Thursday, 21 August 2014

Mixed messages?

“The fans don’t buy into loan players because you have a player for a month and then he goes back to his parent club.
“We’re going to be going away from that and trying to focus more on playing our own players.
“Fans don’t associate with the players and too often they are used as a knee-jerk reaction from managers.
“We have probably had more than we should have done and some clubs rely on them a bit too much. Our fans have given me the firm view than short-term loan signings aren’t popular and we would be much better playing our own players.”

The above are quotes given by Paul Baker in the Gloucestershire Echo on May 13 this year.
He also told the Echo this summer that the club had spent £100,000 on loan players last season - the likes of Michael Ihiekwe, Mitch Brundle, Lee Lucas, Kemar Roofe and Billy Daniels.
Few, if any, of them were a success and I wholeheartedly agree with what the chairman had to say above and was pleased to hear him say that these short-term fixes were going to be a thing of the past.
The bigger squad assembled this summer was meant to help with this - giving the manager enough options within the players at the club that he did not need to go shopping too often.
But then we get the news that Bristol City's 20-year-old midfielder Jordan Wynter is coming to the club, with the deal set to be completed tomorrow - for a month's loan.
Let me state straight away I have nothing against Wynter. If he comes here and plays for us, I hope he does superbly well and helps us keep our good start up - it is just the concept of the short-term loan and his lack of experience which I am concerned about.
It comes less than two months after the above comments from the chairman, and after comments from the manager more recently saying he wants to get a bit of experience to complete his squad, we are bringing in a player with seven league games to his name.
These mixed messages are disappointing. Disappointing for fans like me who hoped the revolving loan door was going to be closed, and also disappointing for our young players, a promising crop who are not going to get the chance to show what they can do. For now at least.
I can understand why Mark Yates has looked to bring someone in. 
Asa Hall is out for a few weeks, and he has then had to put Joe Hanks into the side, probably ahead of when he wanted to.
On Tuesday he looked exhausted after four tough games in 10 days or so, and Hanks is only 19. 
This unexpected run of games has shown that he will be a very good player for us long-term and looks at home in League football.
But we cannot flog him and burn him out too soon - I understand that he has to be bedded into the side gradually.
So seemingly Yates wanted a stop-gap body to come in and (presumably) play in Hanks' place at Tranmere on Saturday, so he has just got on the phone to a certain Mr Cotterill and asked him for a favour (hopefully a cheap one).
So therefore if he wants another body in for Hall, why didn't he do it straight away after Bury - when he could have looked for a more long -term option as he has been after a central midfielder for a while.
Instead, once again, we are rather disappointingly helping another club develop their youngsters ahead of our own.
We have central midfield players in Adam Powell, who likes to play the deeper role, and Harry Williams who prefers to play more advanced. Could they not do a job? 
Evidently not, as Yates said in pre-season he didn't think they (along with Bobbie Dale and James Bowen) were not ready for the first-team yet. 
Williams however played two or three games late last season, and was ready then, so what has changed now?
He scored for the reserves on Tuesday, while Dale hit four goals against quite a strong Forest Green side. Surely that impressed the manager?
He also has Andy Haworth, Omari Sterling-James, Zack Kotwica and a long-term loanee in Koby Arthur at his disposal - if he didn't want to use them in a 3-5-2, then why not change the system this weekend to accommodate one of them, and negate the need for a stop-gap solution?
They have been on the bench at some point this season, and all of them bar Zack have been on the field in the first four games.
They also played in Tuesday's reserve game, Haworth and Kotwica as wing-backs and OSJ in an attacking midfield role - all unfamiliar positions, while Arthur played up front alongside Dale.
In fact, in that game, only goalkeeper Harry Reynolds, centre-back Jack Deaman, Williams (for part of the game) and striker Dale played in what would be described as their orthodox positions. He also had a look at the goalscoring triallist Angelo Balanta - and I wonder what the impending arrival means for his prospects and our interest or lack of in him.
That mix-and-match positional switch is largely a result of the late formation shuffle. Wingers Haworth, Kotwica and OSJ, I suspect, were licking their lips at the prospect of finding a place in a 4-3-3 system where they would be the men to play either side of a central striker, with Arthur's arrival supplementing that.
But then Yates threw a spanner in the works with the arrival of Matt Taylor bringing about the change to 3-5-2, which helps some players, notably Lee Vaughan, Craig Braham-Barrett and Terry Gornell, but does nothing for others.
As it stands, with Yates seemingly ruling out the four first-years Dale, Bowen, Williams and Powell from consideration for the time being, the 3-5-2 also rules out Haworth, OSJ and Kotwica - so out of a squad of 22 he has now effectively reduced himself down to having 15 players to pick his starting 11 from - and that is down to 14 at the moment, with the injured Hall.
He has the 11 he has used in the last two games, plus Deaman, Paul Black and Arthur, meaning seven of the squad are effectively redundant, partly due to the manager's decisions and partly due to not fitting into the current formation.
So we need two more bodies plus a second goalkeeper, as the manager has agreed, all along.
But we also need some experience - and they are to be loans, they need to be until January at least so these players can buy into the club (as the chairman said above).
This is not an Alan Hansen-style 'you'll never win anything with kids'-like rant - but we have six teenagers in our squad, while Deaman and OSJ - are only just out of their teens, as is the on-his-way Wynter.
Our starting 11 with a fit Asa Hall plus Paul Black has good experience of games at a decent level (yes, I know Vaughan's is at Conference level only but he has played 150-odd games there) but below that there isn't much know-how at League level there.
I am hoping that Wynter's arrival does not mean Yates won't look for experience in a central midfield recruit and in forward reinforcements as I feel we need a bit more nous in the squad.
Yates has said after Tranmere we have to bring players in - so I suspect we won't be long in finding out the answers to these questions.