Bringing my week long summer review to a close I wanted to see if I've learnt anything I didn't already know.
A quick recap of the numbers so far. 15 players have permanently left the club none of whom none have generated any money. 4 players have been loaned out (Junior to Norwich, Lee Cook to QPR, T.J. Moncur to Bradford & Hameur Bouazza to Charlton). 9 new players have signed and 2 players (Kallio & Murphy) have been rewarded with contract extensions. This leaves us with something like 35 senior players of which I think only 20-25 are likely to feature.
I believe our senior squad can be broken down into genuine first team players (those that Roy has signed or seems happy to play), fringe players (those that could still leave if the right bid comes in) and development players (those still young enough to be considered potential prospects but not yet ready for first team action).
I consider our genuine first team to be these 21 players ; Schwarzer, Stockdale, Zuberbuhler, Konchesky, Kallio, Stoor, Paintsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Dempsey, Ki-Hyeon, Davies, Andreasen, Bullard, Andranik, Gera, Murphy, Johnson A, Johnson E, Zamora & Nevland. Ideally we need to add a strong centre back and maybe another midfielder but I think this core group of players looks pretty good. Bullard could still be an issue and if he goes I'm not sure we've really got a replacement but we'll see what happens.
The fringe players are; Niemi, Volz, Baird, Zakuani, Smertin, Davis, Kamara, Healy & John. Steven Davis has been in the news a lot over the summer and though reading between the lines it appears the club are keen to sell him, Roy may be happy to use him if he stays. Davis could benefit from Hodgson's style of play but may not be happy to be seen as an understudy to Danny Murphy, which is where I think he would most likely sit. Either way it's nice to see Roy being so bullish about his player's value in the press. Kamara won't be able to get involved until January at the earliest. Potentially he could still figure in the first team as Roy seemed happy to use him at the end of last season but again I get the feeling Dio would jump at the opportunity for a new start somewhere else if an offer arises. Niemi, Baird, Zakuani, Smertin, Healy & John don't seem to figure in Roy's plans at all and I'd be surprised if we didn't see several of them picked up before the end of August (injuries to Niemi & John may keep them at the club at least until January). That just leaves Mortiz Volz. He's a player I think we all like a lot but it's very hard to see where an opportunity might arise for him to feature. I think he needs to move on and play first team football and I'm sure he realises that as well. He might need to drop a division to get himself back in the frame but I do think he's capable of doing a job for someone in the Premier League.
The development players span a wide range of ages but we have a few that have caught the eye and seem to be considered a part of the larger first team squad. These include Adrian Leijer, Adam Watts, Chris Smalling, Robert Milsom, and Wayne Brown. Smalling was a summer signing from Middlesbrough but is still only 18 so expectations should not be too high. The others are all in their early 20's which is an age when they need to be thinking about playing regular competitive football. Wayne Brown is the one I take most interest in. He's a neat player with some nice skills and I'd love to see him make the jump into the senior squad.
Only 24 hours to go then until the season kicks off in earnest. Our trip to Hull is a bit of a banana skin. The pundits are all expecting them to struggle yet what better chance do they have of a win than in their very first Premier League match at home to the worst (as far last season's table is concerned) remaining established Premier League team. We need to approach this match in the right frame of mind. There are no easy games in the Premier League and you have to earn the right to win every point. If we work hard and concentrate for the full ninety minutes we'll get what we deserve. If we think we can coast through it we'll get a rude awakening. If we lose it won't be the end of the world, Hull could surprise a few people this season, but a win would be a fantastic start and maintain our oddly marvellous away form a little bit longer.
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