Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Retained List

It's now 6 days since the football season ended for Bristol Rovers and the majority of football-league clubs. It's common practice for teams who know what league they'll be playing in next season to announce the players they wish to keep and those they are releasing a few days after the season's conclusion. A large proportion of clubs have done exactly that this week, releasing their retained list to mark the beginning of their summer recruitment process. It was fully expected Rovers would do the same before this weekend.

Well, as of 12.40pm on Saturday lunchtime, they have yet to do so. Due to the professional and organised attitude instilled by Mark McGhee since his arrival in January, I don't think the absence of the retained list stems from a lack of preparation on his part. I'd hazard a guess at the fact he may have been undecided on one or two individuals and was waiting to see the outcome of deliberations with assistant Shaun North before going public. A systematic and thorough approach is required to ensure he makes the correct decision on the out-of-contract players, so I'm supportive of the fact he's taking his time.

I do worry as to whether the player causing him a contractual headache is left back Gary Sawyer. It was revealed a month back that the former Plymouth Argyle defender was in initial talks with the club to extend his stay, something I must admit underwhelmed me at the time. I don't personally rate him all that highly and think we can do much better on similar or less wages if we wanted to, so I'm hoping his demands are too excessive to agree upon. I've tried to refrain from airing my views on the team as I don't like getting on their backs during the season, but I feel now the campaign is over I can be more opinionated.

I've come up with my own personal verdicts on who I'd release and keep, giving my own thoughts on why they should stay/go. Do you agree? Use the comment box below the post to speak your mind.

Out of Contract List:

Byron Anthony - The long serving defender was a firm favourite amongst supporters following his move from Cardiff City 6 years ago but was this season farmed out on loan to Conference-bound Hereford United. He turned in some superb performances during our promotion year in 2007 and quickly adapted to life at a higher level. However, in our gradual decline under Paul Trollope following Lennie Lawrence's departure, Anthony's performances dipped and have never recovered. He's been a mainstay in our side regardless up until earlier this season when it was decided by Mark McGhee that Anthony needed first team action elsewhere. It looks clear that McGhee doesn't wish to extend his Rovers stay and I wholeheartedly agree. I've been a fan of 'Lord Byron' but his sometimes calamitous defending will cost points and unnecessarily so. I think there are better out there and would be inclined to search for them as opposed to re-signing Byron.

It's difficult to find players staying at clubs for as long as he has with us and he's been a true professional in that time. On top of that he's a top guy and he always had time for supporters wanting an autograph or a chat. I wish him the best of luck in the future but think his Rovers career is over.

Verdict - Release.

Scott McGleish - A consummate professional from start to finish. The guy oozes class both on and off the pitch and if he was 10 years younger we'd have a top player on our hands. Unfortunately the veteran forward doesn't offer us what we need moving forward. He has the intelligence, poacher's instinct and hard-working attitude that all good strikers have, but he lacks that yard (or three) of pace that we need up top alongside Matt Harrold. He produced some good finishes for us in the early stages of the season and, if we had other goal-scoring options, his input would have been invaluable. As we all know though we lacked true goal threats, rendering McGleish's contribution insufficient. He was homesick for London pre-Christmas as his family remained in their home in the capital, but he didn't let that affect his commitment to the cause. McGhee recognised this upon his arrival and offered him a loan deal to Barnet which he gladly accepted. He has maybe one last year of professional football in him but it's safe to say it won't be with Rovers. We need different strikers and McGleish's departure will provide the wages we need to sign them.

Verdict - Release.

Lance Cronin - Umm. Yes. Some may say it's hard to form an opinion on a player who you've not seen play at least a dozen games, which is fair. But the fact Lance wasn't used whilst Scott Bevan was enduring a torrid winter would suggest he's not up to scratch. Bar one substitute appearance in our 5-2 home defeat to Crewe the ex-Gillingham man has been anonymous. He was granted a loan move to former club Ebbsfleet and has remained there since February. Even though his departure meant Rovers would be left short of options in goal, McGhee didn't mind. Says it all really.

Verdict - Release.

Gary Sawyer - Gave a brief insight in to my thoughts on him earlier in the post. I just don't rate him. He came in a blaze of glory in 2010 after a loan spell with Bristol City, spurning their advances to sign a 2 year contract with us. He failed to live up to expectations and was torn apart by most wingers in our relegation season whilst playing at left back. After recovering from a summer injury he's played in defence and midfield this season, offering very little. He's not a solid enough left back and has no presence or quality in midfield, so I see it as a straightforward decision to let him go. But I'm obviously not the manager and McGhee must see something in him to want to begin negotiations to keep him here. Don't get me wrong, he puts in 100% every time he pulls on the quarters, but I think for the wages we'd have to pay him there are better players who would want to join us. I have complete faith in McGhee though and if he was to get re-signed I'll continue to support him. In my opinion though, I'd say goodbye Gary...

Verdict - Release. Speculation in the press that Leyton Orient are on his trail. They can have him.

Wayne Brown - This is a difficult one as I believe Wayne's got a lot of unfulfilled potential and given half a chance think he could deliver for us. He's an attack minded player and although he lacks a lot of strength, he could be perfect alongside a more combative central midfielder. I'm not sure Matt Gill is that man though and as our captain is on a 3 year deal I think it's safe to assume he'll be occupying a starting spot next year, meaning Brown won't be as effective. It's a risk to keep him just as much as it's a risk to let him go. He'll be on big wages and to be fair hasn't proven anything as a player yet in the football league. In saying that though he has a lot of promise and our loss could very well prove to be another side's gain. I like him and even though I'm not sure we can warrant handing him a contact, I'd certainly invite him back to pre-season training to provide him a chance to show what he can do.

Verdict - No deal just yet, but invite him back for pre-season training.

Kayne McLaggon - Highly rated young forward who has had a torrid time with injuries at both Southampton and with us. He's not been given much match time in between spells on the sidelines, but what he has shown is encouraging. His substitute outing against Aston Villa injected life in to the side and if he could replicate the same sort of flair week in week out he'd be a real asset. Question marks over his fitness which is the real concern. I'd be tempted to invite him back for training, something I feel McGhee will do.

Verdict - No deal just yet, but invite him back for pre-season training.

Michael Boateng - Michael is a talented full-back with great athleticism and pace, something which is important for a modern day footballer. He's not been given any league action by the club this year and has instead been out on loan trying to make an impression. I rate him and think he could turn out to be a top right back, so I'd be inclined to give him a new deal on that basis if his wages were to remain the same. Having said that right full back is arguably our strongest position with the superb Danny Woodards and Michael Smith competing for a starting place. It's a difficult one - we let him go and we could live to regret it if Michael's potential is spotted by a League 2 rival.

Verdict - A bit of a surprise maybe, but I'd keep him. Retain.

Charlie Clough, Charlie Reece - It's never nice to see players who have come through the U18's side fail to live up to the potential that they showed at youth level, but these are two examples. Clough played very rarely at any stage of his Rovers career and hasn't had a look in this year, meaning his future looks inevitable and I would concur with the decision. Reece played more often but I never saw the qualities many others claimed they saw. I think a few went overboard in trying to find positives in his performance because he was 'homegrown', but if you're talking with a football head on I think you have to concede it's for the best to let him go.

Verdict - Release.

Danny Woodards - What can I say about our player of the year? He's been nothing short of fantastic in his first year with the club, proving he has the ability to be playing at a much higher level. Middlesbrough are reportedly interested in acquiring his services but the fractured fibula he picked up at Dagenham could scupper any potential departure, which is good news for us. It's been widely documented there is an 'option' on his existing one-year deal to extend it by a further 12 months, but it's thought to be in the player's favour, meaning it's up to Danny. He knows he's adored here and that the plans for next year revolve around a promotion push, so hopefully that will entice him to stay. He's such an important player for us that I'm hoping the club are renegotiating a fresh deal to keep him here for 2 years, giving us and him a bit of security. Must keep.

Verdict - Retain, retain, retain. Best player.

This is what I'd do if I was given the power to retain or release the players currently approaching the expiry of their contracts. There's no doubt that we need to strengthen near enough every position if we are to mount a push for the higher echelons of League Two next season and keeping certain players here is vital. Whether we see many loanees return remains to be seen, but rest assured Mark McGhee will be working tirelessly to improve his Rovers side.

It'll be an interesting summer and one I'll document very closely over the next few months.

Up the Gas!

1 comment:

  1. A really excellent article Nath. Balance views on all the players, and I pretty much agree with all your assessments.


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