Thursday, 15 August 2013

On the fringe

The hardest time for any footballer is when they are not playing.
All they can do is turn up for training, give it their all and hope to catch the manager's eye, and then get their name back in the side for the following Saturday.
For players, all it is about is being in that starting 11 at 3pm on a Saturday, or 7.45pm on a Tuesday, and if they are not for any period of time, then things can get difficult, and they can become unsettled.
On Tuesday at Seasons, we saw a few of those who have not featured in our manager's 11 thus far - notably Jason Taylor and Billy Jones.
Now, we have had it confirmed that Jones and Taylor have asked Mark Yates if they can go out on loan, news which has provoked a big debate on Twitter.
Some are condemning the players for a lack of loyalty, or the stomach to fight for their place, and others wondering if Yates has damaged morale.
The latter is not the case in my view. This is clearly the players' decision (or their agents).
Of course, we don't know what Yates has said to them, but for now clearly neither is first choice.
Players react to being out of the side in different ways - some really knuckle down and raise their game in training and reserve games to make it almost impossible for the manager to overlook them.
Some go the other way - almost giving up and being happy to take their not inconsiderable pay packet every month knowing that whatever they do they are unlikely to get a game.
Others seek to go out on loan, keen to keep playing, keep their match fitness up, and at the same time keep themselves in the shop window for a possible permanent move.
The latter is the line which Taylor and Jones have taken, and the response from fans seems to have been mainly one of condemnation - 'they weren't any good anyway' or 'babies throwing their toys out of the pram' are two Twitter quotes I have seen.
Some Twitterati have made the very valid point that both players are an injury or a suspension away from being back in the side, and have on that basis understandably given them stick for, seemingly, not wanting to wait around that long.
They have also cited the examples of Sam Deering and Keith Lowe, two players who have equally been on the fringes without (as far as we know anyway) 'rocking the boat' by asking to go on loan.
We know Darryl Duffy did, but his request was denied and it didn't do him much good in the long run, as he didn't earn his place back in the side and spent most of the remainder of the campaign on the bench.
Three games into the season does seem a bit quick to knock on the gaffer's door. But not all sides have their squads fully settled at the moment, and they have more chance of a loan move than they would in, say, November.
It is still the transfer window as well, so that also enhances their chances.
As it stands, they only want to go on loan. Neither have said they don't want to be here full time - just that they want to go and play some proper games for a month or so. Understandable in some ways, as we don't have regular reserve games.
We use loan signings ourselves to keep players fit for other clubs - why shouldn't some of them return the favour, and keep our players fit??
And if they get their wish, then it will be a chance for Joe Hanks, Ed Williams and co to get a look in on the bench.
Taylor, it is true, has found it tough. It is never easy for a player to come to a club in January and settle in straight away (see also Byron Harrison).
Our ex-striker Julian Alsop told me once that it takes at least six months to fully settle into a new club.
On that basis, you would expect to see the best of a player signed in January at the start of the following season, after that settling-in period and a full pre-season - but even then a manger can only pick 11 players, and so far Taylor and Jones have been sidelined.
With the departure of Marlon Pack and Darren Carter this summer, Taylor would have been expecting a big role this season, I am sure.
That has been thwarted by Matt Richards' arrival and a good pre-season from Deering, which pushed him into the forefront.
I was pleased when we signed Taylor as I have always been impressed with him when he has played against us. But he has not hit those heights consistently since he came here - maybe due to the settling-in period I mentioned above.
He has two years left on his contract, and I am sure he is quite high up in the wages pecking order, however, think back to how we got him.
Steve Evans decided he was not in his plans at Rotherham, and it didn't take long for him to pack his bags and move down South to Whaddon.
Taylor does not seem to be the sort of character to sit on the bench and bide his time. For him, it seems to be playing or nothing.
At 26, he should be at the peak of his career, and he clearly feels he cannot waste any time languishing on the bench, and in the reserves.
Billy Jones is four years older, at 30 and was first choice for much of last season, creating goals-a-plenty with his wicked left foot, but not always convincing with his defensive duties.
Jennison Myrie-Williams and Chris Hackett were two of the wingers who really gave him a hard time, and Yates opted to switch Sido Jombati to the left and bring in Keith Lowe.
Then, in the summer Craig Braham-Barrett arrived, and it was a big statement from Yates to throw in a 25-year-old loaned in from a Conference club without any league experience straight into the side ahead of Jones.
He clearly has some doubts about Jones defensively, and with CBB taking his spot, and so far performing adequately, the writing seems to be on the wall.
CBB is only on loan until January, but I would expect that move to become permanent fairly swiftly if CBB carries on playing and improving as he has so far.
Against Torquay on Tuesday, Jones' fine delivery was again evident with corners, free-kicks and whipped-in crosses creating chances for us (which were not taken) but his number one job is to be a defender and he hasn't always done that very well.
So while we are waiting for the next move on Taylor and Jones, we have gone back to 2008 with the very welcome return of our record signing Steve Gillespie.
It is an ironic situation. Like Taylor and Jones, Gillespie clearly wants to go and get some games under his belt, so he is in exactly the same boat, but will not get the same condemnation from our fans - instead a warm welcome back from fans who idolised him for his impact for us back then.
I wonder if the Fleetwood fans are viewing Gillespie in the same light as some of our fans are viewing Taylor and Jones - condemning him for wanting out after three games and not fighting for his place...?
Whether they are or not, we needed a new face with Jamie Cureton and Terry Gornell out, and now we can hope that the Gillespie who comes back here at 28 years old is the same one which left for that £400,000 fee in July 2008.
Like he has done with Steve Elliott, Ian Weston did a fantastic job of keeping Gillespie fit and firing back then - his hamstrings have a history of being decidedly dodgy as does his disciplinary record.
In his four years at Colchester, he started only 46 league games, and came off the bench 52 times, yet still scored 25 goals - testament if it were needed to his continuing eye for a goal - something we are in need of until Jamie and Terry are back at least.
At Fleetwood last season, Gilly started nine times and was a sub 13 times, netting four times - again a decent record.
He hasn't played any games this season - so he may have gone to his manager after three games, and asked for a loan move, and after a stumbling block last Friday (confirmed by CTFC media officer James Brown), he has got his wish, which is great news and I really look forward to seeing one of my favourite players back in CTFC colours again.
Roll on Saturday!!