Season 2013/14 Preview
by The Boy Holty
This season 2013/14 promises to be quite different to pretty much anything that has gone before in recent seasons, especially last year when we were relegated amidst an utterly miserable season. The old board and chairman Brian Fenton has gone, to be replaced by the much younger, more enthusiastic, more knowledgeable Stewart Day and his board, who have so far brought common sense, fan-pleasing decisions and greater financial clout than anyone has for many years. After much uncertainty early on, this correspondent is now fairly sure that the club is in safe hands.
Following the sales of David Worrall and Steven Schumacher and Phil Picken's long term injury, the club had just five fit first team players in June and Kevin Blackwell, buoyed by the new ownership set about the task of building a new squad. Progress was slow at first and fans started getting a little twitchy before a flurry of signings was announced. At the time of writing (and with KB having his eye on at least one or two more), we have a squad of 24 players, not including Picken; 13 brand new players, 2 loans, 2 of last seasons squad offered new deals and 6 existing contracted players.
There exists the very real possibility of our starting team on Saturday's opener against Chesterfield containing 11 debutants.
As for predictions, its almost impossible to make anything other than a wild guess as to what will happen over the next nine months. I believe we hve quite a strong squad, but they may take time to gel, and it no secret what difference a good or bad start to a season can make. I think we'll start slowly and then pick up as the season goes on. Another problem could be the lack of match practise the squad has had with many preferred opponents unwilling to arrange friendlies against us owing to nucertaintly over the club's future earlier in the summer.
Some of our signings seem very good. The acquisition of Tom Soares and Ashley Grimes are what excite me most, plus there's Anton Forrester, scorer of a double hat-trick in a pre-season game, plus Richard Hinds, new club captain Gareth Roberts and Andy Procter. Of course Blackwell's first choice side will not become truly apparent until five or six games in, I shouldn't think.
So here's our squad as it stands today. Squad numbers have been assigned and are shown but some players have been left out. Maybe this means Blackwell has no plans for these boys. . .
|1||Trevor Carson||GK||05/03/1988||25||N Ireland||22/05/2012||0||2|
|2||Shaun Beeley (loan - Fleetwood)||RB||21/11/1989||23||England||30/07/2013||n/a||0.5|
|3||Gareth Roberts (Captain)||LB||06/02/1978||35||Wales||27/06/2013||0||1|
|9||Anton Forrester (Loan Blackburn)||CF||11/02/1994||19||England||18/07/2013||n/a||0.5|
|26||Rob Lainton ||GK||12/10/1989||23||England||08/07/2013||0||2|
|?||Phil Picken (Inj)||LB||12/11/1985||27||England||04/08/2010||0|
What goes on over the coming season will at worst be . . . interesting. We could well end up with the championship trophy (unlikely) or drop out of the league altogether (even more unlikely). I'm going for a safe 8th place finish, but as I've said that's pretty much a big fat guess. Here's my full prediction for the league two final table, with Bet365's odds in there just to show how crap I am at this sort of thing.
|Pos||Team||Bet 365 Odds||Manager||last season|
|1||Portsmouth||5/1||Guy Whittingham||24 (L1)|
|2||Fleetwood Town||13/2||Graham Alexander||13|
|4||Burton Albion||16/1||Gary Rowett||4|
|5||Cheltenham Town||20/1||Mark Yates||5|
|6||Scunthorpe United||16/1||Brian Laws||21 (L1)|
|7||Northampton Town||22/1||Aidy Boothroyd||6|
|8||Bury||25/1||Kevin Blackwell||22 (L1)|
|9||Hartlepool United||20/1||Colin Cooper||23 (L1)|
|10||Bristol Rovers||16/1||John Ward||14|
|11||Plymouth Argyle||33/1||John Sheridan||21|
|12||Oxford United||16/1||Chris Wilder||9|
|13||Torquay United||33/1||Alan Knill||19|
|14||Mansfield Town||28/1||Paul Cox||1 (Conf)|
|15||Newport County||40/1||Juston Edinburgh||3 (Conf)|
|16||Wycombe Wanderers||33/1||Gareth Ainsworth||15|
|17||York City||33/1||Nigel Worthington||17|
|18||Southend United||25/1||Phil Brown||11|
|21||Exeter City||40/1||Paul Tisdale||10|
|22||AFC Wimbledon||50/1||Neil Ardley||20|
|23||Dagenham & Redbridge||100/1||Wayne Burnett||22|
|24||Accrington Stanley||100/1||James Beattie||18|
Whatever happens, we'll have a few top days out at Rochdale, Accrington, Fleetwood and Morecambe where I would expect a decent Shakers following. Plus there's Portsmouth where Stewart Day has offered to pay for all coach travel. Top man. Up the Shakers.