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The missing link?

Filed: Monday, 6th September 2004
By: FDiMcA

The jury on Alan Pardew's tactics and also on his backroom team is still well and truly out. He has however earned himself a lot of plaudits for shipping out players that do not suit him.

One of the biggest farces of Roeder's coup was that having had the extremely generous injection of cash for Rio and FFLJ, he spent the money fast on record signings Repka and Hutch, and failed to find good, cheap English players; Carl Fletcher, Chadwick and Reo-Coker being great examples of what Roeder should have been doing. Kitson, Hislop and Lomas being prime examples of Roeder's failure to shift the wage burden of surplus players.

Pardew ruthlessly got rid of Connolly, and made damn sure Carrick didn't go anywhere near a Bosman. The squad today is looking very good.

Of Roeder's signings, few survive. Brevett and Etherington are useful squad players, and Hutch and Repka are, at their age and salaries, probably impossible to sell. Indeed in the first team Bywater and Dailly with Lomas knocking about offer little reminder of Harry either.

Bywater is being questioned by some purely because Pardew's signing Walker has a good reputation. Brevett is being pushed hard by Cohen, and Repka is unlikely to ever play other than at right-back again. Repka and Hutch are both in the fourth years of their deals, and Lomas will struggle to walk - let alone run - by the start of next season.

Daily and Bywater aside, it's tough to see any players in the first team who are not Pardew signings or youth team players. The squad is now very much Pardew's with little spending, and less than a years work.

There is a bias towards attacking players, and to young English players with good skill. A remarkably rosy scenario for a manager who appears to be more 'George Graham' than 'Kevin Keegan'. The expensive old boy Sheringham is class, and with just a one year contract will never burden the club.

Sheringham and Harewood, with a winger of Chadwick's potential offer probably the most potent threat in this league. With Etherington, Nowland, Zamora, Rebrov (as cover), Sofiane and Noble behind them, the options are Wenger-esque. Reo-Coker and Hutchison also know how to get forward.

With a choice from two of the best keepers in the league, all this attacking squad needs is a solid defence and midfield pitbull to give Pardew the highest possible marks. Mullins, Fletcher, and Lomas at this level at least will certainly supply Pardew with some steel.

So tortuously we arrive at the defence.

Remarkably, Anton Ferdinand has started to show real potential, but he is still a long way off what is required - as is Chris Cohen. Dailly and Brevett are what they are, and that's good enough for where we are. Repka is a liability in every sense but as a makeshift right back until his Bosman kicks in, will possibly do. Melville possibly won't do.

The full back positions are covered (for now), but with Repka and Brevett short term and Anton preferring the middle with Cohen unproven, there is a good case for signing a complete new back four. At the very least, a centre-half is required.

Teams will expect us to get at them, and Wigan showed perfectly how the correct response is to attack us directly. Coventry found similar relief. But the transformation of our squad to a young English attacking unit is worthy of the title.

There are players here with potential and the likes of Reo-Coker, Marlon, Nowland and Chadwick could one day be going for Chelsea-size fees - but to do that they will need to play in the Premiership with us. Therefore Pardew has nothing in this squad bar the relief of losing Repka, Hutch and Lomas's wages to finance top draw signings.

The next signing could be the making of the team.

Its tough for Pardew having dealt so well so far to be facing this, but arguably our whole season rests on him finding the best possible centre-half.

The squad is still not rebuilt, and it's missing the foundation stone.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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