Morison well, and his composure on the ball and ability to push forward were also on display.

A: Oooh, interesting shout! Bit obvious but do you not think Meredith would have more chance of that? Weirdly, if Parkinson didn’t leave, I also think Stephen Darby had scope for that title, but he’d need to be in the right team, and this season’s team wasn’t it. NKP did have another solid game as you say. I would have no problem with having him and McArdle reunite next year. Even if they got promoted, I think I’d be up for that.

James Meredith – 85% Nuge

A: Another of City’s out of contract players, Meredith will almost certainly attract attention from Championship clubs this week, and has likely played his last game for the club. Meredith capped off his season with another impressive display on City’s left flank, though his ability to influence the play waned as his team’s slick passing disappeared in the game’s final quarter. That said, he’s certainly showed enough over the last few years to demonstrate that he deserves a crack at the Championship.

T: He’s very good defensively, and very athletic – if you could give him Tony McMahon’s crossing ability you’d have a top end Championship full back.  We’ve known all season that he was off to the Championship with or without us – I just hope it isn’t with L**ds.

A: True that. Think they’ve lost Charlie Taylor as well, somewhat worryingly in this regard. Please James, think of the children! Please don’t go to L**ds!

Josh Cullen – 90% Nuge

T: I don’t care that he can’t shoot.  He can pick up a game and run it from start to finish at his best, and came close to doing that at Wembley.  At his best, he can pick up the ball from the back line and, after a couple of one-twos or a slaloming run, give it to one of the main creators in a great position.  His defensive work is magnificent, and he very rarely wastes possession.  He never hides either – he’s always available for a pass.  Championship clubs will snap him up because they understand how important he is beyond just goals and assists.

A: Totally agree with that; he demonstrated again that he could easily cut it at the next level. On shooting, I do weirdly admire his “can’t shoot, won’t shoot” approach to the game. A sad way for his City career to come to an end, but he certainly needs to move on to the Championship now, and I think he can do so with all of our blessings.

Nicky Law – 55% Nuge

A: Nicky Law was one of City’s strongest players over the first half of the season, cutting in off the left flank, linking well both inside and outside. Whilst Mark Marshall has flourished after McCall’s mid season shift in formation, Law has faded in influence in his more central role. This much was also true at Wembley where despite looking tidy and helping his team’s expansive play flow, he struggled to exert his will on the game. Law has shown this year if you build a team to his strengths he can star, however, without that focus he has become ineffectual.

T: If you could sum up a player’s season in one game, then surely this was the case for Law.  Some really good contributions early on, but it never turned into anything substantial and he faded badly as the game went on.  Next season is a big one for him – if we have the Law from the first few months of the season he’ll be one of the stars of the division, but if it’s the one from the second half of the season he’ll be gone in a year.

Billy Clarke – 50% Nuge

T: Similarly to Law, he summed up his strengths and weaknesses in one game.  During our period of dominance he was everywhere, linking with Cullen, Marshall and Law, but given the big chance to score he fluffed his lines.  It was a great save, but he wasn’t quite quick enough when running on to the ball and this forced him on to his weaker foot.  It’s these little weaknesses that means he’s unlikely to get higher up than he is now.

A: I think that’s maybe a little harsh on the basis of Saturday’s game. I’ve not been the biggest fan of Clarke this season, but thought he played really well first half. But as you say, taken in the round,  there are too many little weaknesses in his game to move up a level at this stage. Fundamentally, he hasn’t got the killer instinct in front of goal and in a team like ours, he has to bear that responsibility. That first half was his season in a nutshell.

Charlie Wyke – 55% Nuge

A: Another tough ask for Wyke, being left isolated against a strong Millwall defence, and struggled to really get into the game. After an impressive start to his City career, he has failed to kick on down the stretch as the pressure rose. Though, like at Wembley, this may be a result of his team’s approach as much as his play. Still to prove himself at this level, it may be too soon for him to think about the next level.

T: I don’t think the tactical switch away from 4-4-2 has helped him that much – he’s a striker that thrives on crosses into the box, but without wingers the ball doesn’t get chucked in there as much.  Millwall’s central defenders handled him well, though his hold up play was excellent.   Next season is key for him – if he can get 20+ goals, then he’ll definitely be ready for the step up.

Mark Marshall – 70% Nuge

T: If you’d asked me a year ago “who from this squad might step up to the Championship?”, then Marshall would’ve been very close to the bottom of the list.  He didn’t have Championship pedigree like Paul Anderson, or the potential to improve like Josh Morris, and he didn’t fit into our tactical system.  Yet this season, especially since January, he’s been magnificent, and he was our liveliest attacking player again at Wembley.  He’s mostly cut out his frustrating tendency to dally on the ball in attacking areas, and it makes him a far more effective player.  I’m not sure, given his age, that a Championship side will take the gamble, but they could do far worse.

A: Given he’s available for nothing, I think I’d take a punt if I was one of the sides battling relegation in the Championship next year. He’s demonstrated this year that he can star in the right situation, with the right manager, and I think he’d be worth a go. He faded out at Wembley, but that hasn’t been characteristic of his season, where he’s been the most important player for the past few months.


Alex Jones – 50% Nuge

A: Tough ask for Jones, being asked to come on and change a game that was already slipping away after not having any action for three weeks. His arrival unfortunately worsened the slide, culminating in the late defeat – though certainly not his fault. Jones has the potential to move up a level in time, but moments like yesterday show he still has a way to go.

T: He never really had the chance to get into the game off the bench – our performance levels were dropping before the subs, and removing Clarke and Law necessitated going a bit more direct, which didn’t suit him quite as much.  You could still see some of the sharpness of movement that he has, which nearly got him beyond the Millwall defence, but the ball never broke to him in the box, which is where he’s deadliest.

Tim Dieng – 40% Nuge

T: There’s potential there, but he’s got to cut out the sloppy mistakes.  He’s got a tendency to not track his runners properly, which didn’t help with the goal we conceded (and was also obvious against Sheffield Utd), and while he’s good on the ball, he’s not got the ability of Vincelot or Cullen in a tight space.  He could easily become a fine holding midfielder – they’re the sort of players who peak later as it’s about experience and decision making – and his mobility and power can compensate for a lot, but he’s not there yet.

A: I think that’s probably fair. I think there’s a good League One player in there somewhere but I don’t think he’s necessarily found it yet. Probably a little way away from stepping up to the next level, but has another season to consolidate.

Categories: The 2016/17 play offs

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3 replies

  1. Interesting article with an interesting concept.

    I do believe that Meredith has unfortunately played his last game for us and will be playing at a higher level next season. I was talking with a York City supporter after the FA Trophy final on Sunday and he said that he saw Meredith’s potential five seasons ago when he was playing at Bootham Crescent.

    Hopefully McCall will be able to convince Marshall to sign a new contract with us. How Marshall has flourished this season shows how people can respond positively when managed by the right person.

    As for our third M, McArdle, like Marshall I hope that he signs a new contract with us. I hold my hand up as I thought that McArdle would leave us in the January 2017 transfer window. His passing has improved and I like his attitude to the game.

    One thing is for sure and that is that the expectation levels will be greater next season. Let’s hope that McCall can add another promotion to his Bradford City career.

  2. I agree with most of that article and a nice change of the usual 10 out of 10.

    I honestly feel we wont see Meredith, Darby, Clarke, Cullen and Marshall again but I can see McArdle and McMahon staying

    • Great article with lots of debate. I know I am in a minority among City fans but I think you are being generous rating Meredith at 85%. My view of Saturday’s performance was that Millwall managed to force in inside on to his weaker right foot which cut down his effectiveness.
      I think that lots of Championship teams will do the same.
      Great League One player. Like I said, a minority view.

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