Slowly, very very slowly, the season is getting closer. I’m probably not the only one who is desperate for the pre-season friendlies to come along, to start looking at the squad we’ve assembled and discussing our chances in the Blue Square North (BSN). Of course, we have to wait a bit longer for that, but as today is the first day of pre-season training, I thought it’d be a good idea to see how the squad building has gone so far in the first ever blog on The Blue & White’s website.
The first thing to consider is the players that have left. They are:
Alex Brown, Liam Brownhill, Matt Glennon, Matty McNeil, Chris Simm, Michael Wilde, Jerome Wright, Christian Smith.
So, that’s two centre midfielders, a full back, goalkeeper, winger and three strikers.
In many ways the loss of two central midfielders is understandable, we did have too many. However, the loss of Alex Brown is disappointing. A fine midfielder who would keep the ball and pick a good pass, he was a key player for us last season. That he left was completely out of Neil Young’s hands, who I am sure would have wanted to keep him, but these things happen. Christian Smith’s exit is, for me, less surprising. He was on the fringes for a lot of last season, and although he did give good accounts of himself when he did play, I imagine he was offered less money by Young as he looked to work within his budget. It’s harsh on Smith, who I would have liked in the squad, but the squad is the important thing and Young obviously thinks the money could be better spent elsewhere.
The other significant loss are the three strikers. McNeil’s exit was expected after he picked up a long term injury, however, he had a fine season and it is a great shame his Chester career ended like it has. He is definitely the best striker the reformed Chester FC have had, he just oozed class. His intelligent use of his strength meant he was a fine target man, able to hold up play and link others in. Hopefully we’ll see him play again in the future. However, it would be understandable if he retired from football.
The other two strikers we’ve lost are of course, Wilde and Simm. Many a Blues fan will be gutted to see these two go. I was surprised when Simm was released, as I thought his pace would have been a great asset in the BSN. And I was also surprised to hear that Wilde had been offered less money by Young. The thing is, these two strikers have been there and done it in the BSN and for Chester. Keeping them would have also meant the squad was more settled before a ball was kicked. Losing both seems like an error, but Young has made controversial decisions before and been proved correct…
It was unsurprising to see Glennon and Wright leave. Glennon was clearly a temporary replacement for Danby after his injury, and would want guaranteed first team football. It is a shame to see him leave though as he was very solid and calm, although he did have a worrying tendency of not catching the ball after a shot. As for Jerome Wright, the less said the better really. He did occasionally look good, but often lacked confidence and played a different style of game to the way Chester were set up.
Finally we have Brownhill. In my opinion, it’s a great shame he’s gone. He ended the season a fringe player, but what a useful fringe player he was, able to play at left or right back. Clearly though, he was offered first team football by Bangor City and it’s completely understandable he’s gone.
Adam Proudlock, Paul Linwood, Dom Collins, Nathan Jarman, Dave Hankin, Martin Fearon, Sean Clancy.
So, that’s two strikers, two centre backs, two wingers and a keeper.
On paper, these are all interesting signings. Proudlock has loads of Football League experience and is clearly meant to be the ‘Matty McNeil signing’ of this season, bringing experience and strength to the table. There is a difference between the two though. McNeil dropped down to us straight from the Football League, whereas Proudlock has been slowly slipping down the leagues. I hope this isn’t a bad omen. The other striker, Jarman, is an interesting signing. He scored a decent amount of goals (12) for Alfreton, who came solidly lower-mid-table (15th) last season. So he didn’t set the world alight, but is highly thought of by Gary Jones who played with him at Grimsby… It’s one of those signings that could go either way in my opinion.
A center back has been desperately needed for a while now, but I for one, wasn’t expecting Linwood AND Collins to come in. They’ll both be looking to start and break the Taylor/Horan partnership which served us so well last season. Collins is an exciting signing. One of Northwich Vic’s best players last season and still only 21, he is a player who could be at Chester for a long time. The Linwood signing however, is a bit confusing. Of course, he has good pedigree, but I’d have preferred to see another young centre back come in (Jack Duggan anyone?) to learn from Horan and Taylor. Still, I’m hoping Linwood will prove me wrong and have a great season. I think I’m a little bias against him because of the relegation season of 2008/9.
Fearon looks like a good signing. I think Young is wary of getting another relatively inexperienced ‘keeper in as back up and risk another ‘Adam Judge situation’, so went for someone who’s had plenty of game time for Lancaster City. From what I’ve seen he’s a good player and will provide good competition for John Danby.
Finally, the two wingers. Clancy is obviously the marquee signing of the summer, let’s hope he doesn’t turn out like Wright! He has had very good reviews from Halifax however, so I’m really looking forward to seeing him in action. Hankin is another signing that goes into the ‘interesting’ pot. A tall right winger who can also play as a striker, he will be very handy if we move between a 442 and 433 formation this season. Especially as our two left wingers, Howard and Clancy, can also play central midfield. Intriguing…
So, this is how the squad looks.
Goalkeepers: John Danby, Martin Fearon
Full Backs: Wes Baynes, Matty McGinn
Centre Backs: Michael Taylor, George Horan, Paul Linwood, Dom Collins
Wingers: Robbie Booth, Dave Hankin, Sean Clancy, Iain Howard
Centre Mid: Michael Powell, Ashley Williams, Levi Mackin, Antoni Sarcevic
Strikers: Marc Williams, Nathan Jarman, Adam Proudlock
As you can see we’re light on full backs and could do with another striker. We do have two right sided defenders (Tom Smith and Cliff Moyo) and a striker (Jordan Connerton) on trial, which suggests that Young agrees with me about where the squad needs strengthening.
Apart from additions, we should see Sarcevic play in the centre a lot more this season now that Brown’s gone. We’ll look to him to be the creative force in the side. I think this is a good idea as his best matches last season came when he played in an attacking midfield role. Wes Baynes will also change role. From being signed as a right winger, he made the right back position his own and adds a lot to the side, especially from dead ball situations. Finally, I’m so glad Marc Williams is at the club. He is a fine striker and will only improve for Chester with a pre-season under his belt.