Saturday 14 May 2011

Jump on the merry-go-round

Yes, it's that time of the year again.
You know the one - when Sky Sports News is full of transfer gossip, and when that annoying Bryan Swanson bloke pops up all too often with stupid graphics to tell us about transfers which are not going to happen in a month of Sundays.
Unfortunately, our Bri doesn't care about League Two, so it's down to us lot and the good old message boards to talk about that...
I have given up looking at the CTFC ones, but I can guess they are filled with names of players who Mark Yates  should be signing, and will then be filled with criticism of Mark when they sign for other clubs.
Like the anorak I am, I have been scouring the retained lists in League Two, League One and the Championship for some names, so here goes with a few 'suggestions' of my own, probably very few of whom will come anywhere near Whaddon Road.
I've started with goalkeepers as Yatesy said he was looking for someone to put some pressure on Scott Brown next season, and there are a few candidates.
In League One, Rochdale released Owain fon Williams, somewhat surprisingly in my opinion, as he has impressed me when I have seen him against us.
He is only 24, but has played 110 games in the League for Stockport, Bury and Rochdale, which gives him similar experience to Chris Dunn, let go after 98 games for Northampton.
Also in League two, Gillingham just missed the play offs and that was the end of the line for Alan Julian, a 27-year-old with more than 200 games behind him for the Gills, Stevenage (in the BSP) and Brentford.
Going higher, to Portsmouth, and Darryl Flahavan is also up for grabs. He is the most experienced of the five goalkeepers I have highlighted, with 345 appearances behind him.
At 32, he would want to be a number one choice, and like Shane Higgs at Leeds - ruled out by Yates for a return - money would probably end that one.
The final candidate is Rhys Evans, born in Swindon. He was a trainee at Chelsea but has played 260 games for a host of clubs including Swindon, Bristol Rovers, Bradford and most latterly Southend, where he was beaten by Marlon Pack's piledriver at Roots Hall.
On to the defence, and we won't be looking for a right back with Keith Lowe and Kyle Haynes for back-up, so I have looked instead at centre-halves, and the odd left back in case Yatesy wants to turn Danny Andrew into Gareth Bale.
Looking at the centre-halves, the name which jumps out at me as the biggest surprise was Nick Fenton, let go by new Rotherham manager Andy Scott.
He is 31, has played 441 games, mostly in the lower divisions, but also mostly in the North, so geography may work against us.
Closer to home is Richard Rose, let go by Hereford after 154 games in 5 seasons at Edgar Street, which was a former home for Dean Beckwith, a 27-year-old Londoner with nearly 200 starts under his belt, but released this year by Northampton.
A player who is out of contract but may look higher, or stay where he is for the battle to get back up again is Swindon's Scott Cuthbert, a former Celtic trainee with 80 games for Swindon.
Finally, and sorry for highlighting yet another ex-Hereford player, it's Josh Gowling, released by Gillingham, but has also played for Carlisle and Bournemouth - so geography clearly doesn't matter to him!
Left backs seem a bit more few and far between, but one player who plays down the left and who I am a big fan of is  Liam Davis, another surplus to the requirements of Gary Johnson at Northampton.
I must confess I would not mind he and Danny Andrew going up and down our left flank next season...
Right, on into midfield, where we need an enforcer. A Mark Yates clone. Someone to grasp the nettle and put the foot in when it's needed.
Well. again not many about in the lists I have seen, but how about 32-year-old Tommy Doherty?
Bristolian, ex-City, Yeovil, QPR and most recently Wycombe... have to confess I thought he was older than 32, but could he be the sort of player we need?
His last club was Bradford, and his last game for them was their 4-0 defeat at Whaddon Road on December 28 - come to think it, that was just about our last game too...
On similar lines, Mark Bentley, a year older at 33, has played more than 300 games, and has just left Gillingham after ending the season on loan at Cambridge.
Slightly younger are two Swindon men, Michael Timlin and Jonathan Douglas. Timlin is 28 and has played 100 games, but might be a poor man's Michael Pook, which we don't want.
Douglas is 29, but Swindon will want to keep him, so he is very much an outsider.
Also out of contract but offered a deal by his club is Russell Penn at Burton - I was impressed with him in both games against us, and he played for Yatesy at Kidderminster... 2+2=5? Maybe.
On to wingers - and even if he seems to have ruled it out, I have to confess I would love to see Martin Devaney back here after his release by Barnsley.
He would give us crosses and goals - which is what we are looking for...
Jonathan Worthington was a decent player for Huddersfield in his spell there, and has also played for Yeovil and Oldham, and Bradford was his last club.
Another experienced wide man, but with a career exclusively north of Birmingham, is Kevin Ellison, who played against us this season for Rotherham in the 6-4 madness at the Don Valley, but has played for Chester, Stockport, Hull, Lincoln and many others. Is 32, so age as well as geography could make that a no.
Now, I didn't want to bring up the 8-1 loss at Crewe, and I am only doing so because one of the men who scored three times that day, Joel Grant, has been freed by Dario Gradi.
Only 23, he has scored 19 times in 96 league starts, not bad for a player left out wide most of the time - however he must realise he would not be facing our defence every week if he came to Whaddon...
Colchester United sent us Medy Elito, and have released him, but tey have also let Simon Hackney go. I think he is a decent player, and he has had spells this year at Morecambe and Oxford, and at 27 is the right age.
Finally, another big outside bet - Northern Ireland international Ivan Sproule, let go by Bristol City.
Money a big stumbling block here (probably with all of these players to be fair...) but Sproule has spent the end of the season at Notts County (unlucky Ivan) and has also been at Yeovil.
But the whispers I hear are of a probable return to Scotland with old club Hibs.
Right. Strikers.
Here we go...
I have picked out 14 from the list, some of whom are more realistic than others.
Let's get the unlikelier ones (in my opinion anyway) out of the way first, shall we?
Age will rule this one out, but Scott McGleish is always scoring against us, so at 37 it is an outside bet that he will end up scoring for us after being released by Leyton Orient.
Three years younger and on 99 league goals is Darren Byfield, released by Walsall - however he only scored twice last season.
Money would rule out Steven Thomson, the 32 year old former Cardiff and Rangers striker, surplus to requirements at Burnley, and I imagine the same could be said for Chris Porter, who scored lots of goals for Bury and Oldham a few seasons back, and then headed for Motherwell and Derby.
Another one likely to be the wrong side of our ideal age for a striker is Richard Walker, at 33 and having left Burton Albion.
Got 46 goals for Bristol Rovers, but has not been a regular on the scoresheet for Burton, so best days could be behind him.
Personally, I am not a fan of Calvin Zola - but he is only 26 and is a powerful front man with a decent record at Crewe and Tranmere.
Of similar build is Marvin Morgan, who did well for Aldershot (25 goals in 79 starts) but left under a bit of a cloud, so maybe the off-field worries might make people steer clear.
An interesting name on the list is Leon McKenzie, now 32, but scorer of 10 goals in 17 starts for his last club Northampton in this division.
Best days were at Coventry, Peterborough and Norwich - and he was a £1million player - so he is a proven, quality player.
The same can be said of Jason Price, who has played against us several times, latterly for Bradford, and he changed the game when he came on at Valley Parade this season.
But I was surprised to see he is 34, and has only scored 67 goals in 312 league starts having wandered around several clubs on loan in recent seasons.
An interesting name on the released list was Craig McAllister, whose goals helped get Crawley promoted. He scored 12 goals for them last season, having played for Oxford and Exeter in the past, but at 30 has not played much league football.
A player I have always been impressed with is Gareth Evans, when he played against us for Bradford. He was very impressive in the 5-4 win at Whaddon Road the season before last.
He is only 23, and has already scored 33 goals in 121 starts for City and Macclesfield, so would be less of a risk than Wes Thomas was - being the same age but with much more League Two experience.
A year older at 24 is Ashley Grimes, released by Millwall, but who scored 15 goals in 24 starts in a loan spell for a Lincoln side who were relegated.
He has 17 goals in 30 league starts, an impressive record.
Grimes played against us for the Imps last season and their fans will say his suspension near the end of the season played a big part in their fate.
Also on the hunt for a club is a player I am sure we would have signed last season on loan - Jack Midson.
He scored for Oxford against us at Whaddon thanks to Scott Brown's error, and twice for Southend after joining them on loan - his only two goals for them in four games.
A hat-trick at Torquay for Oxford on January 3 after being recalled by them put paid to him joining us as we signed Phil Walsh instead, so don't be surprised if Yatesy has a go at bringing him to Cheltenham.
Finally, we have another ex-target, John Akinde, released by Bristol City and spoken about by Yatesy at the fans forum recently. My information suggests he will end up at Northampton with his old Ashton Gate manager Gary Johnson, but he may be an option.
So there you have it.
Plenty of players about, and I am sure some others will pop up as the teams involved in the play-offs decide on their released lists, and when Premier League clubs let some young players go who might be looking for a chance to start again.
Good luck Yatesy... it's going to be another interesting summer.

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