It’s been another long while, partly motivated by other engagements and also just sheer confusion at the situation regarding every single thing with the club. When you see that your team’s stadium on wikipedia is listed as N/A you realise the degree to which the uncertainty has reached. So perhaps writing an article on players we’ve been linked with isn’t exactly most apposite or pressing given that a) we could be taken over and suddenly have a whole new set of criteria for new signings, b) we are in adminstration and c) we are currently under a transfer embargo. But I write this article because I sincerely want to focus on the footballing side, however depressing that side may become over the summer, and in all honesty everything surrounding the ownership/stadium situation changes every day and so do my opinions on what’s best for the club (at the moment it’s been fairly stable at getting both SISU and ACL/the council as far away from the club as humanly possible).
The first player we’ve been linked with is the Burton winger Jacques Maghoma, who scored 16 in 45 appearances in League 2 last season. Apparantly there are Championship and other League One teams after him so we’ll both need to get out of administration quick to get him as well as having the actual money to convince him to make the short move out from Staffordshire. That there are Championship teams after him should be indicative enough of his quality to perform at at least League One level but as so often is the case in football it’s not who your linked with but where you end up and how well you perform and fit into the team.
What Jacques provides is hopefully an answer to our ever-lasting deficit in the speedy winger department that we’ve been crying out for for a long time. His goal-scoring record from last season also indicates that he most certainly has an end product. Although it took him a while to develop this side of his game, scoring 11 in 114 prior to 12/13, that he was an important player for Burton despite not particularly troubling the goal-scoring column.
Why Pressley is after him is to provide options in wide positions. It’s clear that Moussa is largely incapable of operating on the wings consistently, especially in a flat 4 rather than as one of the wide men in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. With McSheffrey seemingly gone, we are currently limited to that old 11/12 conundrum of Bell and Baker, who I believe both need competition to keep their playing levels high. We’re basically after Maghoma to prevent Moussa from having to play out wide too often next year.
That’s not to suggest though that Maghoma isn’t incapable of playing as the one behind a lone striker it’s just that he appears to be at his best on the left of midfield. The comparison with Moussa is interesting in that they’ve both had experience in the lower leagues and are good dribblers with a fair amount of pace. The difference in playing style is that Maghoma is an attacking midfielder best on the wing whilst Moussa is at his best in the centre.
For some signing a player out of League Two is representative of our decline as a club. To those I suggest that they should get over themselves really. We’re in League One because we are now a League One club. Even if you accept that we’re ‘too big’ for this division then why should we limit ourselves to signing either from League One or reserve Championship/Premier League players. Some of our best players in recent years have come from leagues below us (Fox, Dann, Westwood, Keogh). The benefit is that players coming from the leagues below are usually in good form and also grateful at the opportunity to prove themselves at a bigger club. Also Maghoma is clearly a class above League Two level, is young and is free.
If you shiver at the though of us signing League Two players then you should stop reading as scandalously Jamie Reid is also a League Two player. Jamie comes from deepest, darkest Exeter City. Jamie has a grand old goalscoring record of 2 in 4, over his entire career in the Football League. He also took in a loan spell this year at Dorchester Town in the Conference South with a goalscoring record of 3 in 12. Aside from that is that he was recently capped at under 21 level by Northern Ireland, although I’m not sure how deep the pool of talent for under 21 Northern Irish players actually is.
Reid though ended the season with a flourish and scored both his Exeter goals in a stunning individual performance against AFC Wimbledon with a few games left. From watching the highlights of that game he appeared to be a pacy, lithe forward rather than a goal-poacher so I imagine he’ll be as much an option on the wing as he is up-front.
Perhaps Pressley is looking to play something closer to a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 rather than the 4-4-1-1 that we saw at the end of last season. By looking at wingers capable of scoring it’s maybe a sign that he’ll be more adventurous in asking the wide-men to play further up front, perhaps trying to address our reliance last year on goals from talismanic lone strikers in the shape of Clarke and McGoldrick. Or it could be that Reid will join Wilson, Daniels et al in forming a queue of young players putting pressure on the established pros in the first team.
This assessment of Reid is shorter because I know very little about him. Given his lack of appearances at first-team level it seems like a bit of a risk, especially with finances so tight at the moment. I don’t want to see too many young players thrown into the throws of a tough League One campaign too early. Whilst some are capable of stepping up to the challenge it can also be harmful to player’s development to put them under pressure too soon. The upside though is that he’ll be available for free and won’t be asking for too much in terms of wages, so the risk is largely on his shoulders than ours.
Given that we are under a transfer embargo, this is pretty much all the players I’ve seen realistically linked with. This is though hopefully the beginning of many other similar articles based around the players we’ll get linked with. Hopefully the situation will get sorted over the next couple and we’ll have some firm answers to the big questions surrounding the club, though I’ve got a another part of me saying that it won’t be so simple, especially if anyone other than SISU gets the administrator’s decision to sell the club to them.