Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Let the fun begin...

Right then, here we go.
The dust has settled, the season is over and already we know the date for the first pre-season friendly - only two months to go until the rollercoaster starts again.
But who will we see in the red and white at the Spiers and Hartwell Jubilee Stadium on July 12?
We know who a few of them will be, but there will be a few new faces - maybe as many as 10 - to find between now and then.
The released lists are starting to filter out - many clubs have decided those players who are surplus to requirements and also offered new contracts to others who may or may not decide to accept them.
So while some of us are enjoying Bosnia v Iran, Honduras v Switzerland and other such footballing classics in the next few weeks, Mark Yates has got some hard work to do.
He has already sorted Steve Elliott's future out, which is great news, but the one to watch now is Scott Brown - will we have to find two new goalkeepers this summer?
Let's hope not - but there are a few potential replacement number ones about.
Interestingly, Shrewsbury have let two goalkeepers go, which may set some alarm bells ringing as the Greenhous Meadow is not far from Browny's house in Wolverhampton. Let's hope their new boss Micky Mellon has someone else in mind.
The keepers in question are Chris Weale and Joe Anyon.
Weale is 32, and has 333 league games behind him - so would not be lacking in the experience stakes, plus he comes from Somerset, so the geography card works here. (Random trival fact: his identical twin brother Sam is an Olympic modern pentathlete).
Anyon, 27, has played second fiddle to Weale, but played a number of games for Port Vale, including a calamitous visit to Whaddon Road where he let in a farcical goal a couple of seasons back.
Trevor Carson, 26, played against us twice last season - for Bury in their 4-1 win at the start of the campaign, and in the 0-0 draw at Portsmouth, and has 133 league games behind him with a series of loan moves.
One-club man Chris Lewington, 25, played 127 games for Dagenham, including a few against us including the 5-0 win at Victoria Road two seasons ago, when he got the red card.
Paul Jones, 27 has left Crawley and has a record of 308 league games, including 158 for Exeter, who themselves have bade farewell to Artur Krysiak, 24, - whose most memorable game in his 173 senior football outings is probably not Burton 5, Cheltenham 6.
The final goalkeeper is Phil Smith, 34, - and he has already played for us at Evesham, as he was on trial two seasons ago and saved a penalty. He has just left Portsmouth.
But we don't want any of them - we want Browny, so get on with it Scott... pen, contract, signature. It's quite simple.
We do need a right back having let Sido go, and the one name which really jumped out from the lists I have looked at is that of Christian Ribeiro.
The 24-year-old with two Wales caps was born in Neath but is a Stroud boy, having gone to Marling School, and started out at Bristol City before ending up at Scunthorpe after three loan spells.
He has had a few injuries, but played 25 games as the Iron went up last season, and he might fancy moving back home... I would have tipped him for Forest Green, but they signed our old loanee David Pipe to fill their vacant right-back slot.
Another bonus is that Ribeiro can also play centre-half - who mentioned Keith Lowe...?
Pipe is going to the New Lawn as they have let Jared Hodgkiss go, and the 27-year-old has always impressed me when I have watched Rovers play.
He is a solid, no frills, out and out right back. That may be exactly what we need.
He started at West Brom and played 155 times for Rovers in his time there including 38 games last season, and was also their skipper (we need leaders don't we...?).
And before people wonder why we are thinking about looking in the Conference for a player, remember that Sido came from Bath, didn't he?
My other right-back possibility comes from down the M5 at the Mem, and I am hoping that he doesn't fancy a trip to Alfreton or Dover on a wet Tuesday night in November.
Michael Smith, 25, has been offered a new contract by the Gas, but was one of their plus points in his 50 league and cup games for them last season - in fact, along with Jonjo O'Toole, he was in the PFA League Two team of the year - so the best right back in League Two...
That's going to mean a lot of interest I am sure, and I am not certain that we will have enough financial clout to tempt him here unless Stevie can have a word! You wouldn't need to move house Michael...
Talking of geography, I will give our old boy Brian Wilson a quick mention - but a story on the BBC website says he will be going to a club in the North West after leaving Colchester, so expect him to sign back here in the next few days, haha!
One of the features of the lists I have checked out is the large number of left-backs that seem to be going unwanted by clubs at present, and I know I am not the only CTFC fan hoping that we will be looking at them.
On the other flank to Michael Smith at the Gas is 23-year-old Lee Brown - also offered a new deal but potentially in the same boat as his team-mate, and another near ever-present last term.
I can already hear the groans about why I am advocating two players who have played in a relegated side, so just for you we will look elsewhere - but his name is Brown, so he will fit in well to our back five!
At the top of the age and experience scale comes Jamie McAllister at 36 and with 500-odd games behind him, but freed by Yeovil, for whom he played 40 games in the Championship last term.
Not far behind him, and in the Billy Jones league of free-kick and corner delivery is another New Lawn old boy, Kevin Nicholson.
Now 33 and another 500-game man, Torquay have let him go, and he is another player who I have always been a fan of and has no shortage of experience. Both of these two would fit the 'leadership' criteria I feel.
But they don't really fit into the 'younger squad' mantra Yatesy mentioned when he released Jamie Cureton - and there are no shortage of left-backs who do.
First, we go back to Shrewsbury for Welshman Joe Jacobsen, 27, who played a century of games for the Shrews, and captained Wales' under-21 side.
Then, Dagenham have said farewell to 23-year-old Femi Ilesanmi, who played 117 games for them, and not all of their fans are happy about the decision - usually a good sign.
Up in the North West, there are two Scousers who might want to come down here and help us understand what Terry Gornell is saying, former Accrington man Laurence Wilson, 27, and ex-Morecambe player Robbie Threlfall, 25.
I have always liked Wilson, who can play left-back or further up the left flank, and scored the winner against us at Christie Park for Morecambe a few years back.
He started at Everton and has 255 games under his belt, but has usually been Northern-based, which could work against us - but Gornell and Jason Taylor were tempted south so it can happen.
Threlfall started at Liverpool and after a few loan moves went to Bradford and then Morecambe, so like Wilson is another northern boy - but in 2007 was named in the Daily Mail's England team of the future, predicted in the wake of our failure to reach Euro 2008.
A bit closer is Mansfield, where James Jennings, 26, has been let go after one season where he played 32 games and got four goals, playing as a left wing-back in their three-at-the-back system.
The last of my nine left-back candidates is Joe Widdowson, 25, who Northampton have freed after 63 games there in two seasons - so there is plenty of choice in that position.
But the search for centre-halves, as I think we will need one of them as I don't expect Stevie to play every week, was not so fruitful.
The only two who even remotely came on to the radar where Torquay 28-year-old Aaron Downes and former Newport (and Oxford before that) player Harry Worley, 25, - but I have to say neither have ever really impressed me, so let's hope that some youngsters from higher-ranked clubs catch the eye.
Into midfield, where we need some legs and energy, and this afternoon there was a mini-Twitter meltdown when the name of Luke Summerfield appeared on Shrewsbury's released list.
Yes, I know. Look forward, not back you hypocrite. Here we go again...
Summers is only 26, and made 54 starts for Shrews in his two years there, but having left us to go to League One I am not expecting him to want to drop back down.
He might be looking at the League Two play-offs and seeing how his dad's Burton side do - if they go up a family reunion may be a possibility at the Pirelli.
Also close to home is Ryan Burge, 25, who has left Newport and already said he wants to play for his hometown club.
He has plenty of bite in his tackles and I don't think he would lack in the 'desire' department.
I spoke to him at his grandad Rod's funeral recently and he seemed a really nice bloke - confirming the story about Keith Downing offering him a deal just before he was sacked, and then the next manager revoking it...
Talking of Keith, one of the players he tried to sign before that League One campaign was Sam Togwell, who along with other targets Martin Woolford and Gary Hooper ended up at Scunthorpe - but has now left Chesterfield.
He is 29 now, and has the thick end of 300 league starts under his belt - experience, leadership, promotion knowhow... wonder if Keith's interest may be resurrected.
One player we did get here briefly at the other end of the experience scale is Lawson D'Ath, who impressed Dagenham fans on loan there last season, and will be in demand after leaving Reading.
He played one full game for us, and scored a beauty - against Exeter in a 3-0 win, then played against Yate in the Cup and then got injured before coming on against Wycombe on Boxing Day.
We sent him back and kept the inferior Jake Taylor, but I liked Lawson and at 21 is certainly in the 'young, hungry and something to prove' category, and has good passing ability as well as getting stuck in.
No shortage of suitors I'd imagine.
Two very long-range punts who would be extreme outsiders for a role here are Gary Jones and Marvin Elliott.
Jones would be ideal on the leadership front, but his 36 years and 600 games - including 45 last season, so no worries on the ageing sicknote front - make him the man you could build a midfield around, with some younger legs to help him out.
The younger squad ideal and his fondess for the north however make this unlikely.
Based closer to home, Elliott is 29, a Jamaican international, and his injury record recently has not been good. Finance will most likely work against anything happening - but again vast experience from a higher level, box-to-box and goals from midfield, 25 for City in 216 league starts.
A more viable alternative to get us passing may be Luke Young, freed by Plymouth and scorer of a peach of a free-kick against us at Home Park.
A 21-year-old one club man, he, like D'Ath, has the young legs, but more experience with 99 starting and sub games for the Greens, whose fans were not altogether impressed with the decision to free him.
Finally, a name from very close to home - Forest Green in fact, 27-year-old Yan Klukowski.
He has elected to quit FGR to try out league football, and his record of goals from midfield in the Conference is excellent, with 48 in 126 Conference starts (plus 33 sub) - one in three games.
As a side who struggled to find goals from midfield last season, bar Matt Richards from penalties or free-kicks, this has to be attractive and with him on our doorstep he must be under consideration, surely?
Of course, there is no guarantee that he would reproduce that record at the higher level but every signing is a gamble and some risky ones might just pay off.
He scored 12 goals last season, 11 the campaign before that and 18 in 2011-12 - all from midfield, which is an impressive record. Someone will surely take a chance on him, and who says it can't be us?
We are also going to surely be in the market for wide men, especially, as seems likely, we are going to revert to the 4-5-1/4-3-3 system from the golden Autumn of 2011.
I can't move on without putting Ashley Grimes, 27, forward, and we know he and Yatesy have spoken since the M6 U-turn which he must now regret as he is on the list at Bury after only six league starts for them.
He has 35 goals in 90 league starts, and could be the man to play the 'Mo role' down the left.
As could another old chestnut, who we understand Yates spoke to last summer - the Benin international Rommy Boco, 28, whose move down to Plymouth from Accrington was a short one.
He scored two goals for Argyle. Yes. Both against us, one each in league and JPT - and scored against us in 2012-13 for Accy. As we know, we do like signing players who score and play well against us. Especially wingers.
Another left-sider to consider, at the peril of becoming the Shrewsbury Old Boys Club, is Paul Parry.
Now 33, he is an old-fashioned winger. Whether he has the pace is questionable, but he has a great left foot and could provide ammunition for Byron, and maybe score a few himself cutting in from the left.
He hails from Chepstow and started out at Hereford, so the geography issue doesn't apply, but the over-30 thing may well do - but we cannot surely rule out everyone whose age begins with the number three, can we?.
I am reminded (via @hEaLeR_CTFC on Twitter) that we actually bid £50,000 for him a few years back, if I recall correctly that when he was at Hereford, but that was turned down. If at first you don't succeed...
Finally on the winger front is another local lad, from Wotton-under-Edge, 25-year-old Sean Rigg.
He usually plays down the right hand side, and again could cut in from there and support a front man.
Rigg has left Oxford after two seasons, and earlier won promotion with Port Vale - but is not a prolific goalscorer.
Finally, the attack - and the question has to be how many forwards will we bring in if it seems like the manager wants to use one right up top - most likely Byron Harrison. We also have Gornell (unless he is going to be the mysterious second player on the transfer list which Jon Palmer tweeted about last week, only for it not happen...) and so there might only be room for one more.
The first name which cropped up, and someone we have tried to sign at least twice is Jack Midson, now 30, but like Boco at the top of the 'always plays well and scores against CTFC' list. Safest way to stop that is to sign the bloke.
Another who has played well against us is one of the three men to score more L2 goals than Byron last season, 25-year-old Bristolian Reuben Reid.
The former Gloucestershire second XI cricketer (random trivia fact number two...) has had an array of loan moves but after leaving Yeovil I would expect him to head back for Plymouth, where he was a youth product and where he scored 21 goals last season.
Whether he and Byron together would work is something we might not get the chance to find out, and the same goes for a player Yatesy knows very well, having had him at Kidderminster, 29-year-old James Constable.
He has been offered a new Oxford contract, but has not yet signed it with Gary Waddock wanting a quick answer - rumours are Portsmouth might be his next destination.
So if we have the big man in Harrison we might be after the smaller, nippy type, so what about 27-year-old ex-Crawley man Billy Clarke?
He could be the sort of player to forage the channels and might work out the way Jimmy Spencer did two years ago - weighing in with a share of goals - and he is another who has a promotion from this division on his CV.
So these are just a few names gleaned from a scan of the lists I have seen so far.
Others will come out in the coming days and weeks, and no doubt fans will have their ideas about who they think might fit into our squad.
Let the fun begin...

More names to add already - via Twitter:
Jay McEveley (Swindon), left back, aged 29 (@Reed2412)
Alex Rodman (Grimsby), winger, aged 27 (@whyalwaysjimbo)
Craig Westcarr (Walsall), striker/winger, aged 29 (@TheJackO'Neill)
Jake Cole (Plymouth), goalkeeper, aged  28 (@Watten86)
Jamie Turley (Forest Green), centre half, aged 24 (@MikeStewart1974)