Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A week to go...

This time next week, we will have played our first pre-season friendly of the season, at Evesham.
It will be our first look at how the squad is shaping up and will give us a little idea of where we are, but as we know by now (or should do at least) results in these warm-up games count for nothing - it's all about systems, fitness and giving trialists a chance to impress.
It has been a quiet summer. Two arrivals, Jamie Cureton and Troy Brown, with Marlon Pack, Darryl Duffy, Darren Carter, Kaid Mohamed and the loanees having left - so we are just looking a bit thin on the ground.
There have been 14 players at training including the new pros Joe Hanks and Ed Williams, and in addition scholars Bobbie Dale and Zack Kotwica have also been involved with the first team sessions.
The manager has admitted a couple of targets have been missed out on. Ashley Grimes and Marvin Morgan are the names where the wise money is, as Grimes apparently went back on his word to join Bury and Morgan decided on Plymouth.
The numbers may be swelled as there is talk tonight that reserve keeper Connor Roberts is, after all, going to sign his contract, listening to Scott Brown's sound advice in the Echo piece the other day.
There is no need to panic.
It's the same every season - we see clubs signing players hand over fist, and this year it's been Bury and Portsmouth... but remember both of those clubs virtually ended last season by releasing all their players so had a very low base to work from.
Some fans see this and worry. Already I have seen tweets and Nest forum comments that we will be left with 'the dregs' and 'sloppy seconds'. Ridiculous words - there are plenty of good players left out there.
Remember Tony Naylor - he came in September and remember how that one turned out. More recently, Luke Summerfield was very much an after thought, and that late arrival nearly brought about the same result.
Assuming the talk is true that Connor will be staying, it saves the need for a second goalkeeper.
Defensively, we look okay with Lowe, Jombati, Elliott, Jones and new boy Brown - maybe in an ideal world   it would be nice to have a centre-back who could cover left back as well, but that is down the priority list.
Midfield sees us with Penn, McGlashan, Taylor, Deering and the youngsters Hanks and Williams, so here is where the surgery is still required.
Shorn of Pack, Carter and Mohamed, we need some creativity, and a bit of pace as well. I'd like to see two central midfielders and a left-sided player added in the next few weeks.
So the front of the team - where we only have Cureton and Harrison, so how many more forwards will Yates be after, and what sort of players will he be looking for?
If Grimes and Morgan were the two he missed, that should give us a clue - one nippy finisher and one with some power.
I have another theory over the proposed Grimes signing - I wonder whether he was wanted as Mo's replacement on the left-hand side as he played on the left of a front three for Rochdale when they hammered us last December at Spotland.
So therefore I wonder if Yates had Grimes earmarked for a similar role here on the left of a front three, maybe with McGlashan on the right and either Cureton or Harrison in the centre - in other words going back to the system which worked so well two seasons ago.
Also, in the search for strikers, I wonder if he would learn from last season when he had four strikers, but for long periods two or three of them were inactive as we were playing only one up front.
If Yates wants to go for that system again, will he go for only three strikers in the squad - in other words only bring in one more and concentrate more on other areas of the team?
So many questions, and a few comments in an interview given to the official site - the first real words we have heard from him since he came back from his pro-licence coursework in Turkey - gave a few clues.
"Hopefully we'll have a couple in this week and a few more in the coming weeks," he said.
"There will be two or three coming in on loan, young hungry players who play in the under 21 league"
So there you are. No need to panic. It's all under control, and it seems that the summer recruitment has only just began, with maybe as many as six or seven players still to come before the date that really matters, August 3, when Burton come to town.
Already, however, the predictions have started and it is a measure of the respect that we seem to have garnered around the division over the past two seasons that many of the soothsayers I have seen are pitching us in their top seven, and many in their top three.
That is a measure of the standing we have built up around the division under Yates' management, and shows the expectation of us as a squad around the league, and also within our own fanbase.
Yet there are many amongst our fans who doubt these credentials and the ability of the manager to take the team to that next level after the disappointments of the past two seasons where we have got into good positions only to fail to clear that final hurdle, whether it be for automatic promotion or the play-offs.
A push for the play-offs is the very least that many fans will expect this season. Others have their sights set higher - it's top three or bust for them.
As Yates said in today's interview, we have a good nucleus in place - now he needs to put the finishing touches to it and find the right system to make it all knit together.
Over to you gaffer...