Sheffield Wednesday and Wolverhampton Wanderers played out an entertaining 0-0 draw at Hillsborough. Wolves will feel like they should have taken all three points though, hitting the post and bar and having a clear penalty appeal turned down.
Wednesday manager Carlos Carvalhal made 5 changes coming into this match up with Wolves. Captain Glenn Loovens was a notably absentee, rested after the Owls New Years Eve draw away at Preston. Palmer, Pudil, Wallace and Nuhiu were the other ones to miss out with Hunt, Sasso, McManaman, Lee and Forestieri coming into the starting XI.
Callum McManaman, brought in on loan from Premier League side West Brom in the week made his first start for the club.
Wolves boss Paul Lambert too rang the changes with Connor Ronan, Joe Mason and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson coming into the starting line up for Ivan Cavaleiro, Bright Enobakhare and Nouha Dicko.
The first real chance of the match fell to the home side as Barry Bannan’s free kick was met by the head of centre back Vincent Sasso who saw his effort acrobatically’ tipped over the bar by Wolves ‘keeper Carl Ikeme.
Wolves had a strong appeal for a penalty turned down in the 16th minute as Joe Mason was brought down in the box but referee Simon Hooper decided the ball was played.
The Owls went close again soon enough as shot stopper Ikeme struggled to hold onto a deflected Steven Fletcher effort before blocking Fernando Forestieri’s on target rebound.
Wolves again had another strong penalty appeal turned down by referee Hooper as Westwood looked to have clearly felled Matt Doherty in the box. A decision that boss Paul Lambert clearly felt aggrieved by stating in his post-match press conference “how that wasn’t given was incredible – it was a stonewaller.”
Wanderers should have had the lead in the 40th minute. A cross clipped in from out wide saw a Jon Bodvarsson flick hitting the underside of the Wednesday cross bar. Joe Mason followed up but from just a few yards out managed to balloon his effort over the bar much to the delight of those Wednesday fans sat in the Kop. A possible miss of the season!!
The visitors started the second half brighter as Mason crashed a shot against the post from just outside the area after a mistake from Owls right back Jack Hunt.
Defender Matt Doherty also saw an effort blocked on the line by Wednesday defender Adam Reach as Wolves went in search of a goal to break the deadlock at Hillsborough early on in the second half.
Wednesday struggled to hold the ball for the first 20 minutes of the second half and looked void of any creativity as Wolves looked threatening. Joe Mason with another effort for the Wanderers after going through one on one with Westwood, the Wednesday stopper again thwarting the Midlands side forward.
The Owls had a huge penalty appeal of their own turned down in the 81st minute as Lucas Joao’s attempt was blocked by Wolves’ Richard Stearman, a decision that would have been harsh on the visitors due to Stearman’s close proximity to the Portuguese forward.
Neither side had any other notable chances in the last 10 minutes.
Wolves will feel like they should have left Hillsborough with all three points but Wednesday held on to leave the home side in 6th place and the play-offs whilst the visitors stay in 16th place in the table.
Man of the match: Connor Ronan
Connor Ronan, still only 18 and making his first start for the Midlands outfit, had an eye catching run out at Hillsborough. Always looking to get forward, the winger took on his man on several occasions and offered excitement for the travelling Wolves supporters.
In a lively South Yorkshire derby Barnsley sealed a 2-1 at Hillsborough against Sheffield Wednesday in their U23’s clash thanks to strikes from forwards Panutche Camara and Romal Palmer either side of a goal from Sheffield Wednesday winger Jack Stobbs.
Barnsley started the brighter side and were rewarded seven minutes in as a deflected cross from Dylan Mottley-Henry found its way to forward Panutche Camara who made no mistake from close range.
It was Sheffield Wednesday who scored next equalising on the 17th minute largely against the run of play after winger Jack Stobbs cut in from the left hand side to score a 20 yard effort which curled over Barnsley goalkeeper Tim Brown and nestled in the far top right hand corner of the net.
Sheffield Wednesday had a great opportunity to take the lead on the 41st minute as forward Devante Rodney was brought down in the box by Barnsley ‘keeper Tim Brown.
Devante Rodney stepped up himself but Tim Brown had the better of him on this occasion saving the spot kick with a great diving save low to his left hand side.
Barnsley retook the lead in the 52nd minute after another cross from Mottley-Henry this time found substitute Romal Palmer unmarked at the back post who finished calmly past Jake Kean into the top left hand corner.
In truth the second half lacked in quality and chances were few and far between after Barnsley retook the lead. George Hirst had an effort for Wednesday from close range in the 86th minute which was saved well by Barnsley’s Tim Brown but there was little else to report.
With that win Barnsley become the first team to win at Hillsborough this season as Sheffield Wednesday U23’s lost their unbeaten home status with today’s 2-1 defeat.
With just over two weeks left until the Euro 2016 party begins, Roy Hodgson still faces some difficult decisions in regards to his chosen England squad and to whom will be in his starting XI for our first game against Russia on Saturday 11th June. After a 2-1 win over Turkey in a close and competitive match at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester and with two more friendlies coming up before the England squad travel to the continent against Australia and Portugal, Hodgson is close to making some big calls on his England team and squad.
Firstly I want to quickly disclose who the three players are that I would drop from the 26 man squad currently participating in the three friendly matches prior to EURO 2016. The three in question are Ryan Bertrand, Andros Townsend and Fabian Delph in my opinion. I think most would agree with that call. Despite having a great season for Southampton, Ryan Betrand misses out for me purely because I don’t think we need two extra full backs in the squad with Nathaniel Clyne too in the 26 man selection. Fabian Delph too for the same reason as I believe Henderson, Lallana, Milner, Alli, Drinkwater and Wilshere are simply stronger players right now and Andros Townsend misses out in my opinion as I don’t think he’s good enough to play for England currently in my honest opinion.
England fixtures at Euro 2016
England vs Russia – Saturday 11th June. 20:00 kick off
England vs Wales – Thursday 16th June. 14:00 kick off
England vs Slovakia – Monday 20th June. 20:00 kick off
The formation Roy Hodgson will adopt for his England side at Euro 2016 is further up for debate. With a lack of pure wingers in the England squad this time around I would personally play a central based diamond formation. Despite the lack of width this formation possesses it offers us stability both going forward and at the back. With Eric Dier in that central defensive midfielder slot it allows the forward five players the chance to roam and attack at will, I want to see this England side attack other teams rather than sitting back and inviting the pressure on.
Joe Hart Goalkeeper
58 England caps
England’s number one, England’s England’s number one. Arguably the most straight forward selection in this team. Even though Burnley’s Tom Heaton had a fantastic season culminating in his sides promotion back to the Premier League and Fraser Forster had another fine season with Southampton resulting in them finishing sixth this term, neither have the pedigree to really worry the Manchester City shot stopper.
Despite Manchester City’s poor performance in the league this term under Manuel Pellegrini, 29 year-old Joe Hart had another solid season for the Citizens keeping an impressive 15 clean sheets in 35 Premier league appearances. As well as that Hart put in some man of the match performances as City reached the Champions League semi-final for the first time in their history. With a low average of only 1.03 goal conceded per match and a 96% claim success rate, Joe Hart is surely a shoo-in for England’s number one spot in France at the 2016 European Championship.
Kyle Walker Right back
15 England caps
This was a difficult call because I really rate Liverpool full back Nathaniel Clyne but for me right now Kyle Walker just edges him out. The Tottenham right-back has had a great season this time around as Spurs secured third spot in the Premier League behind champions Leicester City and bitter rivals Arsenal. With his raw pace, his strength and his composure on the ball, Kyle Walker has excelled over the past few years at the London club.
Still only 25 years of age, although it feels like he has been around for a longer period of time than he actually has, Kyle Walker made 35 appearances this year for Tottenham. In comparison with Nathaniel Clyne who he is in direct competition with, Walker has created more chances, averages a higher amount of defensive actions and has a higher percentage of duels won all whilst making the same amount of appearances as Clyne. Both made 33 appearances and scored one goal each this season. For me Kyle Walker just edges out his competitor on this occasion.
Chris Smalling Centre back
23 England caps
After the solid season he’s had with Manchester United Chris Smalling is England’s number one centre back going into Euro 2016 for me. Up until the 2015/16 season Chris Smalling has had his doubters and rightly so as in past seasons he’s largely struggled to keep the high level of consistency needed to be a starting international with England. However this term he has been a rock at the back for United and would likely be claiming player of the year for the Red Devils if it weren’t for ‘keeper David De Gea.
Making 35 appearances this season for Manchester United, Chris Smalling has made 0 clear defensive errors across those league matches, has on average made three key interceptions per game and has on average completed over 7 tackles per game. Chris Smalling further has the ability to pass the ball out of defence, has developed a better understanding of the game over the course of this season and has the pace to get him out of trouble when needed.
Gary Cahill Centre back
42 England caps
Choosing a centre back to play alongside Chris Smalling was the hardest decision to be made in picking my starting eleven for England at the European Championships come June. My choice is Gary Cahill.
I’m going to be brutally honest here, for me Gary Cahill is playing nowhere near his best at the moment but we need some experience at centre back in France and Cahill has that over Everton’s John Stones. Stones is the better player here although he has struggled at points this season with Everton who had a very poor campaign by their own standards but as I said, this team needs experience and I think Roy will go down the same route.
Despite John Stones having a better pass accuracy and better average duels won stat than Gary Cahill, the youngster has made 4 defensive errors this term in the league and at the international level in a major tournament England simply cannot afford defensive slip ups.
Gary Cahill gets the nod from me over John Stones and seems to be motivated to undo his poor performances at the 2014 World Cup, this week stating; “I have never been as hungry to go. I want to make it right” when discussion Euro 2016.
Danny Rose Left Back
3 England caps
After a solid season with Spurs, Danny Rose has to be England’s starting left-back in France. This is perhaps the easiest selection for Roy Hodgson this summer as Rose has come on leaps and bounds in his last few Premier League seasons.
Due to the fact that I firmly believe Ryan Bertrand will be dropped from the current 26 man squad by manager Roy Hodgson, Danny Rose has hardly any competition for his spot at left-back at Euro 2016, even though Nathaniel Clyne can play there if needed.
Danny Rose has excelled this season, he’s been solid, put in some huge performances for Tottenham and has kept a high level of consistency throughout his 24 appearances in the league during his sides 2015/16 campaign. With only 1 key defensive error to his name this term he has improved the defensive side of his game substantially whilst still obtaining the traits needed to move forward from the full back slot. Creating 24 chances for his teammates in the Premier League this year, Rose’s lightning pace and ability to deliver a quality ball into the box will worry any defender he is put up against at Euro 2016.
Eric Dier Central defensive midfielder
5 England caps
Eric Dier is a fantastic addition to this England squad and could well prove to be one of our country’s key players in France next month. Making his debut for England back in November of last year, Eric Dier only has five caps to his name so far for his country but offers the national side something they have been missing for a long time, an anchor man in midfield. The Tottenham man can play as a central defender if needed too.
Enjoying a break out season with Spurs this year, Eric Dier has had an exceptional season and is already growing into one of England’s best prospects alongside teammate Dele Alli. Joining Tottenham for only £4 million from Sporting Lisbon in 2014, Dier has made 65 appearances for the London side, 37 of them coming in the league this term.
Dier’s presence in this England side is crucial as it allows our forward players the freedom they need, he’s a player that England have missed in recent times to some extent. With the ability to both go forward when needed and stay back defensively, Eric Dier has created some 18 chances for his Tottenham team mates this season in the league whilst suffering 0 key defensive mistakes. The defensive midfielder managed 3 goals for Spurs this year and scored the winner in England’s recent comeback win in Berlin against World champions Germany.
Eric Dier has to start in France at Euro 2016.
Danny Drinkwater Central midfielder
2 England caps
When it comes to international football, form is vital and nobody has been more in-form than central midfielder Danny Drinkwater this season. After all he is a Premier League champion with Leicester City.
Drinkwater is a complete, all-round central midfielder who enjoys both influencing the game going forward but is also prepared to put the effort in to get back and help his respective side out defensively. This year he enjoyed 78% pass accuracy on average and created 44 chances for the likes of Riyad Mahrez and fellow England international Jaime Vardy at Leicester City. As mentioned before he is not scared of tracking back and breaking up opposition play when needed and this season in the league made on average 4 defensive actions per game. His red card against Manchester United at Old Trafford highlights his rash decision making at times though, something Roy should be wary of.
Dele Alli Central midfielder
7 England caps
What an absolute star Dele Alli is. Claiming the ‘Young Player of the Year’ award in the Premier League this season, won by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale previously, Dele Alli has enjoyed one of the best breakout seasons in Premier League history. Influential in an attacking midfield role, Alli has lit up the league this season with some fantastic man of the match performances for Tottenham and arguably scored the goal of the season against Crystal Palace with an exquisite flick and volley finish from outside the penalty area.
Looking at the stats, Dele Alli managed an impressive 10 goals and 9 assists from midfield this season for Spurs in 33 league appearances as well as two further assists in his 7 Europa League starts.
Dele Alli is English footballs brightest talent right now, simple as that.
In this formation it can be expected that Dele Alli and Wayne Rooney would casually swap positions during the match from time to time.
Wayne Rooney (C) Central attacking midfielder
109 England caps
England’s captain and record goal scorer but arguably one of the players least wanted in England’s starting XI at Euro 2016 according to most fans. Wayne Rooney has suffered a major slip in form over the past couple of seasons and has rarely lived up to the standard of football the Manchester United forward once dazzled the Premier League with.
However Wayne Rooney’s position in the England squad is interesting. In a recent press conference he stated that he saw himself more as a central midfielder than a striker nowadays after a few recent positive performances for the Red Devils in a central role. Rightly so. This season Rooney can’t be compared to Harry Kane and Jaime Vardy going forward due to the sheer amount of goals the pair has in comparison but his influence is still there. Wayne is an extremely hard working player and since he lost that extra bit of pace, his defensive displays have become much stronger. His vast international experience is vital too as this England side lacks in their sheer amount of England caps.
In my opinion Wayne Rooney has more drive than Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson and Jack Wilshere to name but a few and due to his nature as England’s highest ever goal scorer and captain, it would be foolish to drop him going into a major tournament. His 7 goals in our Euro 2016 qualifiers show he still has an eye for goal.
As mentioned before his positioning in this formation if it were to be adopted by Roy Hodgson would be flexible as him and Dele Alli would frequently swap positions during matches.
Jamie Vardy Striker
6 England caps
Mr Roy of the Rovers himself, Jamie Vardy has brought a fresh of breath air with him into the England set up. His true underdog story has inspired a nation and his inclusion in the England squad has excited many a fan since his debut against Ireland back in June last year. On his day Jaime Vardy can be lethal, best highlighted with his 24 goals for new Premier League champions Leicester City in his 36 league appearances this year. Jaime Vardy finished as the second highest scorer in the Prem this season coming only second to England partner and Spurs striker Harry Kane.
Vardy has all the key attributes a forward needs to succeed at the highest level. His pace is electric; his finishing is magnificent whilst his decision making is strong for a forward. As well as his 24 league goals for Leicester, Vardy further assisted on 6 occasions and created a further 40 chances this season for the Midlands side. Vardy had a total of 93 attempts on goal this season with 57% of those efforts landing on target, a higher percentage than Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero. The striker is not shy to get his foot stuck in either, winning 37% of his duels this term which for a forward is very good reading.
With 4 goals in his last 4 England matches Vardy could prove to be England’s talisman in France. In this selection I fully believe that Jaime Vardy compliments Harry Kane very well and could form an explosive partnership with his England colleague at the European Championships in June.
Harry Kane Striker
11 England caps
Last but not least comes Tottenham forward Harry Kane. The striker, who largely carried Spurs to their highest ever Premier League finish, has been in scintillating form this season once again. With 25 goals in 38 league appearances, Harry Kane deservedly grabbed this seasons Premier League golden boot award from under the nose of England counterpart Jaime Vardy.
Over the last two seasons no player in the Premier League has scored more goals than Kane who has 46 goals in 70 league appearances for Spurs. His impressive goal scoring record has led many a football fan and critic alike to believe that Kane will overtake Alan Shearer for the title of most Premier League goals later on in his career. With 124 attempts at goal over the course of the 2015/16 EPL campaign, with a 60% shots on target ratio, it is evident that the Spurs forward is not shy in front of goal. At the international level the talisman has further impressed since making his debut against Lithuania last March, scoring on five occasions in only 11 matches for England’s first team.
Alongside Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane could be prolific; the pair complement each other perfectly. Kane is a complete centre forward. He has the finishing, the height, the strength and the composure that all world class forwards need and with the Tottenham man still only at the young age of 22, Harry Kane has a very bright future ahead of him for the England team.
With the news that broke on Sunday evening regarding a takeover at Valley Parade, the club has ushered in a new start and hopefully a new exciting era under new ownership. Although details are still sceptical on the takeover and our two new German based owners a keen sense of intrigue has been widely felt among Bantams fans.
First of all we have to thank the Rhodes family and Mark Lawn for their help in stabilising our great club. The significance of both Rhodes and Lawn cannot be overlooked. The amount of time, effort and investment the pair have put into Bradford City saved a club that was tumbling down the football league pyramid, it’s as simple as that. Julian Rhodes especially deserves credit. Taking full charge of City back in 2002 the Rhodes family inherited a club leaking money after the Premier League overspend during Richmond’s time with the club, picked up the pieces and built the club from the ground up, all whilst risking their own livelihood. A phenomenally selfless act that not too many fans truly know about.
Julian Rhodes is further responsible for the way that the club changed their philosophy on season ticket pricing, an aspect of the club still hugely appreciated by their own fans and widely admired across the whole of the British footballing landscape. It was a fantastic idea at first from Julian Rhodes to introduce the £138 ticket offer back then at the start of the 2007-2008 season at a time where the club was struggling in general and was lacking any real support as the Bantams plummeted through the football league but he leaves Valley Parade knowing that his idea was a complete success and a key aspect as to how the club has grown in recent times.
Our new chairmen come in the form of Stefan Rupp and Edin Rahic after the German based businessmen reportedly bought Bradford City for a fee in the region of £6 million according to reports. As of yet information on both individuals is scarce and it is thought that their involvement in the footballing world before is lacking although Rahic was a scout for a short while at Bundesliga side VFB Stuttgart. It is being said that Edin Rahic currently owns a recruitment company in the German city of Munich whilst Stefan Rupp’s background is in the world of manufacturing and helicopter seats. Our friends at Width Of A Post understand that as part of the takeover deal, the pair want James Mason to stay on for continuity and for his expertise in the club.
Every Bradford City supporter has their own set of changes they want to see at the club with this takeover and rightly so as football is a sport where different opinions are always welcomed. Personally I believe our football club is functioning very well at present although I further think that investment has been needed. The low season ticket prices work for both fans and the club alike whilst on the pitch under Phil Parkinson and his coaching team, our status is only growing; enjoying improved league finishes every season under the manager during his time at Valley Parade.
First of all as most City fans will agree the new investors have to keep the faith in manager Phil Parkinson. Parkinson has driven this club forward, with the help of Rhodes and Lawn, on every possible occasion. Under his leadership Bradford fans have seen history made on more than a few occasions with the Capital One Cup run and final appearance of 2013, the FA Cup wins against Chelsea and Sunderland last season and the League Two play-off victory of 2013 against Northampton. With Parkinson at the helm the excitement of the fans is heightened due to the clubs recent history and if our new investors first move was to replace him, Rupp and Rahic wouldn’t be welcomed by fans in the manner that all involved should want. As we’ve seen over Phil’s time with the club, stability is key to success in football.
The concept of cheaper season tickets needs to be kept too. Our club has thrived this season once again under the brilliant £149 season ticket deal, bringing in some 18,000 season ticket holders which for a League One club is an unbelievable feat and has massively improved the atmosphere around the club and the city in general. It gives the team on the pitch a better chance of winning in my opinion with the huge support they receive coming out of the tunnel at Valley Parade and a clear advantage over travelling opposing teams. It must be said though that I do support any decision by the club to increase season ticket prices if we are promoted in the coming seasons by a small percentage as extra revenue is always vital to any clubs success.
Going forward with our new German investors, I among other City fans would love to finally see some money transfers and signings made by the Bantams. Ever since our drop from the Premier League back in 2001 the club has spent little to no money on transfer fees despite selling some key players during that time such as Nahki Wells to Huddersfield and so on. What better way to introduce yourself to a new fan base than to splash the cash and bring in some talented players. Imagine if we were the club to be loaning out stars like Lee Evans, Reece Burke and Josh Cullen in the coming years..
Lastly I would love for our youth setup to be upgraded as I feel that it’s an aspect of the club that is sometimes overlooked. For a club based in a city with an estimated population of around 528,000, the fourth largest metropolitan district in the country, not enough youngsters are brought through the youth set up at Valley Parade. The Bantams have brought some talented players to light through their youth recruitment in the past in players such as Andre Wisdom, Fabian Delph and Tom Cleverley however none of those mentioned actually went on to make an appearance for the first team at Bradford. The volume of quality youth players still lacks massively at the club and should be a concern for a team with ambitions of reaching the Championship next term. Mistakes seem to occur at the club in terms of letting youth players leave too soon as well. Take Matty Foulds as an example, the 18 year old full back left the Bantams at the end of last season, moved to Bury, made a few first team appearances for them then was recently sold to Premier League side Everton for a decent fee. For me this is an area of the club that needs to be upgraded urgently and should be a focus for our new chairmen.
It must be said too that I wouldn’t half mind the club selling Bratwursts at half time either along with some crisp German beer instead of a half warm crappy pint of Carlsberg..
In all seriousness though of course the thought of new owners can be a daunting experience however everyone should agree in the fact that this club desperately needed some form of investment to carry on its journey back towards the upper echelons of English football.
With the likes of young English Premier League stars such as Dele Alli securing much of the recent footballing limelight thanks to his impressive performances for both Spurs and England, we take a look at five more promising talents England has to offer that have perhaps been flying under the radar until this current season.
To start off in a somewhat biased manner due to the fact I am a Bantams supporter of 15 plus years, we have 19 year old central defender Reece Burke first up on the list. The 6ft 2in West Ham centre half whom has been on loan at League One side Bradford City for most of the season is enjoying a fantastic loan period with the Bantams as an influential figure in their push for promotion to the Championship next season. Featuring in 30 league games so far this term, scoring twice in the process, Burke is enjoying his time with the West Yorkshire side as he looks to gain valuable playing experience for his future career. With him potentially taking the ‘Player of the season’ award at Valley Parade which has recently commenced it’s not difficult to see why the young defender is being touted as a future England star.
With a similar playing style to that of Everton star John Stones, Reece Burke has fantastic positioning and strength for a young lad and further possesses great footballing prowess for his age. An old head on young shoulders, Burke is comfortable in possession and regularly dribbles the ball calmly out of the back line to alleviate pressure on his team.
From defence to attack and next up on the list is 19 year old striker Adam Armstrong. Currently on loan at League One side Coventry City from parent club Newcastle United, Armstrong has enjoyed a successful season with the Sky Blues which has seen him net on 19 occasions since his loan spell began with the Midlands side back in August.
A fast and tricky forward, Adam Armstrong has already represented England at the U16, U17, U18 and U19 levels making a combined total of 39 appearances, netting 23 goals in them. Touted as a ‘natural born goalscorer’ by most of those who have seen him in action, Armstrong’s mixture of pace and agility is enough to cause any defence a problem.
His impressive displays have not gone unnoticed by his parent side Newcastle United who this season have reportedly come close to bringing him back to St James’ Park to help the club in their own battle against Premier League relegation. If the likely scenario is to play out and Newcastle are relegated to the Championship at the end of the season expect to see Adam Armstrong leading the line in a Newcastle shirt next year.
Ben Chilwell is another England star in the making. Still only 19 years old, the left-back currently plies his trade with runaway Premier League leaders Leicester City and is a product of the Midlands side academy. Winning Leicester’s Academy Player of the Year award at the end of the 2014–15 season, Chilwell has gone on to make a handful of appearances for the side so far this term in both the League and FA Cup.
It was during his loan spell with Championship side Huddersfield Town however where the youngster shone this term. Making eight appearances in his short spell with the Yorkshire outfit, Chilwell put in some solid displays for the Terriers under manager David Wagner. Wagner was so impressed with the youngster during his stay at the John Smith’s stadium that the German himself put in a good word to fellow coach and former Dortmund friend Jürgen Klopp whom is now proposing a transfer to Liverpool for the young left-back.
Already short-listed for the Football League Young Player of the Year, Rico Henry has had a fantastic first full season for League One outfit Walsall. Making 37 appearances in all competitions for the Saddlers so far this season, Henry has been a key member for the Midlands side in their quest for promotion come the end of this term.
Likened to both former England internationals Ashley Cole and Kenny Sansom in regards to his playing style, left-back Rico Henry is small in height standing at 5ft 10in but is both extremely quick and agile. In defence the full back gets stuck in when necessary, is calm in possession of the ball and has the ability to both run and dribble out from the back. Going forward his pace gives him the possibility of taking on players when possible and his two goals from left-back this term for Walsall prove that Henry can finish when in the position to do so.
Already being watched by some of the top English teams including likely Premier League champions Leicester, Arsenal and Tottenham among others, Rico Henry has a very bright future ahead of him.
Even though Kemar Roofe turned 23 back in January, the Oxford striker is still considered a fine young English talent whom has largely been ignored since his early days at West Bromwich Albion. With his Oxford United side vying for promotion from League Two and his recent fantastic performance at Wembley in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final against Barnsley, Roofe is now being courted by some of the biggest clubs in English football thanks to another impressive season from the forward.
Over the past couple of seasons with Oxford, the young striker has lit up League Two with some stunning strikes and some top drawer performances. This season alone Roofe has managed to bag himself 25 goals in all competitions and is now reportedly firmly on the radar of teams such as Arsenal, Manchester United and Sunderland to name but a few.
With the ability to play both as an out-and-out striker and as an attacking midfielder, Roofe has made 62 appearances for the U’s over his two spells with the League Two club. In those 63 appearances for Oxford United, the pacey forward has bagged himself 31 goals in all competitions, a fantastic return from Kemar Roofe.
At third place in terms of most goals conceded this year behind rivals Sunderland and Norwich, it is evident that Newcastle United should be looking to improve their defence in the last five days of the January transfer window. Instead with stories flying around at various online newspapers and the NUFC hashtag on Twitter becoming inundated with transfer rumours bringing Lacazette and Remy to the club, we ask is it really a new striker that Newcastle United need before the end of the January transfer window?
In the words of Sir Alex Ferguson, “Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles.” For Newcastle then maybe it is a case of winning games right now to avoid relegation come the end of the season but what about in five seasons time? Will they be in a similar position again because the Newcastle board have failed to make the right signings over and over again. You only have to look down the road to Sunderland to see a similar example. For years now Sunderland have struggled and if you look at the transfers the club has made it’s clear to see why. Big money spent on the forward line and not enough quality brought in defensively. Unfortunately for football fans in the north-east it’s becoming a normal sight to see the two sides towards the wrong end of the Premier League table.
Prior to the signing of Jonjo Shelvey whom on a side note will create more chances as seen on his debut which will inevitably bring goals for the team, Newcastle had spent £41,000,000 from the summer transfer window onwards on attackers. Granted it takes time for players to settle in, especially in a league as demanding and challenging as the Premier League, but when you compare the £12,000,000 spent on so far flop Florent Thauvin and the £8,400,000 spent on strong centre back Chancel Mbemba, every Geordie will be in agreement over who the better purchase has been so far. With news breaking that Spurs winger Andros Townsend is joining the club for around £11 million, fans will once again be excited with the proposition but in my mind, that’s another huge sum of money that can’t be used to strengthen the team in more urgent areas. With a very young core of Wijnaldum, Mitrovic, Perez, Sissohko, Shelvey, Thauvin, Saivat and 18 year old Adam Armstrong out on loan at Coventry City who has 16 goals so far this season, I fail to see the real problem upfront for Newcastle. There’s no patience at Newcastle United any more, granted we all know the story of Mike Ashley and how he has sometimes run the club in a manner that the majority of the fans don’t like but compared to Norwich, Bournemouth, Sunderland, Aston Villa, West Brom, Swansea and the list can go, Newcastle have a developing squad that in a few years will be very strong going forward.
On the other hand however in defence it is clear to see the teams’ quite serious weaknesses. The backline is reliant on 33 year old Fabricio Coloccini who yes has had a fantastic career on Tyneside but this season in particular has shown his unreliable side and has at times come under heavy scrutiny from Newcastle fans. Aside from Mbemba who has proved a fantastic purchase so far and will only improve during his stay in the Premier League, the main form of back up in the central defensive position comes in the form of 31 year old Mike Williamson, a player who went on loan to a Championship club this season and has always been a target for the Newcastle boo boys. Jamaal Lascelles is one for the future, Steven Taylor has unfortunately become a bit more injury prone in the later stages of his career and other than that, Newcastle are struggling at centre back. Daryl Janmaat is solid at the right back spot but has no cover if he gets injured while Paul Dummett can be a bit up and down in terms of form, similar to Massadio Haïdara.
Without a doubt, a new striker would be an exciting proposition for the fans of Newcastle United especially if a star striker such as Loic Remy or Alexander Lacazette is signed however the defensively frailties will still be present going into the second half of the season and personally I think to leave the defence in the same state that it’s already in is too big of a gamble to take in the position that Newcastle United are currently in.
Recently I wrote an article for ‘Width Of A Post’ referring to my opinions and thoughts on what areas of the team Phil Parkinson and the board should look at improving during the January transfer window and one of the positions I outlined was the central midfield. During that article I voiced my concerns on a lack of creativity through the central midfield as one of the direct reasons as to why the team has struggled to score many goals so far this term, especially when playing at Valley Parade. For some reason Bradford City sides have always somewhat struggled in the league at Valley Parade but I think with an exciting, consistent play-maker who gets the 18,000 home fans on their feet, we can turn it into a fortress for the rest of the season. In my opinion Billy Knott can be that player on occasions as he’s one of the most technically gifted and passionate players we currently have however he lacks the consistence that a play-off fighting team needs in the centre of the park.
First of all it has to be said that the expansion of Lee Evans’ loan until the end of the season courtesy of Wolverhampton Wanderers came as a fantastic piece of news due to the importance he has for our club in that commanding central position. Many would agree that so far this season it is clear to see and state that Evans has been one of our best and most consistent performers when called upon and his ability to play a pass is second to none in this league once he gets going.
Other midfielders in the squad have largely struggled for form this season in general however. We currently have four recognised central midfielders in our squad in the shape of Christopher Routis, Billy Knott, Gary Liddle and Lee Evans. As mentioned before Lee Evans has been influential for the team this season as he’s always looking to bring the ball down and play it around. Despite only scoring twice and assisting once this term so far, he has been a fantastic addition to the squad and the extension of his loan until the end of the season is a massive boost in terms of our play-off ambition. In my opinion in both home and away matches Lee Evans should be starting as many games as possible because he has that eye for a key pass and certainly has the ability to make it.
Christopher Routis has only made ten appearances this season for the Bantams, six in the league and four in the cup competitions but has looked solid in my opinion when called upon. Whether playing centre back or in a defensive midfield position, Routis has come into the squad when needed this year and played well however the dilemma lays here as to whether you play him or Gary Liddle because there’s not enough room in the team for both. In my mind with a lack of creativity in the central midfield department maybe Parkinson should be looking to let one of these players go. Speculation has Liddle moving away from Valley Parade this summer and after the Oldham match on Saturday the boss stated that interest had been registered from at least one team, since revealed to be League Two side Carlisle. In my opinion letting go of Liddle would be a poor decision. For me Liddle represents the better option in the centre of the park out of himself and Routis, he has strength, the passing ability, fantastic tackling and also chips in with goals every now and again, scoring three times this season so far.
When you look at our central midfielders we only have one real attacking option, Billy Knott. Making 22 appearances so far, Knott has managed a single goal in the cup and only three assists all term. To compare that to similar players that our ‘rivals’ have, those teams also vying for a play-off place, we don’t have a central midfielder capable of dictating the game and contributing both with goals and assists. Bradley Dack of Gillingham has 13 goals and nine assists so far this term whilst Michael Jacobs of Wigan has 8 goals and four assists, we massively lack a player of that ability in the centre of the park. These two examples are just two out of many in League One this year that are out playing our whole central midfield selection and that’s worrying. It can easily be argued that one of the main reasons for the lack of goals this season is the fact that the central midfielders have offered very little going forward this season and as a result of that we have created few clear cut chances during matches so far this campaign.
In my opinion, there’s a hole in our team this season that needs addressing this January if we’re going to push on towards the end of the season and take a play-off place come May. I seriously believe that the four main strikers we have in Hanson, Clarke, Cole and Davies when he returns from injury are good enough to propel us into that play-off equation if we bring in a creative midfielder. In my mind generate money through letting either Routis or Liddle go, even though I am a fan of both it’s just the case of the situation where we don’t really need both players and send Luke James back to Posh because it’s not working out. On the back of that then spend that money going big in this department because I really think that we need to shake it up in the midfield going into the second half of the season. We don’t have enough attacking inspiration in central midfield and in the long run, this really could be our short fall.
Results are results but fans want to be entertained at the same time which has lacked this season for the Bantams. As a result no Bradford fan can whole heartedly say that we’ve played exciting football this season especially at Valley Parade and I genuinely believe that if Parkinson brings in an attacking central midfielder our play style will start to evolve. If we sign a player that is capable of running at defences along with our attackers and wingers we will see that the ‘long ball’ style which has been overly used so far will eventually regress to a lower level of use as we will have that central midfielder that we’re lacking, a player that links our attack and defence together cohesively. I’m not having a go at how we play on the whole but to have the ability in the team to mix it up and to keep the opposition guessing would be very helpful because on occasions this season we’ve been too predictable and we’ve been found out over it.
If we can’t obtain a new attacking central midfielder in the January transfer window I would start to partner Gary Liddle with Lee Evans. This partnership would work well in my opinion if Parkinson plays Evans as a free roaming playmaker as with Liddle covering it means Evans can get forward more often and with his fantastic passing ability he is more than capable of setting up key scoring chances, the type of chances that have been few and far between this season.
On the whole this season we’ve proved we are one of the better teams in the league and are more than capable of obtaining a play-off place come May. Our defence is solid, the third best in League One, and with a few tweaks we can become a real force in the second half of the season if we start creating and finishing more chances.