To continue the transfer speculation Damon Maddison shares with us his thoughts on who may be considered by Claudio during the summer months.
WHO SHOULD WE SIGN?
I think it’s no secret the centre of our midfield is going to need to be strengthened in depth. Personally, I’d hope to see us pick up two central midfielders. I see from the new first team squad listing that Paul Thornton is in there for next year, whilst both Jo Keenan and Filipe Oliveira can apparently play in midfield but, realistically, we’d need a couple of players with more experience than that in order to compete.
PLAYERS WE HAVE BEEN LINKED WITH IN THE PRESS.
I’d personally love to see Joe Cole come to the Bridge. I think he’s one of the most exciting English talents around at the moment and – should Zola go – will give us the flair we may otherwise be short of. From the games I saw during West Ham’s run-in last season, I also think he’s unfairly been labelled as a show pony – for many of those games, he was a dynamo. On top of that, the boy was always a Chelsea supporter when he was younger, and that can’t be a bad thing. However, I do think the Hamsters may ask for too much money for him and we may need to look elsewhere, unfortunately.
Should we not be able to get Cole, then Steed Malbranque may well be a decent substitution for him. Everything positive Fulham did for the last couple of seasons seemed to stem from, or go through, him. He has an eye for goal and is young enough to promise improvement, still. Unfortunately (again) I think if he leaves Fulham, he’s much more likely to go to Liverpool than come to us.
Then there’s Michael Brown at Sheffield United. I only saw any of their games during both cup runs but he definitely looks to be the genuine article, if still a little rough round the edges. Quite a similar player to Frank Lampard in many respects and I’d certainly be happy enough to see him picked up – though he has an avowed preference for Leeds.
We seem to be out of the hunt for David Dunn, now, which I can only attribute to concerns at the club over his lifestyle away from the pitch. It’s a shame, as I think he’s a very good player indeed.
PLAYERS WE’VE NOT YET BEEN LINKED WITH.
I was very impressed with Jason Koumas for West Brom last year. In a pretty ordinary side, he shone out as the star of the side. Worked very hard and got himself on the score-sheet a few times, as well.
Although it’s unlikely we’ll be able to prise him away, I wouldn’t mind seeing us take a punt on Sean Davis from Fulham, either. To me, he looks like a natural choice to understudy Petit in that holding midfield role and, again, has youth on his side to develop into a very useful player.
Michael Tonge – Brown’s midfield partner at Sheffield United – also looks a good prospect, though I think he may not really fit the bill of “experienced” cover for us.
People have occasionally mentioned Scott Parker at Charlton as an option but, as much as I like the player, I can’t see us taking him from the Addicks unless we wave a substantial cheque in their direction.
An older player who I think could do a job for us, provided he was only on reasonably short-term contract, would be Claudio Reyna at Sunderland. I’m not sure at what level of recovery he’s at (he picked up a cruciate ligament injury mid-season) but he’s a hard working and creative midfield option for the short-term and may be available at a give-away price.
Outside of the midfield, I think the only position we’d feasibly be looking to strengthen would be at right-back.
We’ve only been linked with Danny Mills in that position and, in all honesty, I can’t see us spending money on him if we need midfielders. I do quite rate him as a player and, with Soxy pushing on, we will need someone with a bit of steel about them on the pitch but I can’t see it happening.
Steve Carr looks to be biding his time until his contract runs out so he can join the Arse.
Jamie Carragher may well be out of a job but I really wouldn’t be too thrilled to see him arrive and he’s certainly no attacking option when you need one.
WHO ELSE MAYBE BE AVAILABLE?
We may well have to look abroad and I don’t really know too much about European football (Holland aside and there’s no-one here in that position) to be able to make a call on that.
FOR THE REMAIN POSITIONS.
I found it strange we’ve let Rhys Evans (the England U21 keeper) go, just to bring in a couple of B-team keepers but can only assume the club expect great things from Lenny Pidgeley but don’t want to throw him in the deep end too soon. Evans, though, may well come back to haunt us. In the meantime, you can’t complain if we’ve still got Carlo, can you?
Central defence looks superb if we’re able to perm any three from Gallas, Terry and Desailly. Huth looked competent when he played last year (and belts in 40-yard free kicks) and Kitamarike has some experience so I’m happy enough with that.
Left back looks as if Le Saux and Babayaro will be swapping about most of the season and Jo Keenan’s played a good few games there. Again, sorted.
Up front, if anything, we’ve got too much talent: Gudjohnson, for me, is the pick of our strikers and I hope to see Ranieri play him accordingly next year. Hasselbaink, I’d put money on to get back to scoring form next season but he isn’t going to be a long-term option. Mikael Forssell, as it seems we’re happy enough to keep him unless we get serious cash for him, must be due a few more starts and looks a decent player when he does play. Carlton Cole arrived last year, looks to be a major talent and can only get better.
Outside of those four, we should have Leon Knight and Oliveira knocking at the door. To me, I think it’s obvious all the foregoing means we should let Zola return to Italy. Yes, he’s been immense for us but I think if he stays, it will be at the expense, to some degree, of the all of the rest of our strikers and I would hate to see that.