The Expendable Eight Part Two

pressley's expendables

Part One Readable Here

David Bell

David Bell’s time at Coventry has largely consisted of a series of several long-term injuries and minor niggles. To date Bell has played 94 games during his four and a half year stay at the club, in comparison Carl Baker has played 123 in three and a half years.

For a long time during the 2011/12 season Bell and Baker were almost unseparable as playing entities at the club. They both played the same position, both played fairly poorly and as soon as one had played a bad enough game the other came straight in. However it was during this past season that we saw the difference between Bell and Baker. Baker scored 12 goals in 43 games, the second highest scorer. Bell remained injured for the largest part of the season and only played 7 games, scoring 0 goals.

Although Bell showed an obvious level of talent and skill, it just seems like an injury too far. At 29 years old we can only assume that his ability to return from injury will reduce over time. Despite the threat he offers as a winger, arguably more than Carl Baker does, what’s left of his pace may soon limit his ability even at League One level. That 2011/12 season also showed us that David Bell lacks consistency and the mental toughness required to endure a full season, even if his body holds up.

The major problem that we have with Bell though is that massive contract he signed in 2011. Bell still has 2 years left to run on his deal, which is almost certainly on Championship level wages. The cost of paying him off may be too much and with his injury record he may only be too happy to collect his wages for another two years. However I believe that David Bell genuinely wants to play football. Whilst he may not be willing to part from money he’s rightfully owed, his sense of professionalism as a footballer may make him adverse to festering in the reserves. Should he end up staying I also believe that he would remain a fairly important player, should he remain fit.

In the likelihood that he does go though, where next for Mr David Bell? I believe that a fit David Bell would enhance almost every single team in League One, he could probably still hold his own in the Championship should his fitness and motivation hold up. However his injury record is likely a massive turn-off and one of the biggest reasons why he remains at Coventry. The lower leagues are littered with talented players with injury problems, but with budgets ever tightening he would certainly have to take a pay cut or ‘pay-as-you-play’ contract in order to remain in league football.

Steven Jennings

In the Coventry Telegraph’s write up of the Expendable Eight (with a less catchy headline) they reported that “Jennings is perhaps the biggest surprise considering how prominently he figured in the side last season”. And certainly I am a little bit shocked that Jennings is amongst the Expendable Eight (maybe Pressley was trying to write his own headlines?).

Jennings has though become increasingly the target of fans’ frustrations, especially towards the end of the season. His Coventry career started decently, then he picked up an injury and also displayed some poor form. However like many other players in this squad his best period came during November-January when we looked like doing something with our season. During that time Jennings’s partnership with James Bailey in central midfield helped provide the ballast to allow our wingers and full-backs to play more freely.

The problem that Jennings has though is his lack of discipline. Not just in that he appears at times to get drawn into poor challenges resulting in bookings but in his lack of tactical discipline. Jennings in theory should have played the holding role in midfield, making simple passes and protecting the defenders. Jennings in reality would often seem to leave that role and when our mid-season run of form ended the lack of pace in defence was left cruelly exposed.

However this is a problem that is something that could probably be solved with better coaching. Which makes me wonder if there’s something else Pressley feels is wrong with Jennings. Perhaps he feels that Jennings is not a strong enough passer of the ball to fit in to his style of play. It could be something more personal, but I’m not too sure of that myself. Or it could be that Pressley feels that Jennings is expendable given the budgetary restraints of the coming season.

Whatever the possible reasons for his placement amongst the desparados of the Expendable Eight is difficult to really speculate, well beyond he isn’t good enough for the wages we pay him. Jennings though is a midfielder with experience and is not too old at 28 years old to put off other clubs rejecting him on an age-related basis. Again he’s another player he could probably be part of any other League One team, at the top probably as a squad player and getting more important the lower down you go. The question then is how much a turn-off would his wages be to other clubs in League One?

Chris Dunn

Chris Dunn, in my opinion, came in for a lot of unfair criticism following the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat to Crewe. Was he at fault for any of those three Crewe goals? Probably. My point though is that Crewe’s only shots on target during that match were in the second-half. Who’s not to say that Joe Murphy could have had an off day? Coventry also had over three times as many shots on target, had we taken those chances better the narrative would so much different. Also Chris Dunn may have gotten his positioning and technique wrong for those goals but had we played and defended more intelligently then he wouldn’t have been facing those shots in the first place.

As a goalkeeper though you can’t depend on your team to prevent any shot from being hit at anytime ever. However you also need to factor in that he was probably not fully prepared to come off the bench. Again as a substitute goalkeeper it’s important to remain focused and it’s unprofessional to not be, but the statistical probability of actually coming off the bench is quite low (just ask Pegguy Arphexad). So whilst you can blame Chris Dunn for conceding those goals, the level of abuse he was subjected to from angry fans absolves the rest of the team for a large part of the blame.

The rest of his time at Coventry is incredibly difficult to talk about in any detail. His first and only league start for the club came during the final game of last season at Notts County. His made two other substitute appearances in the league which passed off without note. Furthermore I remember that after playing against Morecambe in the FA Cup in November there was a small lobby campaigning for his further inclusion in the first-team. However I can understand that with Lee Burge now emerging following a spell at Nuneaton that Dunn as a back-up goalkeeper is expendable, and relatively pricey given that we signed him when we were in the Championship.

Despite his criticisms Dunn has played a rather large amount of league football Northampton Town, including 30 appearances in League One. What this experience amounts to in regards to his future prospects his hard to gauge. There’s nothing more important to goalkeepers than actually playing first-team football. Every team strives to have a number one that they can depend upon and there are so few teams in the top four divisions of football who actually need a new goalkeeper. He may end up as a back-up goalkeeper in League One or Two or he could be lucky and find a club with a Chris Dunn shaped hole in between their goal-posts.

Kevin Malaga

Kevin Malaga the enigma, the Frenchman named after a city in the south of Spain. The man who has played fewer senior league matches than even Peguy Arphexad. The man who despite this was near the top of Thorn’s wish-list last summer. The man who deposed Reece Brown from the starting line-up. The man who disappeared some time after August last summer.

It almost seemed like an Ali Dia or Kurt Drago situation. Nonetheless what we did see of Malaga before he evaporated from our sight was fairly decent. Yes there were a couple of decisions he made with the ball that no other centre-back in League One would have made but isn’t that to be expected of a man who’d only played 3 senior league games at the age of 25. However there was something about him that put him number one on Robins’s unwanted list as soon as he arrived in September. Consider some of the dross that was around our first-team back then.

All of this defending Malaga with his own mythology though does obscure the fact that Thorn or Waggott actually offered this guy a three-year contract after only seeing a few training sessions last July. Perhaps it was because Thorn was unused to seeing trialists in his squad that he took such a risk, in terms of contract length. Now we’re saddled with him for two more years. It’s indicative of the obvious lack of rationality of signing him for so long that no other league club even took him on loan when he was transfer listed back in September.

The chances of paying Malaga off may be slim, given that both he and David Bell’s contracts expire at the same time. What we’re hoping for really is that someone takes a punt on him. His wages though are likely to be League One level and his experience would be lucky to get him a contract at a League Two side. Without taking a massive financial hit we’re almost hoping for a miracle to actually get rid of him. That is why I suggest actually working with him rather than discarding him like a banana skin.

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