Wednesday 25 June 2014


SO the waiting will soon be over.
The players have reported back to Seasons, where they have started strength and conditioning work with fitness coach Ian Hutton before the proper stuff gets under way next week, ahead of the first friendly now around two weeks away.
When they get together today, there will be two new faces, left-back Paul Black and winger Andy Haworth, taking the squad strength up to 17.
The arrivals were announced just as England were about to kick-off their World Cup friendly against Costa Rica, and like the Three Lions' performances in Brazil, the reaction to the arrivals has been not entirely positive.
That, of course, is nothing new. The same happens every time a new face comes in.
Twitter is used to try to glean opinions on the new boy(s) from fans of their previous clubs. These are not always positive - so are immediately seized upon as 'evidence' that we have signed a dud.
Soccerbase and Wikipedia are consulted to find their previous appearances and goal records. These are not always relevant depending on the position of the player, but this doesn't always stop the detractors.
But it seems the biggest issue with some signings, including these two, is that many fans simply have never heard of the player involved.
Early yesterday, there was a Twitter frenzy when our former player Andy Gallinagh tweeted that he was putting our ex-midfielder Luke Summerfield through his paces before Summers starts pre-season on Tuesday, somewhere...
Gallinagh lives in Evesham, so of course two and two were immediately added together, and allied to Mark Yates' comment last week of 'three or four' signings hopefully being completed by Monday or Tuesday, everyone sat back and waited for the great unveiling.
Fuel was added by Jon Palmer, who has for a while been asking fans if they would like Summerfield back, to which the reaction has largely been positive and seen many jump to the conclusion it is a viable possibility.
On the 'Summers coming back' front, I personally am 50-50 on it. I am an advocate of 'never go back' - see Gillespie, Vincent, Melligan as recent examples of good players coming back here with nowhere near their previous impact - leave the past in the past is where I stand.
The expectation on him to replicate his form of 2011-12 would be great, and I am sure we can all imagine the reaction if it doesn't happen straight away.
I also know that Mark Yates was unhappy with the circumstances in which he left. After we gave him a chance to get himself back on track, Summers stalled on a contract extension, and then went on holiday after Wembley saying he wanted to stay, came back and signed for Shrewsbury.
I think that left a bit of a bitter taste, and we know Yates can be stubborn when it comes to players etc, so I just wonder whether he would be reluctant to go back there again.
JP then said three signings, including a goalkeeper, were happening, naming the 26-year-old former Bury and Pompey keeper Trevor Carson as the man likely to become Scott Brown's replacement.
But who was the other signing going to be, if the first is Summers? Joe Jacobson, the ex-Shrewsbury left-back, maybe? Former Crewe striker AJ Leitch-Smith? Mr U-Turn Ashley Grimes?
Oh, this waiting is killing me.
Then it came. Paul Black's arrival was announced, and you could almost feel Twitter's sense of disappointment.
Hang on. That's not Summers, Leitch-Smith, Jacobson or Grimes! It's not even Carson... what's going on?!?
No, it's Paul Black, a left-back with five years experience with Oldham in League One, leaving in the summer of 2012, then two seasons of sporadic football at Tranmere and Mansfield, with loans at Barrow and Carlisle.
So not what the Twitterati and, I assume without looking at it, the Nesterati were expecting.
Never mind. There is always the other signing. That could be Summers, AJ, Joe or Grimes. It may even be Carson.
Come on... come on...
Then, while we were desperately trying to give a toss about Roy's boys in Belo Horizonte, up it popped...
Andy Haworth.
Rather similarly to Black, he is a player who has had a nomadic existence for the past two seasons, with spells in Oxford, Bradford, Falkirk, Rochdale, Notts County and most recently Tamworth (shudder...) since leaving Bury.
I remember him at Gigg Lane, and he scored against us when we won 3-2 up there with two Josh Low goals in 2010-11. But that was one of only three goals he has scored - 'not a good record for a winger...' came the critics' chorus.
They are 24 and 25, which also fits into the 'younger squad' bracket we have been promised, and to be fair they have a decent bit of experience for their ages.
In addition, both fall into the 'hungry and with something to prove' mantra which the club are trying to get back to, they are not the 'big name at this level' that many were seemingly expecting to come through the doors.
The Twitter clamour had built up to the extent that people were expecting it to be Summerfield and one other, maybe Jacobson, and then when the signings were announced as Paul Black and Andy Haworth, the deflation was immediately apparent. You could almost hear Twitter groan.
But there's a third signing... isn't there? isn't there? ISN'T THERE?!?!?!?!?. No. Not today.
Dagenham yesterday signed a player from Eastleigh and got one the other day from Tonbridge Angels. Portsmouth recently got one from Havant and Waterlooville. So not every other club in the division is signing these 'big names'.
The so-called lower division superstars do not always produce - look at Shaun Harrad, Paul Benson, Jamie Cureton for instance. Hardly took the world by storm... but whether that was through their own shortcomings or the way they were used in the system (Harrad especially) can be open to conjecture.
Few had heard of Wes Thomas when he came. He had hardly played a league game but left with 19 goals and a slightly dodgy atlas and has done alright for himself.
Marlon Pack, Sido Jombati, Kaid Mohamed - all hardly household names, but overall they did ok for us.
Just because fans may have heard of a player before that is no guarantee he is going to produce the goods.
Therefore, my view is that these arrivals can be looked at in one of two ways.
The negative side could be that it shows us where we are now in terms of the budget Mark Yates has at his disposal, and his financial ability to compete - so it could be time for these heady sights to be lowered a bit.
Or with a positive slant, it could mean Yates is just trying to use what he has wisely, and is holding some of his budget back for other more 'expensive' targets.
Depends whether your glass is half full or half empty which side of that fence you sit on.
After all, he said he wants a squad of 22-24 players - we have 17 including the invisible man Jason Taylor who, let's face it, no club looks like they are going to take, so he still has between five and seven gaps to fill, with Carson seemingly in line to be one of them.

The squad status is now:
Goalkeepers: Carson (pending?)
Defenders: Vaughan, Elliott, Brown, Braham-Barrett, Black
Midfielders: Richards, Hall, Taylor, Powell, Hanks, Williams, Bowen, Kotwica, Haworth
Forwards: Harrison, Gornell, Dale

So now what do we need?
Black's arrival gives us two left-backs, so we have some proper, much-needed competition for Craig Braham-Barrett there, and Haworth seemingly gives us a wide option on left or right.
If the Carson deal is tied down, that is one goalkeeping slot and takes the squad to 18, but we still need another keeper, and I feel we still need a centre-half, one more midfielder, another wide man and a forward, which is five more players, meaning a squad of 23, so that could now be Yates' shopping list.
We await the proper start of pre-season next week to see if any more triallists join the one we already know about, Shortwood United's 39-goal striker Duncan Culley.
I also suspect the loan market may come into play later on - hopefully for a season-long loan or one or two until January, and that the squad size will mean we largely shy away from stop-gap arrivals this season in favour of using our own youngsters when we need to.
It also seems that squad numbers have been allocated, for what they are worth, which usually is not very much.
Just because a player has been given a number between 1 and 11, does not automatically mean they are nailed on for a starting place.
Russ Penn wore 16 for example in much of his time here, Jason Taylor was 4 and barely played, while our full-backs for most of last season were numbers 20 and 22, so these numbers don't really tell us a lot.
But some people care about these things, so for what it is worth, Lee Vaughan appears to be number 2, CBB 3, Black 18 and Haworth 11, while Zack Kotwica tweeted he is now number 17.

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