Thursday, 22 March 2012

Spying a late promotion charge...?

About 60 years ago, the names of Burgess and MacLean became infamous as part of a spying scandal - in the next eight games their names could be in lights for a different reason - in the town which is the centre for counter-espionage.
We have known for a long time that the Rubies needed a striker - even before this recent poor run of form. In fact we have probably needed at least one more all season.
Mark Yates has been getting by in the final third with Darryl Duffy, Jeff Goulding and a season-long loanee in Jimmy Spencer - Ethan Moore was meant to be the fourth, but we never even saw him.
That, in some ways, dictated the formation we started to play, the 4-5-1 played to our strengths in central midfield and allowed Yates to use Spencer or Duffy with Goulding in reserve - so for most of the season we have needed more firepower.
And now, into the Last Chance Saloon, enter Ben Burgess and Steve MacLean, exactly the pair of powerful, experienced forwards the Ruby Army have been hoping for over the past few weeks.
Burgess is 30 years old, 6ft 3ins tall and 14 and a bit stone - the architypal lower league striker, who has played against us a few times, scoring for Stockport County and Hull City.
He has scored most of his goals at Championship and League One level, playing a part in Blackpool's run to the Premier League before heading to Notts County, where he has been for two seasons.
At Meadow Lane, he became another on the very long list of players told by Martin Allen that they can have a free transfer, but he has been a regular in the side.
He has been through two promotions with Hull, scoring 18 goals in one season, and two more with Blackpool, so he has plenty of experience of taking teams across the line, or into the play-offs and beyond.
Another interesting factor is that he is a former team-mate of Darryl Duffy from Hull, being together at the KC for seven months, from when Duffy arrived in January 2006 until Burgess left in the following August.
They played together for eight minutes in the 2006-7 season opener against West Brom, with Burgess coming on after 68 minutes, then Duffy going off in the 76th.
Against Barnsley, they played together for 24 minutes, Duffy having started and Burgess coming on after 66 minutes, and in the Carling Cup against Tranmere, Duffy came on after 77 minutes to join Burgess, who went off eight minutes into extra time.
Burgess's final Hull appearance was against Coventry, when he replaced Duffy - so they have some knowledge of each other's games and will also have trained and maybe played reserve games together as well.
During his career, Duffy has played well with a big man - at Hull he spent time with Jon Parkin and Craig Fagan as well as Burgess, and at Rovers he had Ricky Lambert alongside him, so hopefully Burgess can be a help to him.
But for our number nine, it's not the only reunion he will be having at training in the morning - his old Rangers mucker Steve MacLean is also going to be reporting to Seasons.
A look at his four Rangers matches lists his team-mates there as Mikel Arteta, Barry Ferguson, Michael Mols, Ronald de Boer, Shota Arveladze, Barry Ferguson and Claudio Caniggia...
The 29-year-old, slightly short of six feet tall, is someone who starred against us for Scunthorpe and Plymouth in the past, and has finally arrived after nearly coming here a few weeks ago.
Scunthorpe and Sheffield Wednesday were the peak of his career, but he has still got goals elsewhere, but has hopped around a bit in the past few seasons.
He pitched up at Yeovil last summer and has scored four times, but an over-exuberant celebration against Bury seems to have ended his time there, and hopefully he can give us a boost.
So from having three strikers, we are suddenly up to five, and Yatesy now has real options to choose from.
Surely, the arrival of these two players means we will revert again to two up front, and against Oxford on Saturday, I would go for Duffy and Burgess to start the game.
But having Burgess in the side means the tactic will need to be 4-4-2, with two wingers (McGlashan and Mohamed...?) to get the ball into the box for Burgess to feed off.
MacLean and Spencer, I would imagine, may have to settle for being on the bench, so it could be that Goulding is the odd one out, and the man who could lose the most from these two arrivals.
But whatever happens, and whoever gets the nod, we needed these players in badly - a stat I heard today was that we have used the least number of players this season in League Two.
That only increases the magnitude of what this squad of players have achieved this season, where other clubs have used 35, 36 or more players up to Northampton's 45, we have used 22...
Andy Gallinagh, Theo Lewis and David Bird have not played in League Two, so of those 22, two are the goalkeepers, two were Marlon Jackson and Bobby Reid, who we hardly saw, one is Harry Hooman, who has come on once, while Bags Graham has started once and Jermaine McGlashan is a recent arrival.
So take those seven away, and the results this season have been achieved by a bulk of only 14 players - including Danny Andrew, who hasn't played since October and is now on loan, while Junior Smikle has also started one game.
So that is 13 players who have played the majority of the games - so they clearly need some help and some bolstering, and if Burgess and MacLean can fire, we might yet be spying a place in League One...