Friday, August 16, 2013

View from the Home End

It's fair to say it has been a funny old summer.

Not funny like a clown, funny in a make us laugh kind of way. Rather funny in an odd sort of way.

After the disappointing end to last season, I outlined where I thought the squad sat and what we needed to do to bolster it, effectively concluding we needed at least three new players (a defender, a striker and a winger).

While the news that Sideshow Bob is staying is music to all of our ears, with Perchinho now gone I still think we look light in defence. Mike Williamson is still lurking in the wings for when Saylor inevitably picks up an injury and is joined by one of Sideshow Bob or MYM.

The only new arrival to the first-team squad is one-time mercenary Loic Remy. His motivation for being with us may be questionable, but at least he has already developed a knack for scoring in the Premier League and with the World Cup looming he has reason to play his heart out if he wants to get into the France squad (a fact which is true for a significant percentage of our first-team squad).

However, Remy's fitness record has some question marks hanging over it and to that end we would be wise to try and add another striker before the month is out, or be left hoping that pre-season tyro Big Lad stays fit and that Adam Campbell and Haris Vuckic enjoy a break-out season.

While we added numbers, and quality, in January (in some cases accelerating planned summer transfers to keep ourselves safe) there remains a nagging concern that despite a strong-looking first XI, once injuries and player form take their toll the squad looks quite thin. A second string featuring Rob Elliot, Williamson, Paul Dummett, Master T, Little Big Lad and friends isn't likely to tear up too many trees (as we found away to Brighton last year in the FA Cup).

It therefore remains to be seen whether (a) we can keep our first team fit and injury-free this year more than we managed last and (b) whether we can attract anyone else to join our merry band before August's end.

The challenge for recruitment is, of course, the big story of our summer; namely the arrival of JFK. Scotching the proposed signing of Douglas was hardly a blistering start (not least because we've subsequently done nothing to sign an alternative defender), and our apparently frustrated pursuit of both Darren Bent and Bafetimbi Gomis has hardly done much to endorse JFK's claims to be BFFs with every top manager in the country and a player magnet. Rather he appears about as popular and appealing as a fart in a lift.

If, and it is a massive IF, we can keep everyone fit and in form we're a match for pretty much every side in the division. However, if we don't start well then, with much of his goodwill eroded by last year's excuse-packed failings, the Silver Fox could well find himself working a zero-hours contract in Sports Direct as JFK breaks out the beta-blockers and settles back into the manager's chair.

Frankly that's a prospect which simply doesn't bear thinking about, so I can only adopt my typically upbeat approach as the season starts and we're all equal. 

Maybe this might be our year. Maybe we'll manage at least one, if not two, good cup runs and a significantly more encouraging league campaign than last year, and maybe we'll put Paolo's mob back in their place. Anything else is a little too depressing to contemplate right now.

Howay the lads!

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