Date:Monday July 21 2008
We're still, apparently, a couple of players short of a complete team but us fans know at least eight players who should be 'good to go' on August 9th.
Holland definitely has a 'make or break' season ahead of him. Anything other than a vast improvement on last season will not be tolerated by the no-so-barmy army. It's going to be a tough division too, no-one (at the moment) looks like they're heading for administration and there aren't four teams you can say will definitely be in the bottom four come May.
Has Holland put together a decent enough squad?
Steve Collis - Signed from Southend on a free and looks to be a very capable keeper. However, he's never faced a full season of games as number one. Can he stand up to what will be a hard season? He'll have to, we have few other options.
Julien Baudet - Certain to be captain next season, Holland has already pretty much said he's building a defence round him. His improvement in the last two season has been exceptional, a defender who can compliment him well would go down a treat.
Michael O'Connor - Essential? O'Connor? Yes. I'm predicting a big season from Occy. A replacement for Gary Roberts, who can remain in the corner with a sour face. He showed good form towards the end of last season, carry that on into the next 12 months and we're looking at a very decent player.
Nicky Maynard - Ah, Maynard. Will he go? The answer is probably, but whilst he's here he is the first name on the team sheet. Fans, mostly opposition fans, doubt the £2million price tag but if he's here for the season then I'm certain he'll live up to it. 25 or 30 goals is the quesiton.
Billy Jones - Our only qualified left back is unlikely to get the chop any time soon. Debate fades in and out over whether he is good enough; for me he's comfortable and having seen us without a left back for the last 5 out of 6 years, comfortable is good enough.
Danny Woodards - Still on the transfer list, reportedly attracting no-one. At the time he was transfer listed I didn't think he'd be here by the end of July but it looks like I misjudged the situation. If Woodards remains it puts Holland in a sticky situation - your best defender or the one who shows more commitment for the long term?
Steven Schumacher - He's not spectacular but he does his job quietly - he's like a modern day Neil Sorvel. If we assume Gary Roberts won't be around much longer then a Schumacher-O'Connor double act in midfield may be in the pipe line.
Jake Livemore - Spurs loanee who Steve Holland rates very highly but at 18 is he likely to go straight into 46 games a season with us?
Calvin Zola - We've paid £200,000, we'll bloody well use him.
Joel Grant - £130,000 was a bit steep when it's not a guarantee he'll make it at this level. I pray he somehow turns out to be some amazing find - like Bournemouth got with Max Gradel last season.
Don't Count Your Chickens
George Abbey - All depends on Woodards' situation but Holland would be wrong to to go with Abbey whilst Woodards is at the club.
Danny O'Donnell - He was utterly useless last season and could be some way behind the first team if Holland finds a new centre back.
Chris McCready - He wasn't quite as useless but Holland is seeking a replacement thankfully.
Ben Rix - His likely omission will please most. He should/could be nothing more than a bit-part player.
Eugen Bopp - He was told to leave six months ago but now Holland seems to be taking a shine to Bopp. He impressed fans last season with a few quality substitute appearances before losing all that admiration after a shoddy display at home to Forest. Clearly a player with a lot of skill, if he can apply himself he could well be a surprise player.
Byron Moore - Steve Holland and fans lost patience in old shirker towards the end of last season. His poor finishing and lack of willingness to tackle needs to be overcome, I can't see him starting the season like last.
Tom Pope - The arrival of Zola has put our Popey out in the cold. He had a promising end to last season but is he really the man to help us back up the table? Probably not.
You'll Be Lucky
Adam Legzdins - He's arrived as 2nd choice and is likely to remain that way whilst Collis is fit. Being young and inexperienced, there is little benefit to the team in sticking him in.
Gary Roberts - Mardy bum has burnt his bridges and is unlikely to return to Holland's good books. A move away from the club won't come soon enough.
Mark Carrington - Appearing vaguely over the past couple of years, it seems no-one in the management team is too keen on him. Will he break through or is he playing for a future elsewhere? The latter I reckon.
Shaun Miller - He's shown promise but not much else. He's desperate to get in the team but it doesn't look likely he's the answer to any potential problems. Should Maynard go a replacement will be sought from the outside.
Colin Daniel - Having shown nothing in his year at the club it's likely to be another season of loan moves for 'Junior'.
Players not mentioned for various reasons include Stuart Tomlinson and the academy bunch.
So, the starting 11 is still far from certain. A new centre back is needed, I would say, if we're to challenge much higher than the bottom 8 whilst Maynard's (possible) replacement will have a lot to live up to.
At the moment, a safe bet for the 11 come August 9th, barring injuries and transfer sales, could be:
For me, the fate of next season then rests on the new centre back. Can they sure up the defence enough?
Even with expected departures, we can guess that Anthony Elding is the most likely replacement for Maynard whilst Abbey ok at right back.
Have we improved on last year? Definitely. Is it enough? Probably not. I still see a depressing season, but hopefully free of a relegation scrap - but then that's all that Holland has promised so far this summer.
Date:Monday July 21 2008
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