Thursday, 12 July 2012

Championship Rivals' Business


The top five winners and losers in the transfer marker so far this summer.

Winners

Huddersfield Town

Manager Simon Grayson has made a statement of intent following Huddersfield’s return to the second tier after an 11 year absence. Grayson cleared the decks following their League One play-off final win and allowed some older players such as Tommy Miller, Danny Cadamarteri and Gary Naysmith to move on. His first signing of the summer was Crystal Palace striker Sean Scannell, once linked with multi-million pound moves to Spurs and West Ham, for just £400,000. Scannell has lost his way a little in the past couple of seasons but is still a young, dynamic player who has excellent dribbling ability and an eye for goal. He could be the steal of the summer window.

Hudds midfield has been significantly strengthened with the free signing of Manchester united midfielder Oliver Norwood, who impressed on loan at Coventry last season, and a half a million pound deal for Leeds’ Adam Clayton. Both are young, tidy footballers and Clayton in particular looked destined for bigger things.

A pair of new full-backs have also arrived at the Galpharm. Paul Dixon has joined from Dundee United but is probably one for the future while Joel Lynch is an established NPC full-back who had a very good season in a struggling Forest team. They are signings made by an ambitious club with an equally ambitious manager. Perhaps their most important bit of business so far is the fact that Jordan Rhodes, scorer of 85 goals in three seasons, is still a Huddersfield player. He’s sought after and would command a massive fee but the club are still holding on to him.

Brighton & Hove Albion

Brighton enjoyed a good season back in the Championship last season under the management of Gus Poyet. Last summer’s surprise signing Vicente has committed himself to the club for another season and has been joined by an ex-Valencia team mate in full-back Bruno (Saltor). Bruno played for Valencia in the Champions League last season and brings extensive experience with him from Spain. The signing of goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak from Manchester United, reportedly clinched ahead of Hull City and Ipswich Town, was another impressive piece of business.

Brighton stated their ambition last summer when they pipped a host of clubs to the signing of Craig Mackail-Smith while lately they’ve been credited with an interest in Jordan Rhodes. Their willingness to spend a few quid was displayed with the recent loan capture of former England left-back Wayne Bridge. Bridge comes on loan from Manchester City where his weekly wage is said to be £90,000. This will be a subsidised loan but will still be relying on Brighton making a significant contribution.

Blackburn Rovers

Another team back in the second tier after over ten years away. Blackburn had a turbulent time last season and came down from the Premier League amid fears of financial doom. So far they’ve managed to keep hold of their high profile players except for top-scorer Yakubu who moved to Chinese side Guangzhou. They’ve also managed to add a few players and have brought in quality and experience.

Danny Murphy’s move from Fulham made everyone in the NPC sit up and take notice. Murphy is an old fashioned schemer who could surely have continued to play in the top flight. Newcastle’s Leon Best also moved to Ewood Park for a fee of around £3,000,000. Best has Championship pedigree with Coventry City and performed far better than anyone predicted for Newcastle in the Premier League in the last two seasons. Blackburn have also added two Portuguese to their squad. Fabio Nunes is a little known young winger. Nuno Gomes is well known. He has 79 caps for Portugal, has scored goals in the World Cup and European Championships and has played nearly 300 times for Benfica. At 36 it’s questionable whether he has the legs for English football but he certainly has the nous.

Leeds United

The biggest surprise at Elland Road this summer is that Neil Warnock hasn’t yet managed to sign Clint Hill and Shaun Derry! He has signed paddy Kenny, a goalkeeper who’s played for him at three previous clubs and brings with him a wealth of experience. Kenny knows what it takes to get out of the Championship and how to cheat, both on and off the pitch. More impressively Leeds have signed Jason Pearce from hard-up Portsmouth. The centre-half was one of the few shining lights at Fratton Park last season. Derby’s Paul Green is an excellent signing in the midfield, though offset by the loss of Adam Clayton to Huddersfield, and Norwich City’s Adam Drury is a very reliable and experienced left back.

Perhaps most importantly of all though, Leeds have thus far managed to keep hold of captain Robert Snodgrass who seemed certain to follow Jermaine Beckford, Max Gradel, Bradley Johnson, Kasper Schmeichel and Jonny Howson out of Elland Road. They’re also holding on to Ross McCormack whose goals proved important last season.

Peterborough United

Posh have once again dipped into the lower leagues and reserve squads to replenish their squad with a batch of up and coming players. Goalkeeper Joe Lewis, who once looked a player of great promise, departed for Cardiff and has been replaced by Torquay’s Bobby Olejnik. The Austrian was brought to England by Aston Villa, served Falkirk will in the SPL and was named the best ‘keeper in League Two last season. Striker Tyrone Barnett, winger Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and defender Shaun Brisley have completed moves after joining on loan last season from Crawley, Wolves and Macclesfield respectively. Barnett is a beast of a striker who cost in the region of £1,200,000. Nathaniel Knight-Percival looks a good free signing after starring for Wrexham in the conference last season, midfielder Michael Bostwick has earned a big move after climbing up the leagues with Stevenage and Dundee United midfielder Danny Swanson was another sought after free agent.

Posh’s summer could head south if they receive offers too good to refuse for winger George Boyd and strikers Lee Tomlin and Paul Taylor. However, as the often do, Peterbro have prepared for the inevitable in advance.

Losers

Nottingham Forest

The uncertainty over the clubs future finally ended this week with the Al-Hasawi family taking over the club from the estate of Nigel Doughty. That uncertainty has cost Forest a number of their better performers in the past couple of seasons. Winger Garath McCleary  joined Premier League new-boys Reading, centre-half Luke Chambers left for Ipswich Town and full-back Joel Lynch has gone to Huddersfield Town. Another winger, Paul Anderson has also left after his contract ended. The sacking of manager Steve Cotterill suggests the new owners are keen to flex their muscle though and Forest could start to move up the rankings soon.

Leicester City

Nigel Pearson released a number of fringe players at the end of last season including high earners Darius Vassell and John Pantsil. His signings to date have been reasonable with young Manchester United duo Ritchie De Laet and Matty James signing for undisclosed fees. The signing of Fleetwood Town striker Jamie Vardy for a fee of around £1,000,000 looks a large risk but Hull City fans know first hand that Pearson’s team do their home work. Leicester’s appearance in the losers section to date is due to their outgoings. Leicester fans couldn’t get enough of telling everyone last summer that the pairing of Sol Bamba and Matt Mills was by far the best defensive unit in the Championship. Bamba has since been sold to Turks Trabzonspor for £750,000 while Mills, who had a dreadful season, was sold to Bolton at a loss of between £2.5-4m depending on who you believe.

It leaves Nigel Pearson with work to do in the market if Leicester are to justify their tag as the bookmakers favourites for promotion. Again.

Bristol City

Endured another poor season last time out resulting in manager Keith Millen being replaced by Derek McInnes. Their two signings so far have been unimpressive. Jody Morris, once a can’t miss prospect at Chelsea, has been hiding out in the wilderness (Scottish football) for the past few seasons. Greg Cunningham is a decent full-back but not a signing that will excite anyone or transform a poor outfit.

Burnley

Jason Shackell is a good signing for the Clarets joining from Derby for the dreaded undisclosed fee which is said to be around a million quid. They’ve taken on a couple of lower league players too, Mansfield’s Luke O’Neill and Orient’s George Porter. None of this will compensate for the loss of Jay Rodriguez to Southampton. Rodriguez was among the top 3-5 strikers in the league last season and won’t be easy to replace. Burnley looked an ordinary side for the most part before that loss and will need to go some to improve now.

Derby County

I admire the way Derby County are run under Nigel Clough. They spend wisely, investing in youth and don’t allow players to block the development of their own young players. They’ve improved year on year and have a nice blend of youth products and shrewd acquisitions. That will be tested this summer. Chris Maguire is no-loss, he failed to deliver after his signing from Aberdeen, but Jason Shackell and Paul Green could really be missed. Most worrying for the Derby fans will be the seemingly imminent departure of Steven Davies. Derby haven’t had a lot of strength in depth and their squad looks small at the moment. Winning the race for Northampton’s promising midfielder Michael Jacobs is the only plus point so far.

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