Category Archives: The Championship Angle
Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and Lincoln City are three clubs that deserve a break. Yes there are probably plenty of others that can put a decent case for success from tiers two to five in the football pyramid, yet the loyalty of the supporters of these three have been tested to the limit given the heritage of the clubs and, the potential to compete at much higher levels. Were it not for three heroes the respective clubs would have buckled financially. As for the weight of expectation, well that is the thing that will ensure these three institutions will rise again, despite the challenges that still confront them, with the next seven days pretty key.
Massimo Cellino faces the Football League this week, defending his right to continue to lead Leeds back from the brink. If anyone is fit and proper in the people’s game it is one of the most passionate men in football. A dream come true for the vulture press, from comedy of errors to villain to hero, the man holding folding for The Whites, has gone through managers almost as fast as the Leeds cash cow has gone through the Italian’s greens. Yet the fans love him – over twenty thousand signed a petition to get the League to change their mind – yet still the League seek to ban him from being chairman until the middle of March.
This is a man who went in with the away support and sang during a hammering at Brentford, in that moment he epitomised and bonded – apt given the Leeds anthem Marching on Together, something that has kept this fantastic football club alive as it lurched from one crisis to another. You would think one on the League committee would realise that as he was a steward of the club during a head-on cash crash. Oh Massimo, insane no, idiosyncratic certainly, passionate definitely, Massimo Cellino is the man for all seasons – for all the right and just a technicality or two of wrong reasons.
Leeds lost £23 million last season as they attempted to turn a huge ship. Think of an oil tanker that you need to put in reverse to ensure it stops in three miles time. The League made no exceptions and promptly slapped a transfer embargo on a Leeds side that has youth at its heart but needs a few older heads to ensure it survives a relegation battle this season. Love them or hate them football needs Leeds far more than it needs a committee that is quite happy to ignore parachute payment inequality yet preside over matters of fit proper and fairness as it munches through the prawn fuelled by financial windfalls from The Premiership.
Two Christmas’ ago Milan Mandarić, the saviour of Sheffield Wednesday went round the Sheffield Children’s hospital. He ensured the board and players were there to a man and of course Owl, giving time and care with Milan doing every single bed personally. One who clearly cares he had saved the club and this latest modest gesture made me realise why he deserved the huge banner in the kop – yes Liverpool do not have the monopoly on that or home end passion whatever the media tell you. The message red ‘The city is ours – Xbajia Milan’, (thank you’ in Serbian, Milan’s native tongue.
Milan has gone on to get the Owls promoted from League One humility – perhaps the hard earned virtues of the steel artisans – and then plugged £5 million a season losses in the championship, This has paved the way for Stuart Gray to cobble together a side that is four points from the play-offs. This, in the face of competition from the ex-Premiership princes who are rewarded with parachute payments in exchange for failure. Four thousand saw rebate rewarded Fulham beat the Owls 4-0 but they were unbowed. A packed away end at Forest yesterday sang non-stop and was rewarded with a 2-0 win over a side that spent big and nicked a much prized Owl to boot! Timely? Could be as this week a Thai consortium could well make some of the most incredible supporters in world football’s dreams come true, but only if Milan feels they care deeply for the club and can do it justice.
The Owls had a deal collapse for £40 million in the autumn, this one will be ten million less, so it is not about money for Milan it is about passing a torch. A torch that lit the touch paper for the peoples’s game. For Sheffield rules football is where it all started, the steel city is arguably still the spiritual home of football. It was the birthplace and therefore to say The Wednesday have as much a top-flight birthright as The Arsenal, seems more than fair. A quick completion of the deal with the Serbian remaining as steward could give Gray the three players he needs in the window – and just maybe a fair wind to the promised land. It would be one in the eye for Fulham who spent £11 million on Leeds McCormack in August and Forest who robbed The Owls blind for winger Michail Antonio in the summer.
So to Lincoln a club that has seen committee culture and poor stewardship ensure it has failed to realise its fantastic potential and even fall from the Football League. Where the City went forward the club did not until a local lad with gas connections, Chris Moyses, started putting his own money into the team recently. He needs to Lincoln are losing money and the team and budget continues to suffer with the fans suffering death by a thousand cuts as teams continue to scalp perceived giants in the Conference. After beating the bottom feeders, a 3-1 win at local rivals Grimsby – thanks to a wonder goal from Charlee Adams (a Birmingham loan thanks to Moyses) – the Mighty Imps trounced top-dogs Barnet 4-1. Both Grimsby and Barnet have budgets 3 and 4 times more than Lincoln respectively.
Yesterday 10-man Lincoln lost 4-0 to Eastleigh who missed four penalties and moved into fifth. For the long suffering Imps it could have been just a bad day at the office, yet they still sit five points off Eastleigh and the play-offs. Yet one feels that Chris Moyses will continue to put football first at Lincoln now that he is a managing director in football terms ie the manager and a director. Lincoln pioneered that concept when chairman John Reames combined both roles. He also wore his heart on his shirt and Lincoln did see exciting times under him, albeit when he was back in the directors box.
Lincoln hold the record for returns to the Football League and, although this may be a season too early perhaps the Moyses approach can work. He too is at a key moment this week. A win over Aldershot – the side that relegated The Imps in front of a teary battle weary 8,000 at Sincil Bank – will see his philosophy continue to restore the fantastic faith the Imps have. Defeat will be a sad slap in the face for the first Lincoln green shoots for many a season.
The local lad, who is Lincoln born and bred and was a well-known face on the terraces in his time, has told his team to play their football as opposed to worrying about the competition. Brave indeed but when a youngster like Connor Robinson rounds off the rout in a 4-1 win over Barnet you know there is pride in his side. If that can infect the missing thousands Lincoln will return to the promised land. The City can and will sustain a Championship team one day.
I get altitude sickness at Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest, Chesterfield FC and Mansfield Town games having chosen to cover The Conference Premier and Conference North. Like the Manchester City fans last night I have been priced out having moved up to Lincoln as a lifestyle choice. So the two £1250 a year Arsenal season tickets and the jokes of co-season ticket holders Alan Davies and Ian Stone just had to go. Before the rant of sorts, a quick good luck to the promotion chances of Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest and Chesterfield FC and their fabulous fans who are doing well in-spite of, as opposed to because of, all that TV cash. It could all change for the better, even the playing field so to speak, if Virgin’s complaint to Ofcom is taken seriously? Then again pigs could fly.
Thanks for reading Neil Gentleman-Hobbs
Most of us now know that Ofcom, among other things the broadcasting regulator, looks set to open an investigation into how the Premier League sells the TV rights to its live matches. This is at the request of Virgin Media who claim the practice is driving up consumer prices. Ofcom is taking the matter seriously and will give a decision in 8 weeks. So the fan is a consumer to champion once again as opposed to a sheep that is sheered each and every year by the people’s game.
A change in the bidding process would have huge implications on the game from the top to the bottom of the pyramid. Currently, on an annual basis, £340m goes to youth development with another £23 million directly to grass roots. The Footy Bingo grass roots article yesterday shows how Greg Dyke is spearheading what has already had a staggering nine figure impact on the game CLICK ME.
Both sides will have strong arguments, not to mention that previously mentioned grass roots programme that could well be a fantastic legacy for proactive FA Chairman Greg Dyke (£1.2 bn raised for grass roots so far). Further the Premier League do operate fair, transparent and open process when it comes to the auction of its audio-visual rights. Previous investigations by UK and European busy-bodies have found everything to be in order and compliant with UK and European competition legislation.
Virgin rightly argue that we Brits pay the highest prices in Europe to watch football on TV. The real crux of it you feel is that Virgin has to buy its own rights from BSkyB and BT. It will not be bidding in the process later in the year for a slice of the pie for 2016 onwards. Therefore they have to pay higher so we pay higher which ups the price. Perhaps, but, in a free market those of us with BT Broadband can get a good chunk of live games free as well as seeing the Conference games to boot. Were it not for my football writing I would be round at a mates watching the Arsenal games because zero hour contracts have to support a football writers income nowadays. He, a pensioner, is with Virgin and pays over a hundred a month for the privilege of receiving his broadband, telephone and TV from them.
From a purely and somewhat economic theory based point of view it is about supply and demand and, what plagues the failing capitalist economy as a whole. Fairness is the least concern of big business where patents, rights and big money will guarantee an income flow for institutions and shareholders. Aside the odd spat with toothless and underfunded regulators, this is the way directors ensure they keep their bonuses and snouts in the golden troughs. We are consumers when it suits and at best sheep, or the cahless are of no consequence, the rest of the time. The Premiership have a monopoly as a collective bargaining power, with the carve up going to BSkyB and BT who can post the anti. Virgin, ITV and even the BBC cannot justify paying the lump sums on their balance sheets.
Supply and demand is also used for the high price in going to games. Again it is greed based just adding to the ‘cream’ over here while in Germany tickets are a fraction of the UK. We also top the pile across the rest of Europe by a country mile. This superb article from the Guardian is as good a case for the consumer’s defence as I have come across CLICK ME. The three percent increase in season tickets at Arsenal (had one for 14 years) amounted to a fraction of their income. Clearly an US owner taking out a similar amount was purely coincidence of course. Aside the Football Supporters federation no one is championing Twenty is plenty are they? Granted, this is for away tickets, although it would have an impact on the home prices in corresponding areas.
Andy Savage, who runs the website MCFCForum.com, got it spot on in his twitter spat with Rio Ferdinand over the price disgrace and the empty seats at City’s European game against Roma last night.
“I took Rio Ferdinand to task on Twitter. He was taking the mickey out of the empty seats at the Etihad last night. He is living in his own bubble there. Some people are living hand to mouth and don’t know where the next penny is coming from, and he’s criticising them for not filling the stadium when the tickets are £35-plus.
“He was an absolute disgrace on Twitter, as was Scholes on ITV. They are multi-millionaires. They don’t give the man on the street a second thought, how much it is costing people. The cost of living is going up, so many people are out of work. Football is not everyone’s priority, like it used to be. People just can’t afford, over the course of the month, to pay for tickets three, four or five times.
“I took Ferdinand to task, and not because he is an ex-United player. He’s got an autobiography coming out. I’m sure he’s not giving that away. I’m sure he’s not joined QPR for the love it. He’ll be getting a substantial salary. Perhaps it will hit home next year if QPR have to put their prices up and they won’t be able to fill their stadium. It really wound me up last night.”
So is there any end to the golden rails on the inevitably downward staircase of greed? Not from a regulator point of view you feel although the Lords of the manor will inevitably shoot themselves in the foot one day (perhaps the inevitable interest rate rises will not help either). The last round increased the overall receipts of the Premier League to £5.5 Bn if we include the international carve up or £3Bn domestic (up from £3.3BN for all in the last carve up) suggesting the rights have yet to plateau. When the music stops the transfer and wage inflation will catch up with them all. Until then it is open season with perhaps next summer seeing £1 billion spent in the window. For anything or anyone to actually get in the way of big business is a flight of fantasy. Can anyone picture a herd of flying pigs?
The failure of the Sheffield Wednesday takeover will gut Imps manager Gary Simpson. His beloved boyhood Owls, deserve Premiership football – Sheffield rules football was one of the fundamental building blocks of the game. With The Owls, The Blades and oldest club in the world Sheffield FC, there from the off, Premier League football must return to the Steel City soon. Surely its almost a birthright.
Thanks for reading STMI
The Sheffield Wednesday takeover saga was finally ended today by Milan Mandaric after Hafiz Mammadov. an oil and gas magnate continues to fail to deliver on a contract agreed in June. The takeover should have see him take over the club for £40 million as well as supply lucrative sponsorship. The club are already sporting the logo but The Owls feel a bit like they have been there done that and worn the somewhat unpaid for T shirt.
Mammadov, who owns French League 1 side Racing Club Lens and crack Azerbaijan outfit FC Baku exchanged contracts with Owls overlord and saviour Milan Mandaric in June, but has been unable to fund the purchase of the shares. Manadaric is currently considering legal action, however, world events and sanctions against Russia and its allies could well have something to do with things. Mammadov, founded of Azerbaijan-based Baghlan Group and has had to deny reports that he had been held in custody in his homeland due to financial difficulties earlier in the summer. Lens, promotion to the top flight was temporarily suspended due to lack of funds promised by Mammadov and will struggle this year after being able to strengthen the squad. Mamadov is also a big sponsor of Athletico Madrid in Spain who have had to sell some big stars this season
“Unfortunately despite working hard with both Mr Mammadov and his representatives since the agreement was signed he has not been able to meet the obligations set out in the contract for either the purchase of the shares or the sponsorship arrangements.
“Our supporters were extremely excited when the takeover was announced, like me they believed that Mr Mammadov offered a great opportunity for the club, in hindsight my desire to please our supporters probably clouded my decision to grant further time for him to complete the process.
“During this period I have continued to manage the business and to fund the ongoing financial requirements of the club as I have always done and will continue to do so.
“As supporters will have seen, we have fully committed to the sponsorship agreement, we are proudly wearing our new shirts with the ‘Azerbaijan Land of Fire’ logo and this alongside the other advertising inventory will give worldwide coverage to the country.
“Whilst I hope that Mr Mammadov will very quickly overcome his difficulties in Azerbaijan, I cannot allow this continued speculation to continue and have asked my legal advisors to take such legal action as they consider necessary.
“The club as always will attract people who are interested in acquiring a top English football club. Accordingly, I will explore every serious possibility and if I believe that there is someone who can accelerate our plans to return this club to the Premier League then I will do all in my power to welcome them to Sheffield.
“I believe the legacy I left behind at my previous clubs should give supporters every confidence, if any is needed.”
Milan had been expected to remain as Wednesday chairman had the deal been completed.
Former Millwall FC, Leicester City, Rangers FC and Lincoln City Winger Dany N’Guessan bagged his 5th League goal in 7 games for Swindon Town as the Robins stormed to 6th in the table. STMI suggested he could fly at the Robins under shrewd dude Cooper and so far La Fusee Rouge is blazing a trail across the sky.
Danny has put Leicester City and Millwall rejection behind him to prove that even if the Championship might be a step too far he certainly has what it takes to star at league 1 level. His 28th minute penalty secured a 2-0 result against Notts County, the third league win on the bounce. Danny scored in the previous 4-0 thumping of Rotherham and got the only goal against Tranmere. He also scored in the 1-2 defeat at Preston, so La Fusee Rouge (the red Flare) is on a hot-streak with 4 in 4 games.
Swindon’s Mark Cooper is certainly getting the best out of an immensely talented winger, who even as a 21 year old Imp, was unplayable on his day. Danny got 17 goals in 75 starts for the Imps and gave us some terrific memories as he made the 2008-9 League 2 team of the year. That is the way with wingers turned centre-forwards, luxury players who will win you games, but when a side fails to find them they effectively take you down to ten men. His early season criticism of Millwall’s long ball football during a winless start now looks a thing of the past with Dany perhaps finally set to will deliver and prove the potential Glasgow Rangers saw in him all those years ago.
For those who missed our N’Guessan’s No Fox Or Lion – Can He Fly As A Robin? and bio back on September 5th click HERE
Rangers FC, Leicester City and Millwall FC all failed but can Swindon Town get the best out of the immensely talented former Imp Dany N’Guessan christened La fusée rouge – The Red Flare – at Lincoln. Alas, thus far the potential has remained unfulfilled even if the career has certainly been paved with gold. So can Mark Cooper be the catalyst before a truly brilliant talent goes to waste?
Danny is one of those players who is unplayable on his day, but when his head is down he will disappear back into his shell. Rangers had signed him from Auxerre, then sent him on loan to Boston, where he joined Lincoln on a free going on to score 17 goals in 75 starts and 22 substitute appearances. When we were good Danny was brilliant, when we struggled he was never going to get us out of a hole. That said he was still in the League 2 team of the year during his final season with us and put in a decent display against Leicester in a friendly to get us a hefty fee. Well that and some terrific YouTube footage put up by his agent, keen to tout him around.
That is the way with wingers, luxury players who will win you games, but when a side fails to find them they effectively take you down to ten men. His criticism of Millwall’s long ball football during a winless start to the season, that sees the Lions sitting 23rd, is no surprise – a far cry from the “The manager has shown faith in me and I think I can do well here. I hope to do that and help Millwall up the table” when he signed a three year deal. He must have felt elated after a 6 month loan deal at the Lions had rescued him from Leicester who knew they had taken a bath. The Foxes ‘enjoyed’ 6 goals in 39 appearances, but despite three loan deals to Scunthorpe, Southampton and Millwall, he did little to live up to the hype or fee.
The thing with Dany is that he starts well. He did at Lincoln, Leicester and Millwall (36 aps 4 goals) with their final throw of the dice loan at Charlton even continuing the trend as he bagged 4 goals in 7 games. Dany scored on his Leicester and Millwall débuts which also bodes well for the Robins. Swindon fans have got a terrific player who will help their play-off aspirations if the wind is with them. But with the Robins currently 10th he could yet end up being a help or a hindrance unless unless Mark Cooper can get the best out of him. Mark is the son of Terry the former Leeds legend, Danny by comparison is the mirror of current one Jermaine Johnson aka JJ, on his day. Pace, power and a shot like a cannon that can turn a game in seconds and have the ground on its feet are the positives, a sullen shadow on the flank the negative.
There are no superlatives to describe La fusée rouge in full stride, but, whether Mark Cooper, a terrific coach and successful manager at Kettering and Darlington, has that in him, when so many others have failed, is anyone’s guess? At 26 Dany is entering his peak, therefore the other big question is: will he finally grasp yet another guilt edged opportunity or will inconsistency be his enemy once again?
Boro soccer schools have fed Leeds United (8 youths) Newcastle (2) and of course Middlesbrough FC’s own development side (20) with a conveyor belt of talent over the last three years alone. Its contribution to the stars of the future shows how the hot-bed of North-East talent is set to continue to form a massive part of football for years to come. It would appear the place to go talent spotting is very much down by the Riverside for Leeds and others besides.
thanks for reading Neil Gentleman-Hobbs.
Leeds, have an incredible youth policy of their own but this particular route cranked up in 2010 when Joshua Mazfari joined. In 2011 Jack Williams, Harley Griffiths, Tom Miller turned from red to white. Then in 2012 Jake Muthana, Ben Fletcher, Law McCabe, Riley Green and Oliver Thompson also slipped the Boro net to join Leeds own conveyor belt of talent. Not heard of them yet, you will in the next 5-6 years, when United are back in the Premiership where they belong and, by the looks of things, the business model appears sustainable this time round.
You see, what is even more amazing, is the fact that this forms only part of the Middlesbrough strategy, for it covers up to just 11 years of age with Boro still getting the lions share of the talent. It then gets even more serious as the lads progress to state-of-the-art Rockcliffe and the Academy headed by David Parnaby, a former PE teacher who now masterminds one of the games best breeding centres for talent, Steve Agnew used to be the top man on the coaching and managerial side prior to becoming assistant boss at Hull City but now Ex-Imp Jamie Clapham is charged with keeping it going.
Unlike the those first future names we gave you, this list includes players that are already household names including Boro first team captains Rhys Williams and Matthew Bates, Current internationals Adam Johnson and Stewart Downing (England), James Morrison (Scotland) as well as Australia internationals Luke Wilkshire, Brad Jones and Rhys Williams. Tony McMahon and Joe Bennett are also graduates of a system that produces more Premiership first teamers than any other. British industry take note: Middlesbrough can hold their head up high as one of Europe’s most productive Academy set-ups.
Leeds have sussed it from an early age but Lincoln could do with borrowing a few from the 18 – early development squad age group. Loans of this quality would certainly supplement an already decent looking squad for the coming season and, hopefully, should we progress up the pyramid ,youth loans would surely be seen as even more attractive for the right kind of football factory. Sunderland may have beaten Lincoln, but they saw we at least try to play the right way. Let us hope Middlesbrough feel the same because we may just need reinforcements as a tough inclement season gets going.
Despite a leg injury that will see him miss the start of the season, Leeds United, Hull City, Crystal Palace Leicester City, Middlesbrough FC and Crystal Palace are in for Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, who is now a free agent after his release from Wolves. Norwich City free agent Vaughan is also up for grabs and Crystal Palace have bid £4 million for Blackpool FC winger Tom Ince. Hull are strengthening their muscles with former Imp Jack Hobbs set to move to Birmingham in exchange for Curtis Davies as well as a move for SEB and Pennant.
hold on to your hats the agents are greasing the grapevine, grenades and all, oh lordy lordy its Joyous June oh month of rumour……………
Sylvan Ebanks-Blake’s representative, is said to be already in discussions with Middlesbrough and Leicester, although Leeds are yet to formalise an approach given Noel Hunt is fit well, raring to go and already known by McDermott through the Reading connection. As for Ince junior, Blackpool will want substantially more for one of the games most exciting and emerging talents, although seasoned but evergreen Jermaine Pennant will cost substantially less. Hull City chase him and monitor the Ebanks-Blake situation with baited breath. Jermaine is a free agent although Stoke may come back with a one year deal for the well travelled winger who would make a terrific Thomas Cook rep. Settled Steve Bruce is looking to offer a much longer deal, now he has been given ambitious assurances that have killed any overtures for his services from Wigan. That said free agents, such as Jermaine and West Ham’s Gary O’Neill are still very much on the wish list of an under-rated clever manager who could peel an orange in his pocket and not offer nor waste a drop.
Pearson of Leicester City has also needed to be frugal at a club that now looks set to challenge. Gone are the forks in the Foxes sugar bowls with them being linked left right and centre. Looking to strengthen all over, experience and firepower are on the menu and an avenue for winger Lloyd Dyer to ensure he is not tempted by the bright lights of London club QPR. A move for Ebanks-Blake and the experienced Matthew Upson (loan Keane is now back at Man Utd remember) could help show some ambition, as could a season long loan for Villa midfielder Barry Bannan. Another forward in the form of a permanent deal for Canary striker James Vaughan is doing the rounds. The Foxes will face competition from Leeds United for SEB and Upson, whilst Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday are both interested in Vaughan. He banged in 14 goals whilst on loan at the Terriers last term and after survival they will be looking to more than make up the Championship numbers.
Leeds United President Ken Bates and the Championship sides have saved Football League Chairman Greg Clarke’s skin in a vote of no confidence that has split the top and bottom of the not so merry 72. His successful motion ‘to dismiss concerns and move on’ might even see a big enough split in the Football League to help the up-coming Conference vote? Yes the Portugal Jolly aka the Football League AGM is under way with the 3 Up 3 down vote looming.
Thanks for reading Neil Gentleman-Hobbs
Mister Bates and the Championship clubs are welcome to their £4 million+ each (see below for the latest League cash carve up) but naturally we Conference fans want three promotion spots. So Ken and co’s defeat of a vote of no confidence led by League 2 clubs – the very clubs we would love to back us in our Fair promotion and relegation cause (an act akin to turkeys voting for Christmas) – has led to an almighty rift and some bad feeling.
With the Premier League graciously giving its ex-members £60 million in parachute payments the gulf between the haves and have-nots in the Championship is harder to bridge than promotion to the elite band of 72. Add to that the lack of a sponsor to replace NPower and the little guys are feeling miffed. Eighteen League 2 clubs backed Gills owner Mr Scally in the mutinous no confidence bid.
“I think solidarity negotiations have been poor and I think there are different agendas that he (Greg Clarke) has failed to address. I don’t think he has led the Football League into new pastures. We don’t even have a league sponsor at the moment. I think that’s a scandal and it should have been done a year ago, maybe two years ago. I don’t think he has led the league particularly well.”
The collapse of the £21 million three year deal B & Q deal, will certainly hurt League 2 clubs even if their cut of the New £5 Bn Sky & BT TV deal has grown. Those in the Championship not receiving parachute payments will get £2.3m each ( plus £2 million from their cut of the League’s own 3 year £195m deal) . League One clubs will receive £360,000 and League Two clubs £240,000, equating to a 6.6% and 5.4% rise respectively and split the remaining £17 million a year TV deal very much in the League 1 teams favour.
Chairman Mr Clarke agreed to appoint a day-to-day chief Executive to help out, as a pre-emptive strike ahead of the vote of no confidence. From a Conference point of view this latest development suggests his relationship with the smaller clubs is not that great, given they feel he does not do enough for them. As he has survived the vote of no confidence thanks to a counter proposal from Leeds President Ken Bates and the big boys, let us hope he and they continue to undervalue the League 2 clubs and vote for 3 relegation places from the League and help – dare we say it – the far less fortunate to enjoy some pastures new……………
Wolverhampton Wanderers star Sylvan Ebanks-Blake is being targeted by Crystal Palace, Leeds United , Reading FC and Ipswich Town, making for an interesting first day for Kenny Jackett. Jackett’s pocket is rarely picked but Sylvan Ebanks-Blake is a talented but expensive free agent on June 30th so he will be unlikely to stay. With Adam Le Fondre, aka ALF, already the centre of much attention and therefore costing money The Royals and Leeds could be competing on the same side of the negotiating table over SEB.
Thanks for reading Neil Gentleman-Hobbs
Our dark horse for the job almost a month back Kenny Jackett is definitely the man for the revival, as his time at Millwall proved. Wolves have suffered the post Premiership free-fall that can set a club into terminal decline, but the owners have an ambitious, yet humble and modest, manager who just needed the platform and cash a club of this stature can provide. He can rebuild wisely and emulate Norwich’s back-to-back promotion feat. A shrewd move for play-maker Richie Wellens, coming to the end of his Leicester career, could get the new midfield clicking.
Jackett will need the owners to come good, given he will need to shift some of the dead wood and that will certainly cost some money on its own. Sylvan Ebanks-Blake comes into that category, at 27, any move for him is good news even though he is a free agent His 4 and a half year contract, signed in 2008, has become a burden that Jackett will certainly be able to utilise elsewhere. Indeed on previous experience he could probably get half a team.
The overtures of Palace, Middlesbrough, Leeds United, Reading FC and Ipswich Town will hardly be seen as vultures to the incoming manager, who will want horses for courses in League 1, a place where many a thoroughbred has been cut down to size. Mick McCarthy, meanwhile, is now at Ipswich and has to be a favourite. He was the former manager, who gave Sylvan his current deal, plucked him from Plymouth obscurity (plus £1.5m) and made him the goal machine he can be at Championship level. Mr McCarthy will also be able to impress that Palace and the requirements of the Premiership may not be the path he should tread. The striker got just one goal in the Premiership under him, but plundered 25 in the Championship the season before and 23 in 2007/8 split between Plymouth and Wolves.
|Full name||Sylvan Augustus Ebanks-Blake
|Date of birth||29 March 1986 (age 27)
|Place of birth||Cambridge,|
|Height/Weight||5 ft 8 in (1.73 m) 13st 2lb (83.45kg)|
|Contracted Until June 30 2013|
|Current club||Wolverhampton Wanderers|
|2005–2006||Royal Antwerp (loan)||9||(4)|
Sheffield Wednesday have announced a friendly against Rangers and knocked back a bid from Barnsley for unsettled O’Grady with Flitcroft now turning his attention to Donaldson at Brentford FC, someone the Owls could do with. Jones is also being linked with Sunderland AFC free agent Kilgallon and St Ledger, who has no future at Leicester City. With 6 out of contract Dave Jones has funds and scope for movement to ensure the Owls start looking up rather than down in 2013/14.
Thank you for reading Neil Gentleman-Hobbs
There is an optimism surrounding Hillsborough after a season of consolidation following promotion reward for saviour Milan and the grateful Owls. STMI will be following them this season, after being made to feel so welcome by both Owls online (Owlstalk) and in the flesh. They and the cavernous Kop bearing that huge Thanks Milan banner are starting to bounce with 1,000 new season ticket holders already on board. The momentum is growing and, with the weight of expectation akin to that of Atlas, Dave Jones, a master at finding gems, has his work cut out. He has the pedigree to ensure that the Owls are there or thereabouts by addressing some key areas.
Wednesday do need more fire-power up front. The news that Jermaine Johnson will sign an extension will be greeted positively but Gary Madine, Chris McGuire and Chris O’Grady failed to help shoulder the burden largely left to Leroy Lita, as Dave Jones double-six gave way to 4-3-3 /4-5-1. It kept the Owls up, although McGuire got a vital winner at Millwall after the JJ/Lita show in the 3-2 thriller against Blackburn. Barnsley have had a bid rejected for O’Grady, after his successful loan spell but, manager Flitcroft, will allegedly not follow it up on his self professed ‘”no 1 target” and turn instead to Brentford’s Clayton Donaldson or ex-Blade John Stead.
The Owls do have two fantastic wide-boys to supply whoever comes in with some golden bullets. They will welcome the return of Michail Antonio, injured in the spring, next term, he was sorely missed after a great start, leaving JJ with a huge ask. He duly delivered with aplomb, but he is not getting any younger (32), suggesting the need for cover as McGuire and Lee are relatively poor replacements out wide. Mind you Buxton’s runs from full-back are a treat to behold.
The Owls midfield was overwhelmed at times last season, with central midfield quantity being a poor substitute for quality. Semedo is a fans favourite, Lines, Prutton and Coke are tryers, but early season loans at League 1 clubs, suggest the Owls need to invest in at least one midfield general if they are to look up rather than down. Coke (27) has been offered a new deal by Jones this month, but is yet to sign. Rhys McCabe and Paul Cory are still young but would certainly benefit from a seasoned campaigner to help them realise their potential. Cheltenham’s Marlon Pack (22) is on the radar. At first hand he may not be seen as a landmark signing, but he has the quality and engine to take the step up in his stride. The compensation fee would also leave plenty to spare for elsewhere.
Right-back and player of the season Lewis Buxton has just agreed a new two year deal, fantastic on the overlap, his delivery ensures a dangerous and consistent end product for the Owls. Jones is being linked with ex-Sunderland free agent Kilgallon and St Ledger who has no future at Leicester City with favourite Miguel Llera rumoured to be leaving Hillsborough (if agents talk is to be believed). The Owls defence was somewhat overworked at times last season and conceded 61 goals. Llera and Gardner put in some brave performances last year,given the step up and hearts in mouths aside. With Garner’s injury record, Taylor, now 33 and, Llera out of contract, a Fox and Black cat capture could be the stitch in time that saves 9. Left-back Reda Johnson is a fans favourite but Leeds Danny Pugh looked useful during a loan to cover for RJ’s injury. Joe Mattock can play at right or left back but struggled when called on to deputise.
Kirkland was ever-present in his first season and is happy to stay despite rumoured Premiership interest. He will be first choice again, with understudy Stephen Bywater (limited to 4 cup games) offered a new deal whilst the ageing Weaver has been released. As further back-up, if needed, the Owls have Cameron Dawson who is an England U19 keeper. With a full-complement of keepers it leaves plenty in the kitty for a striker to get the Kop out of there seats. Donaldon could be the answer but Mansfield’s Green has surprisingly missed out during a trial at Birmingham. Now he is a gamble who could pay off better than Adam Le Fondre did for Reading.