Roy Keane at Layer Road. Who`d have thought it? There are still times this season when I stop and just blink, amazed – mostly when visiting some of our rival`s uber-stadiums, like Sunderland`s.
The two bosses pitting their wits against one another today are surely the leading contenders for Championship manager of the year. Both started out with their team struggling at the foot of the table, in their debut year as a manager.
Keane (and Sunderland`s) profile is rightly higher but so is their budget. Chelsea they`re not, but even before Keane had settled in the dugout he`d signed six players for nearly £4m. Geraint Williams hasn`t spent a cent. Our attendances are small and we all know our stadium is too – in fact the visiting fans are probably blinking at our ground, if for different reasons.
What George could do, even with the cash down the back of Niall Quinn`s sofa (or his EasyJet bill) makes the mind boggle.
But money doesn`t always equal success – ask Real Madrid or any of their many “galacticos”. You could even ask Phil Parkinson, who went to Hull in exchange for a chunk of Adam Pearson`s money. Then proceeded to spend even more of it whilst leading them into the relegation zone.
We`re never going to have millions to spend but we`ve done pretty well on our ‘slowly-slowly` approach: spending what we can afford, picking up cheap/free players with promise or a point to prove. Our goal-machine strike force being prime examples.
Come the end of the season, thanks to Marc Bosman there`ll be a river of players out of contract for George and Mick Harford to go fishing in. It`s up to them to pick out the salmon from the sprats. So I thought I`d lend them a hand, it`s always nice to go shopping eh? Come – let`s peruse the aisles of the Football League, shopping basket in hand.
There`s a range on offer so try to be realistic. I suggest sniffing around teams that have disappointed this term. Facing relegation or not getting promotion tends to mean budget cuts and star-players having their heads turned. I`m thinking of the Freddie Eastwood`s of this world – not that we`d touch him with a bargepole after his Toblerone-boots performance over Easter.
Ignoring Southend (obviously) and Leeds (extortionate wages), who might we save from the drop-zone?
Luton have already been cherry/vulture picked by other clubs but there are still players there with talent. Markus Heikkinen at the back has expressed a desire to leave and Ahmet Brkovic could add a little wizardry to our midfield?
Looking down the divisions shows more under-achieving teams with players who may be tempted by the over-achieving U`s. After midfield reinforcements? Swansea`s Andy Robinson`s a wily-winger and his dead-ball skills would help no end. Leon Britton is another with that ‘pick-a-pass` nous. Kevin McLeod can convince them of the appeal of Layer Road too!
You`d like a little steel sir? How about Keith Southern? He`s getting rave reviews at Blackpool. Speaking of steel how about back-up for Chris Iwelumo? “There`s only one Iwelumo” of course, but someone like him would be a handy option. Not everyone`s cup of tea, but I`ve always rated Clive Platt, now at the MK Dons. He`s a 6`4″ pain in the rear for defenders and similarly to our ‘Luminator` his diminutive strike partner (Izale McLeod) gets all the headlines. Platt`s (quietly) bagged 17 goals this season and would surely be tempted by a crack at Championship football.
Not convinced? Maybe you like more subtle forwards – let`s try the ‘guile aisle`.
How about Chris Greenacre or Luke Beckett from Tranmere and Huddersfield? Both have astonishing scoring records and play for teams that promise much but have delivered little. Time is ticking for these boys. Championship football may not come knocking again.
Maybe they`re too old for you? Here`s the “young and promising” shelf. A few front men with Saintly connections catch my eye.
Leon Best scored a bucket load on loan to Yeovil and Kenwyne Jones is a youngster with a bright future too. These two may not fancy sitting on the bench, behind Marek Saganowski, Grzegorz Rasiak, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Nathan Dyer in the Saints` pecking order. Dexter Blackstock`s cup-run-ending hattrick is something many U`s fans will remember. He`s knocking them in for QPR lately though they`re still struggling.
Just a few for the U`s management to keep an eye on. Isn`t it nice to dream though? The players we`ve got have made it all possible, so cheer them ’til it hurts again today! Up the U`s!
Be sure to catch all of CO2’s Ramblings this Saturday in the award winning matchday magazine priced at just £3.
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