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Imps, Leicester & Ipswich, McAuley Still going Strong at WBA

WBA stalwart and former Leicester City and Ipswich Town captain and centre-half Gareth McAuley is enjoying a wonderful Indian summer. One of Lincoln manager Gary Simpson’s early spots, The Imps are incredibly the only club to pay money for a player who has been  priceless for The Baggies, The Foxes, The Tractor Boys and his country.  Gareth has played 46 times for Northern Ireland. What is more intriguing and, perhaps even a return to his roots, is that at 33 he is rediscovering the goal touch, Gareth has 3 in 3, that he learned when he was converted from a defender to a striker all those years ago.

Lincoln City F.C. badge.pngLeicester City logoIpswich Town.svgWest Bromwich Albion crest 

Gareth McAuley was loved and admired at Lincoln. Originally spotted By Simmo and Oaksey during a Northern Ireland scouting mission the previous season, Keith Alexander signed him in the summer of 2004/5.  Gareth had been playing for Coleraine in Londonderry and was part of the Northern Ireland route that would serve Keith and Simmo over the years.

Gareth almost went to Stockport, then under the stewardship of former Northern Ireland manager Sammy McIlroy, who had capped him at B level.  But with the lad on trial at Edgeley Park and on the verge of signing Big Keith nipped in with a two-year deal and offered Coleraine £10k up front plus a slice of any sell-on fee.  Gareth played as one of Keith’s odd defender cum target-man strikers, then a centre-back and a wing back as Dean West and Bloomer tired.  His two-goals, one in each leg  of the 2-1 aggregate win over Macclesfield in the 2005 play-off semi-final were vital.

Gareth gave Lincoln the lead to edge a frenetic home first leg 11 minutes in. Sandwith floated a free-kick, Gareth flew and, almost in a slow motion ‘matrix’ moment, the header crept into the bottom corner. In the return his towering header from a Taylor-Fletcher centre  crossed the line despite the valiant efforts of the Macc defence.   Gareth did not sign a deal the following season, one that also saw Keith Alexander move to Peterborough, allowing Leicester to get him on a free.

His class deserved higher, we knew that, with Leicester offering him the Captaincy during his second season at the club.  Ipswich did make two bids during the 2008 January window  but the Foxes offered managed to hang on to him for a few months with an improved new 3 year deal.  The Foxes were then relegated allowing Ipswich to get him on a free and he would go on to be a terrific and inspirational captain before moving to WBA when his contract was allowed to run down as a 31-year-old in 2011.

West Brom took a bit of a punt with a three year deal in May 2011 but, a three month injury in that first season apart, he went on to complete 44 games last season. Gareth was voted Players’ Player of the Year and Supporters’ Player of the Year last term but this season promises to be even better. He has started every Premiership game, scored in both Northern Ireland’s World Cup defeats last week and now earned a point against Fulham.

STMI Biopic: Gareth McAuley

Gareth McAuley.jpg

thanks for the pic WIKI

The tale of the tape
Full name Gareth Gerald McAuley
Date of birth 5 December 1979 (age 33)
Place of birth Larne, Northern Ireland
Height/weight 6 ft 3 in / 11 st
Playing position Centre-half left/right back or striker
Current gig in the game
Current club West Bromwich Albion
Number 23
Senior stats
Years Team Apps
(Gls)
1996–2000 Linfield 0 (0)
1999–2000 Ballyclare Comrades (loan) 7 (0)
2000–2002 Crusaders 64 (3)
2002–2004 Coleraine 65 (4)
2004–2006 Lincoln City 784 (10)
2006–2008 Leicester City 84 (7)
2008–2011 Ipswich Town 127 (8)
2011– West Bromwich Albion 78 (6)
International
2003 Northern Ireland B 1 (0)
2005– Northern Ireland 46 (4)
stats inc League & cup competitions

Stoke Dilemma: Can Hughes Or Di Matteo Eclipse Pulis Power

The Stoke City job appears to be going to former Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City, QPR and Fulham boss Mark Hughes, although Roberto Di Matteo (who has managed MK Dons, WBA and Chelsea FC) looks to be the latest of the ex-Chelsea contingent (Gus Poyet has been approached too) to be linked with one of the Premiership’s toughest asks.  Chelsea charm comes with cash, whilst Stoke’s Premiership lineage has been forged as much through perspiration as inspiration. Pulis power is about physical prowess, under him the realism of the artisan’s toil, reaps hard won returns and the reliability of regular rewards. But that is not enough for some, who chastise long ball football and the stiff necks that come from looking skywards. But how many ex-Premiership chairmen later lament reaching for the very same sky.

Thankyou for reading Neil Gentleman-Hobbs.

Tony Pullis has never been relegated as a manager, but image and perception is so much more than substance, facts & stats and the boring, solid day-to-day stuff that goes on behind the scenes. We live in a media-orientated world alright, where the people’s game seems to be less and less about traditional values and the virtues of hard-work, particularly once  the Premiership glitz and glamour has caught owners in its midst.  Stoke’s owners may feel they are secure and ready to take the next step, but in reality they start on zero points in three months time like everyone else. Ambition may also be a great virtue, a wonderful way to fill a stadium, but failure empties a stadium of the fickle fans, faster than a winger can skin a full-back.

If carpet football is the top priority for Stoke City, then Roberto Di Matteo is the man to bring it. But he, like favourite Hughes, who will bring a more physically robust approach to the table, will need plenty of cash to take the Potters to the next level. Many have tried and failed to break into the Premiership’s platinum plated cartel.  Failure in the Premiership brings a short sharp shock to many sides who fall not once but twice before steadying the ship again. Ask Sheffield Wednesday, Manchester City, Norwich, Charlton et al.  But football is about theatre, dreams and optimism, so here is a run down of the two who could take Stoke City to the next level.

*****

Mr Di Matteo started his career well at MK Dons, succeeding Paul Ince in 2008. He took the, perhaps unfairly nicknamed, Franchise club to the League 1 play-offs in his first season, losing the semi to Scunthorpe. It was enough to get him the WBA job, where he repaid the faith with an instant return to the Premiership, as runners up behind Newcastle.  Despite getting hammered at Chelsea on the opening day of the 2010/11 season the Baggies recovered well earning Mr Di Matteo a manager of the month award in the September. The swashbuckling style was superb, sweeping counter attacking carpet football, played, perhaps, as only a sweet-toothed Swiss-Italian can conjure.  The defensive side of the Italian game let him down when the wheels well and truly came off the cart. One win in ten cost him his job, with Michael Appleton replacing him, steadying the ship sufficiently to finish 11th.

After failing to get the Birmingham job, Chelsea cast him a lifeline as assistant manager to AVB. Upon his sacking in March 2012 Mr Di Matteo took the helm, winning the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League. Although this was a fantastic and unique double, many will argue he did little but reverse the square pegs that had been put into round holes by AVB.  That Chelsea side was and still is, nothing short of breath-taking on their day, with a midfield that is a credit to world football. To follow that first three months anywhere, would be a tough ask, but then to please Mr Abramovich is a whole different ball game. After just 8 months in charge he was gone ,dividing fans and pundits alike. Even a champion of the glass half-full club five minutes before closing time, could not envisage Stoke being able to give him the head start he enjoyed at MK Dons and Chelsea. To change the style of the side to his way of thinking will take the sort of time and cash they will not have in the Potteries next season. The romantic in us hopes so for the underdogs sake, but surely it is to dream the impossible dream?

Roberto’s Record

Club Managed Start End Record
G W D L Win %
Milton Keynes Dons 2008 2009 52 27 11 14 51.92
West Bromwich Albion 2009 2011 83 40 19 24 48.19
Chelsea 2012 2012 42 24 9 9 57.14
Overall Record 177 91 39 47 51.41

Mr Hughes has a decent win percentage (39.53%) but he has had the money at every club he has been at. After the less than dreamy, perhaps impossible and deary, dragon’s den days in the fiery Wales job, he guided Blackburn to a top six finish and UEFA cup qualification. The expensive rebuild in the summer of 2005 saw Rovers finish tenth, with a somewhat physical reputation. In the four years Mr Hughes held the helm at Ewood Park his side finished bottom of the Premier fair play League, but never finished outside of the top ten and managed three FA Cup semi finals.  Mr Hughes then chose Manchester City over Chelsea (2008/9) but, despite spending tens of millions (Robinho alone cost £32 million) City could only finish a disappointing tenth. They did reach the UEFA Cup quarter-finals but alas, decent home form cannot make up for frequent no shows on the road. Mr Hughes card was marked, much to the benefit of his bank balance one supposes.

After a year out he also managed just a season at Fulham,  before questioning the club’s ambition. Will Stoke be able to afford him that level, or will it end in a spat similar to the one at the Lillywhites, one that saw owner  Mohamed Al-Fayed call Mr Hughes a “strange man” and a “flop”? Mr Hughes soon returned to management with awash with money club QPR in January 2012 and kept them up. An expensive rebuild saw Rangers worst ever start to a top flight season, as they went 12 without a win. Stoke, at a crossroads, will certainly hope history does not repeat itself should he get the job.

The Mark Hughes Clues.

Club Start End Record
G W D L Win %
Wales Sep 1999 Sep 2004 41 12 15 14 29.27
Blackburn Rovers Sep 2004 Jun 2008 188 82 47 59 43.62
Manchester City Jun 2008 Dec 2009 77 36 15 26 46.75
Fulham Jul 2010 Jun 2011 43 14 16 13 32.56
Queens Park Rangers Jan 2012 Nov 2012 34 8 6 20 23.53
Overall Record 382 151 99 132 39.53

Tony Pulis Record

Just for the record, here is what Tony Pulis has done. One has to feel that some club will be lucky to have him. Bournemouth (Div 3 Champions 1986/87), Gillingham (Promoted as runners up Div 3 1995/96 and Div 2 Play-off winner 1998/99) and Stoke (Promoted as Championship runners up 2007/8, FA Cup runner up 2010/11) all did well under him, albeit ‘enjoying’ some physical, long ball tactics.

 
Club Start End Record
G W D L Win %
Bournemouth 9 June 1992 5 August 1994 107 31 38 38 28.97
Gillingham 31 July 1995 1 July 1999 216 94 62 60 43.52
Bristol City 5 July 1999 14 January 2000 33 10 14 9 30.30
Portsmouth 13 January 2000 12 October 2000 35 11 10 14 31.43
Stoke City 1 November 2002 28 June 2005 131 47 32 52 35.88
Plymouth Argyle 23 September 2005 14 June 2006 39 12 15 12 30.77
Stoke City 14 June 2006 21 May 2013 333 122 98 113 36.64
Total 894 327 269 298 36.58

6 Josh Gowling Profile

Josh Gowling’s  career has taken in WBA, Gillingham,  AFC Bournemouth, the Danish Premier with Herfølge Boldklub and a loan with Ølstykke FC.   The 90 games for the Cherries apart, he has rarely stayed more than a season or two, although that is in no way a reflection of his commitment and playful optimism.  At 28 he is entering the peak of his career. will he be content with an Imps side treading water or will his infectious enthusiasm raise everbody’s game?

 AFC Bournemouth.svgA shield with the words "Gillingham Football Club" in the top portion and the remainder divided into two sections, the left containing black and white vertical stripes and the right a depiction of a white horse rearing up on its hind legs on a blue backgroundLincoln City F.C. badge.png

Josh’s career at the Cherries was almost over before it gained momentum, as he sustained a serious knee injury in the first minute of a game at Brentford.  The ligament damage would keep him out for the season. Typically he battled back, making 30 often towering appearances.  He is brave and gives and asks no quarter.  Carlisle snapped him up on a two year deal but loaned him to Hereford where he played like a bull in a china shop before Mark Stimpson took a chance with a loan deal.  The Gills gave him a permanent deal as he became one of the few heroes in a season of turmoil that saw the Gills drop to League 2.  Despite being half-way through a two year deal he agreed to join the Imps on a two year tenure.

Gowling, Josh.jpg

Here are Josh’s stats with his Imp pen pic at the bottom.
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Joshua Gowling’s  Imp stats 2011/12
No 5 Comp Starts Sub Goals Assists Shots Fouls Fouled Mins YC RC
Def/Cent BSP 34 1 0 2 11 37 36 3064 7 0
Josh Gowling
Gowling, Josh.jpg
STMI Biopic
Full name Joshua Anthony Isaac Gowling
Date of birth 29 November 1983 (age 28)
Place of birth Coventry,
Height/Weight 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)/ 12st 5lb (78.46kg)
Playing position Defender
Club information
Current club Lincoln City
Number 6
Senior stats (Lge & Cup)
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2002–2003 West Bromwich Albion 0 (0)
2003–2005 Herfølge 30 (0)
2004–2005 Ølstykke FC (loan) 13 (0)
2005–2008 Bournemouth 90 (1)
2008 Carlisle United 5 (0)
2008–2009 Hereford United (loan) 13 (0)
2009 Gillingham (loan) 4 (0)
2009–2011 Gillingham 52 (4)
2010 Lincoln City (loan) 6 (0)
2011– Lincoln City 37 (0)
After his permanent capture from Gillingham, Lincoln City Banter eagerly sponsored the home shirt of Joshua Gowling last season.  Our optimism matched his own as he aimed for an immediate return to the Football League for the Mighty Imps. But oh contraire life is so unfair. To say that he did not deliver,  anywhere near what we feel him to be capable of is both unfair and an understatement. Then again our defence looked good on paper but did not measure up on the pitch against either pace or physical presence.  He does do the subtle things well including getting away with plenty, yet the club captain off the field, has not been as commanding on it considering his pedigree.  He did look composed with Williams and Hinds by his side so there is scope for optimism if he can gel with Boyce  or whoever else the budget will allow Holdsworth to bring aboard. Good luck next season Josh