It`s been a strange close-season/pre-season for various reasons.
The first reason it has been strange is because of a very upsetting reason. As you will very well know Sir Danny Bergara passed away on the 25th July. For most of the fans it was the first real legend that had passed away of this era, and the club did well in the tributes to Danny at the friendly game against Cardiff City on the following Saturday. Unfortunately for myself I was very young at the time, and any games I did attend I do not remember at all. However, my father has told me many stories and I have read many of the great tales on the Internet. I`ve watched highlights videos of the Wembley games and I`ve seen seasonal highlight videos that my Dad still has from during the Bergara era. He really was a true legend at the club, and it is safe to say that without him we probably wouldn`t be playing in League Two this season.
Secondly, it has been Jim Gannon`s first proper pre-season. Last season I know he had the whole pre-season, but he was only manager for half the season beforehand and so he was getting rid of the crap. However, now he has built his own team and is now adding onto the foundations that he already has – hence the lack of too many signings, and also the volume of pre-season friendlies.
And on the subject of pre-season friendlies, that is my third point. TEN pre-season games have been arranged, with the first being played on the 10th July and the first League game on the 11th August, I think it is safe to say that the players should be fit and in shape for the first game of the season. As will the fans, I`ve been to three games and I`m ready for the season!
So what is the new squad going to be like?
First the new players.
Chris Adamson – Chris is probably the most interesting one of them all. The goalkeeper is an area that every manager in the past seven years has struggled with, but why? Top quality goalkeepers are hard to come by, any good goalkeepers are snapped up by the Premiership clubs early on in their careers and then they are reluctant to loan them out to lower league clubs. However Jim took the move to get rid of Spencer so obviously he had to go on a search for a new permanent number one. Chris was signed from Sheffield Wednesday, and comes with reports that aren`t too good. It`s been hard to judge him in the pre season games because apart from the goals that he has conceded he hasn`t had much else to do. So it`s a case of get behind the lad and see what happens, if the worst comes to the worst we`ll have to loan another young lad from a club higher up. Rating 2.5/5
Gareth Owen – It was more a case of when rather than if with Gareth. After a really successful loan spell last year, all the fans were waiting for was confirmation of when he was signing permanently. He soon became a permanent fixture in the side last season, and for the second half of the season he was made skipper of the side. There isn`t much to say about him, he`s a top defender and he will be a part of the spine of the team for the whole season. Rating 5/5.
Paul Tierney – County signed Paul from Blackpool on a six-month loan, that runs up until January. He is a left back and started at Manure and you can see that in the confidence that he has on the ball. With Michael Rose out for another few months yet it will be certain that Tierney will be County`s number one left back up until then. In the pre-season games against Hull and Cardiff he has certainly impressed at left back, however against Crewe he was asked to play at centre back. I doubt he will play centre back in the league though, he should be played on the left side allowing Adam Griffin to play on the wing. It`s a good signing I think because it opens up more options to the team, with Griffin on the wing it gives the team more of a balance because he is very good defensively and he`s got pace on the ball. So with somebody to play at left back it means that Griffin can play on the left wing, and then have a proper left back behind him. There is no hiding the fact that our best football came last season when we had Rose & Griffin playing in tandem down the left hand side, hopefully we will see Tierney and Griffin doing the same thing. Rating 4/5.
Gary Dicker – This is a place we definitely needed to beef up on over the summer, central midfield. We closed the season with a youth player playing there because of injuries and loan signings leaving. Gary was bought from Irish side UCD but spent last season on loan at Birmingham, Birmingham wanted to sign him permanently aswell but he preferred to come here and get in the first team. From what we have seen in the two games he has featured in he can definitely pick a pass, he can break up the play and he isn`t scared to put a foot in. I suspect that him and Taylor will form a formidable partnership in the middle of the park for County, and really get the team going. It shows the way Gannon is going and that we are looking to pass the ball on the floor this term. Gary can become a really good player for County once he is fully fit and sharp. Rating 5/5.
Matty McNeil – Here was a signing that raised a few eyebrows among County fans and League Two fans when announced. McNeil, a striker from Macclesfield, who scored four goals last season, joining County who are on the hunt for promotion? However from what we have seen so far Matty can become a very effective player for County this season. He has a bit of pace to burn and he wins his headers well, he`s strong and he can hold up the ball. Get him an early goal in front of the Cheadle End and with confidence up he can be a big player for County this season. As long as the fans don`t treat him badly like Bramble then this guy can become something at County. Rating 4/5.
Adam Legzdins – Adam isn`t really a proper signing but he could be called upon in the near future. Legzdins is a goalkeeper on loan from Birmingham City, he was also being chased by QPR but chose County. He looks a steady goalkeeper and may be used by Gannon in the league, he started in the final pre-season game at Crewe but there have been no indications as to who Gannon will use as a number one goalkeeper for the first month. Legzdins loan is for an initial month, with a view to an extension. Rating 3/5.
Dominic Blizzard – Fantastic catch from Gannon. No other words needed. 5/5.
Conrad Logan – Goalkeeper from Leicester, played twenty odd games for the first team last season. How did Jimbo pull this one off?! 5/5.
So they are the new signings and my views, I`m sure you all have your own views on them aswell but really we won`t get a proper idea until we see them in competitive football.
What kind of team is Jim Gannon going to go with in the first game of the season then?
It`s very likely that Conrad Logan will take the number one shirt for County this season.
Goalkeepers: Chris Adamson, Adam Legzdins, Conrad Logan.
In defence you`ve got the excellent partnership of Gareth Owen and skipper Ashley Williams at the back, they are the two names that go on the team sheet first. At left back you will go with Paul Tierney, at least until Michael Rose is back fully fit and ready to go. Adam Griffin can also fill in at left back. At right back it`s a battle between Keith Briggs and Rob Clare, with Michael Bowler capable of filling in. Keith Briggs is likely to get the nod with Clare not featuring in any of the friendlies because of injury. James Smith has been signed from Liverpool and could play at right back.
Defenders: Keith Briggs, Rob Clare, Michael Bowler, Gianluca Havern, Michael Raynes, James Tunnicliffe, Ashley Williams, Gareth Owen, Michael Rose, Paul Tierney, Adam Griffin, James Smith.
The midfield is set to be built around Gary Dicker, Dominic Blizzard and Jason Taylor in the middle. Adam Griffin has got to start on the left wing because he balances the team, on the right you`ve got David Poole and then Anthony Pilkington (he is my man to watch for the whole season, you won`t recognise him when you first see him). With Tony Dinning and Greg Tansey as back up in the middle, along with Keith Briggs it`s a fairly strong midfield. Tommy Rowe is the back up on the left wing.
Midfielders: David Poole, Anthony Pilkington, Gary Dicker, Tony Dinning, Jason Taylor, Keith Briggs, Adam Griffin, Tommy Rowe, Keith Briggs, Dominic Blizzard.
Upfront its going to be interesting. We`ve got four strikers who are capable of playing and scoring in this division, and its definitely a case of which two/three Jim Gannon will go for. Will he go for rotation or will he try and get two to build a partnership and use the others effectively as substitutes. The four are Adam Proudlock, Anthony Elding, Matty McNeil and Liam Dickinson. Chris Coward, Paul Turnbull and Dan Ellis are some young lads that can also step in. Anthony Pilkington can also play upfront if needed.
Strikers: Adam Proudlock, Anthony Elding, Matty McNeil, Liam Dickinson, Chris Coward, Paul Turnbull, Dan Ellis, Anthony Pilkington.
So there is the full squad, if you`ve read some names twice your not seeing double. I`ve just listed the players in all the positions they are available in! But what will the starting eleven be? I`m not too sure myself, nobody is. But I`m going to hazard a guess.
Logan, Smith, Owen, Williams, Tierney, Pilkington, Blizzard, Taylor, Griffin, Proudlock, Elding.
That would be my eleven, at least for the Dagenham game. When all the players are fit it may be a different story, but who am I to say? It`ll be interesting to find out for sure!
Here`s to a good season! Come on County!
Stockport County Preview 07/08
It`s been a strange close-season/pre-season for various reasons.