So, part 3. Today’s installment picks up 2 of the three promoted teams in Norwich and QPR, as well as the controversy at Newcastle, the busy-ness at Sunderland, and some solid signings at Stoke. Enjoy…
Well, well, well. What do you say? Where do you start? Some good signings were made. Some good players were sold. And, well some positions were just missed out on. Pardew started the summer well, trimming the squad of ageing flops Sol Campbell and Shefki Kuqi, and bringing in a host of French speaking talent. Yohan Cabaye was first from Lille, although his pre-season was stunted by his inability to enter the US. In fact, while we re on that topic, it seems stupid that Newcastle should plan a trip to the states (where they are not exactly as well known as the Manchesters, Liverpools, and Chelseas of the world) when 3 of their players are banned from entering; Barton and Ranger being the other two forced to tour with the reserves. Then, in true Mike ‘businessman’ Ashley style, two free transfers were brought in. Demba Ba was first having impressed at West Ham, although he is hardly the goalscorer the club need, and Pardew seems reluctant to play him. There was also Sylvain Marveaux from Rennes, and although he is a young talent, one still remains dubious to how he can cope at the top level. At the same time, the club lost Wayne Routledge to Swansea; not a major loss as he has always been a player more suited to the Championship. But they also ‘cashed’ in on skipper Kevin Nolan. The lynch pin of the team, and surely the man to find them goals since the sale of Andy Carroll, but off he went to East London for 4m, a good buy for Big Sam. Equally surprising was the low figure accepted for left back Jose Enrique, given that he was in demand, and was one of the better players at St James’. There was also the famous Joey Barton saga, in which the midfielder mouthed off on Twitter and slagged off the way the club was run, to then find himself being offered on a free transfer. Despite being a quality footballer, it was rather embarrassing for Our Joe that no one came in for him, even though he was being given away. Eventually, a cash rich QPR trumped up the money to get Barton to Loftus Road in what is a great signing for the R’s, although maybe not a forward step for Joey; he was probably hoping, in vain, that a top 6 team would come after him, but when you come with that much baggage it can be difficult. So Newcastle’s three best players left for a combined total of 10m, with no real replacements brought in. But then some good business from Pardew seemed to turn the tide. Gabriel Obertan was brought in from United for only 3m and he looked every bit worth it in the first game of the season, injecting some excitement into an otherwise dull Newcastle side. I think he could prove to be a very good signing, and Pardew will give him more games which should see him grow in confidence. Another good signing was Davide Santon, touted the ‘next Maldini’, although one would wonder why Inter let the next Maldini leave for only 6m. However I think this has the potential to be a great signing for Pardew as, like Obertan, he is young and will feed off the confidence of playing week in week out; just look what it did for Enrique. And then, the moment we had all been waiting for: not much had been spent this summer, Andy Carroll was to be replaced, and the 35m from that sale was still readily untouched. But whilst Arsenal, Chelsea, QPR etc all brought in the business on Deadline Day, St James’ Park seemed eerily quiet, well except from young goalkeeper Rob Elliot from Charlton. Even their local rivals managed to bring in a new striker, one which I think, would have done alright for the Toon Army, and was surprised they didn’t move for, especially given that Bendtner would be top dog at Newcastle, a position his ego cries out for. To sum up, a weird summer for the Magpies. I think Pardew invested well in youth, but didn’t back it up with proven quality, letting a lot of that leave in the summer. His credentials should keep the club up, but I feel this was the season for Newcastle to push on, especially given the Andy Carroll money which was promised back into the club. In a word, disappointing.
So the Canaries are the first promoted side to be scrutinised. I have to admit I was impressed and surprised at Paul Lambert’s side last year, securing their second successive promotion, and it would be nice to see them top it off by staying up. Looking at the transfers, it’s a bit of a gamble. There were no major departures this summer for Norwich, which is a good thing, and they adequately made way for the inevitable signings. The first through the door was Steve Morison from Millwall, a good signing, and one hopes he can make the step up to the top level. Ritchie De Laet has been round the houses on many loans, despite rarely playing for his parent club, Man United, and I think he has enough games in him to be a consistent player for Norwich. Likewise, James Vaughan has benefited from playing on a weekly basis, so his signature from Everton could be a good move, and I’m eager to see how he performs, given the hype around him a few years ago. Bradley Johnson is another good player who performed well in the Championship for Leeds, but I fear Lambert has brought in too many players without experience at the top level, and Elliott Bennett and Anthony Pilkington from Brighton and Huddersfield don’t exactly correct that. I understand Norwich are working on a budget and they would do well to follow the footsteps of clubs like WBA and Wolves who have never spent outside their limits, and although have yo-yoed, they do have a strong foothold in the Premiership, with the ability to bounce back straight away. The loan signing of Kyle Naughton will do good for all parties involved, as a promising youngster gets a chance, Norwich can benefit from his potential, and Spurs benefit from having their player play Premiership football on a regular basis. Daniel Ayala was the only other player through the door at Carrow Road, and if I was pushed into saying whether I felt Nrwich had done enough to stay up, I would say no. A look at what the other promoted teams have done in the transfer market suggests they are in the worst position, and I think it will be one or two of those three to go down. However, had you asked me at the start of last season if Norwich would be in the Premiership I would also have said no, so best of luck to Paul Lambert…
Queens Park Rangers
And so to the next promoted club, and the one which held the most intrigue, given the financial backing. After a difficult end to the season, in which the club were almost punished for the signing of midfielder Faurlin over to years ago, QPR were finally crowned Championship winners. But despite their billionaire owners they did show a reluctance at the start of the transfer window. They started with a host of free transfers. Jay Bothroyd was a good signing given his form last year that earnt him an England call up, and he will be eager to prove himself in the Premiership to keep Fabio Capello interested. Kieron Dyer was the second through the door, and maybe 8 years ago this would have been exciting. But for a player who has played only a handful of games in the last three years, one can’t help but think it is a waste of money, even if the transfer was free and he is on a pay to play. And in true Kieron Dyer fashion, he broke his foot 5 minutes into his debut. Good business! Welshman Danny Gabbidon was also picked up on a free, and could provide a good back up for Neil Warnock’s men and also pass on his experience to youngsters like Matthew Connolly. DJ Campbell was the first player in to warrant a transfer fee, and I this was good business by Warnock. Although he’s not going to bag 20 goals a season, and he got relegated with Blackpool last term, Campbell was one of the bright stars of the Tangerines line up last year along with Charlie Adam and David Vaughan, and did manage to find the net on a number of occasions. After this, it looked like business had finished for QPR. Neil Warnock, who hardly had the board’s support at the start of the summer, if speculation is believed, was also not given any money to spend, and it looked like QPR were done. Enter Tony Fernandes. The billionaire tycoon took control and immediate did everything in his power to get fan appreciation. He dropped ticket prices, which had rocketed to a staggering 60 pounds a ticket, and dropped season ticket prices, also giving fans a rebate. Then he set about giving Warnock money to play with, allowing the side to pick up Joey Barton’s wages, Luke Young from Villa, Armand Traore from Arsenal and Shaun Wright-Phillips from City. Jason Puncheon was added on loan from Southampton, and Fernandes ended his spree on Deadline Day with the capture of West Ham and Sunderland reject Anton Ferdinand. Seeing this little flurry of action has done a lot more to instil confidence in a side that leaked 4 goals on the opening day against Bolton, with Young, Traore and Ferdinand strengthening at the back, Barton and SWP bolstering in the middle, coupled with Bothroyd and Campbell’s presence up top. I had worried for QPR’s safety, but given their investment in the squad, I feel they should have enough to stay up, and have signed good players with good experience at the top level.
Not a lot of business done at the Brittannia this summer, but some very good business. All the right things to see from club very much in ascendancy. Following an impressive season last year, in which Stoke made the FA Cup final and qualified for the Europa League, all eyes turned to Tony Pulis to see what the Welshman could do in the transfer market. Stoke has transformed the careers of players like Jermaine Pennant and Matthew Etherington, and given a new life to talents such as Rob Huth, and have fully deserved everything that has come their way. Seasoned veterans Abdoulaye Faye and Eidur Gudjohnson were allowed to leave the club on frees this summer, and were followed out by only 6 others, of which, none will lessen the strength of the squad. In all Pulis only pulled in 5 players in the window, but 5 which greatly improve an already resilient squad. Matthew Upson and Jonathan Woodgate were brought in and add a great deal of strength and experience to an already strong back line. Granted Upson had a bad season last year, but all at West Ham bar Scott Parker come under that headline, and on a free it isn’t much of a risk. Woodgate likewise is low risk as he was also free, having been released by Spurs. Although massively injury prone, there is no doubting his quality, and like the Hargreaves deal for Man City, it could turn out to be great business, or just an unfortunate fail. Either way, the two definitely strengthen Pulis’ squad. The other three came in right at the end of transfer window, which may have been Pulis’ doing, as he is a self-confessed fan of the drama. Cameron Jerome is a good back up option to get in, and Stoke fans will hope his inconsistency times itself well with Kenwyn Jones’ so that at least one of them is firing at different times. Wilson Palacios is a cracking signing to bolster the midfield. He was great at Wigan, which prompted the move to Spurs, a side which seems full of top quality players yet still seems to underachieve. I think the move will rejuvenate Palacios having spent a long time on the sidelines. Finally, 10m seems a lot for Peter Crouch, but I do think this is a good move for Stoke, and shows they are serious about progressing as a club and have shown the most ambition out of most the clubs that have been promoted in the last few years. Say what you want abut the lanky giant, but Crouch gets goals wherever he is, just look at his England record. I think Stoke will benefit from the Europa League this year too, whilst not getting to the late stages I think they may surprise a few people. They certainly surprised me in the qualifier with how comfortably they performed at that level. As for the PL, I think Stoke will look at the top half as realistic, and potentially look at getting close to the Europa League contenders, but it would be a big shock if they get higher than 8th.
First of all, congratulations to Sunderland for keeping Steve Bruce, the management equivalent of a traveller, although Niall Quinn and co seem to have tied down their man, for a little while anyway. Jokes aside, it has been a very busy time at the Stadium of Light this summer. A total of 12 players left the club this summer, notably David Hely, Steed Malbranque, the afore-mentioned Ferdinnd and Jordan Henderson. Despite Henderson being a great talent for the future, 20m for a player who is far from the finished article, still won’t be massively impactful this year given his inconsistency last year, and will end up leaving for a top club anyway if he is that good, is great business by Bruce. As for acquisitions, the big Geordie made 11 of them. Connor Wickham was first, slightly expensive at over 8m for a player with no top level experience. He is tipped to be a big talent though so I’m very keen to see him, and given the resources at Sunderland, it could turn out to be a very good buy, but I doubt that he will impact this much this year. Craig Gardner was a solid buy from relegated Birmingham and Ahmed Elmohamady arrived too for a modest 2m. Both are good buys as they replace players who had potential but never quite delivered for the Mackems. Sebastian Larsson was a good signing, as a free agent, and arguably recovers the initial loss of losing Henderson to Liverpool, given his distribution, although in the long run doesn’t have as much potential as Henders. Youn keeper Westwood from Coventry was also a good signing, and may see more chance than you think given Craig Gordon’s loss of form at the club. Then came the raidning of the bins at Old Trafford as John O’Shea and Wes Brown were brought in. In fairness, although lacking in talent to dislodge any of the current United team, I think the pair could do well. Brown will be looking to rediscover his form of a few yeqrs ago when he was getting games; something he will get at Sunderland, and let’s be honest he won’t be worse than Anton Ferdinand! As for O’Shea, the lad is the ultimate Jack of all trades, master of none, but can still put in a solid cover shift. David Vaughan was a good signing from Blackpool, who seemed to lose all their best players this summer, and Nicky Bendtner was the only other significant addition, signing on loan from Arsenal. I doubt the Gunners will miss Bendtner, having grown tired of his heavy touch and negative attitude, but may be hurt that he has insisted he will not return to the club. I think Wenger would have wanted him to get regular PL games with a boss he worked very well with at Birmingham and then come back in form with Arsenal. But, as Arsenal fans know so well, this is not something you can bank on with Bendtner, and I don’t think he will be the man to rifle in the goals for Sunderland; but a very useful addition nonetheless. I think Bruce has added well and hasn’t really lost too much. Midtable beckons for Sunderland, and dare I say it, they might just get higher than the Toon Army. Cue debate.
Tune in for the next and last addition of the PL transfer summary with the remaining clubs.
As is normally the case, all the focus at the minute is what the big clubs are doing. Who are United buying, look at the new Chelsea boss, how much will City spend… it goes on. But what about the three fresh faces to grace the Premiership stage?It’s been a long awaited return for QPR, not so long for Norwich, and a first time for Swansea. And I predict each will face different fortunes.
Well lets start at the top. QPR were promoted as Champions having waltzed to the title, albeit almost overshadowed by the legal case surrounding a certain transfer 2 years ago. But the hoops can hold their heads high, as like Newcastle before them, they were at the summit all season and were deserved winners. Plus they also provide a bt of financial clout that could challenge their West London neighbours, although I think it will be a long time before the R’s reach those heights. I think Newcastle are probably a good base for QPR to work from. They achieved Premier League status early on, got a good mid table finish and can now look to build and consolidate this status. Given the money that manager Neil Warnock has at his disposal, he should be able to bring in some experienced additions to the squad, and I wouldn’t imagine the hoops to flirt too much with relegation this year.
I for one am also intrigued to see how Adel Taarabt steps up to the big stage. Player of the Season last year in the Championship, the young playmaker has plenty of goals and skills in his arsenal, and bags of confidence too. It may be key for QPR to hold onto their man, and will be interesting to see how he fares against the top defenders in the country. Taarabt however, has been quite outspoken since his time at QPR, flirting with the idea of a move to a big club and most recently expressed his admiration for thr R’s West London rivals Chelsea. With the spending power of Qatar behind them, a newly revamped PSG are also rumoured to be lining up a bid, although one would think QPR won’t have too many problems matching financial demands.
Elsewhere the club have been linked with a whole host of players this close season. Whilst a move for Wayne Routledge, who was on loan at Loftus Road last season from Newcastle, looks to have stalled slightly over payments, there are a host of other players linked with QPR. Recently David Nugent was linked with the club. The striker enjoyed a mixed spell in the Premiership with Portsmouth and I would have thought QPR may need to aim a bit higher than a player who has slowly fallen off the radar. Today there are reports linking Fabio Cannavaro to the club. Whilst there are no doubting the defensive talent of the one time World Player of the Year, having played out a season in the Qatar League and at the age of 37, one could be excused for thinking this is just a big name move. The only business of note so far was the new contract signed with Heidar Helguson. Whilst never prolific in the PL with Watford or Fulham, the veteran striker can pop up with a good goal tally, and I think it is a smart move if only as a solid back up. I think of the three promoted clubs, QPR has the best chnce at survival, and think that with financial backing can outdo the likes of Wigan and Wolves next term.
After a six year absence, the Premiership also welcomes back one of its founding members, after Norwich secured automatic promotion. The canaries played solid football throughout last year, and the pressure they applied to early shoe-ins Cardiff, ultimately made the Welsh wannabes implode not even taking the battle for second until the last game. Paul Lambert has been given massive credit for Norwich’s fortunes and rightly so having turned the club around since arriving from Colchester in 2009. Last time out, under Nigel Worthington, the canaries crashed out in style following a 6-0 thumping by Fulham on Survival Sunday, although I expect they will be more prepared this time out and won’t play such open football. That’s not to say I don’t want to see another half time Delia outburst.
As is always the way for newly promoted clubs, investment is key. Even moreso I think for Norwich and Swansea than QPR, as the latter has a substantial financial status to fall back on. So what Lambert does in the close season could have a big say on how Norwich’s season pans out. Of course a club always has to take into account the financial cancer that is relegation as has been seen with many clubs who have dropped to the lower tier and never quite been able to return. But Norwich have dropped out before, so they know what their up against.
They already have a few good players who warrant the step up to test themselves against the premier elite such as winger Andy Surman and captain Grant Holt who both enjoyed fine seasons last year. They have already added former Everton striker James Vaughan to the ranks, following Vaughan’s most recent promising role at Crystal Palace. Rumoured to be in for Frazer Forster, another goalkeeper emerging through Newcastle’s books, as well as sealing a deal to take Manchester United’s Ritchie De Laet on loan for the season, the canaries are definitely looking to tie up their business early. Whilst in comparison to QPR’s squad, Norwich seem weaker, I think the better comparison would be to those clubs who narrowly avoided the drop last season such as Wigan and Wolves, as I believe it is these teams that Norwich will be battling with to retain Premiership status. With a squad of untested talent I predict Norwich to struggle and would label it a good season if they survive the drop this time round.
At last, having spent the last four years pushing and prodding, Wales have a team in the top flight, albeit not the one we expected. Back in 2006, halfway through the year, Cardiff City topped the table and looked like shoe-ins for automatic promotion before they catastrophically imploded and fell right off their perch. Two years ago, having finished third they made the Playoff final only to be beaten by Blackpool, who finished the season in sixth after a late dash at the end of the campaign. And then last year, having occupied second for so long they imploded once more in spectacular fashion losing 3-0 at home to Boro to slip into the Playoffs once more. Having earned a solid draw away at Reading they once more threw it away at home and have now parted services with their manager and a host of first team players, leaving one wondering what the future holds for them. Contrast that to their South Wales rivals Swansea and its a different picture. In Cardiff’s shadows for a long time, it wasn’t too long ago that Swansea were battling away in the football league’s lowest division. But having secured promotion to the championship with the League 1 title three years ago, they cemented themselves in the Championship before pushing for the playoffs. Two years ago they narrowly missed out, and I think this was a good thing as it gave the Swans another year to develop and push on which they did having finished third this year.
Having followed the flowing football of Roberto Martinez and Paolo Sousa, Brendan Rogers has installed a bit of confidence in the free-flowing football the Swans play and they were deserved winners against Reading in the Playoff final last month. They have some exciting talent too. Nathan Dyer is a fantastic talent and is sure to cause problems for many full backs in the Premiership next year. Scott Sinclair, fresh from Chelsea, is also an exciting prospect having scored a hatrick in the final to help secure promotion. I’m also shocked he was omitted from England’s starting line up in the Under 21’s fnals this summer, losing out to Tottenham’s Danny Rose. I for one only remember one game in which Rose had real impact and that was against Arsenal at the Lane when Rose’s rasping distance strike sealed three points for ‘Arry’s men. But that was the season before last, and Sinclair has had a full season in which he was instrumental in Swansea’s success.
Swansea also have a good back line with Welsh captain Ashley Williams, although it is in defence where I think Swansea are struggling at the moment and need to tighten ship. I’m speaking about the transfer of keeper Dorus De Vries to Wolves and speculation linking Neil Taylor away from the club. De Vries has been Swansea’s number one for many years now and is a reliable a keeper as they could have wished for. He won the Golden Gloves two years ago for most clean sheets and was a solid performer in their promotion campaign last term. I think they will struggle to replace him, but will have to to achieve survival. Taylor has also been linked with a move to Newcastle to replace the possibly outgoing Jose Enrique at St James’. Perhaps not as influential as De Vries, it would be a big loss to the Swans who will probably be looking backwards to the Championship for replacement. The club have already been linked with Emnes and Leroy Lita from Boro, although I would cite a slight lack of ambition here. Whilst Emnes is a promising player and has years ahead of him, he was never quite tested at the top level, having been slightly too young when Boro occupied the Premiership. And whilst Lita has enjoyed spells at a number of clubs and was a promising member of the under 21’s set up a few years ago, he has never quite fulfilled that promise and falls into the Akinbiyi-Earnshaw category as great Championship player, but never proved at the top.
Another player linked to a move to the Liberty is Spanish midfielder Marcos Senna. Back in 2006 the Villareal man was linked with moves to Man Utd and Arsenal following an outstanding spell, dominating in central midfield. Senna chose to rebuff this interest and stick it out with Villareal who have never quite reached the heights of the 2006 Champions League semi final against Arsenal. Now out of contract it would be an odd move for Senna to choose South Wales to Spain, but would be a good one for his potential employers if it goes through. Whilst his talents have waned and he is ever-aging, he does add a great deal of experience to a side that is relatively lacking at present. However with VIllareal back in talks this move may never materialise.
It seems a long time since the days of the Vetchfield, and Swansea have come a long way, although I’m not sure how they will fare in the Premiership. Whilst they play the most attractive football of the promoted trio, this could be their downfall as past sides have shown; opening up against the big boys normally puts you on the wrong end of a drubbing. I would love to see the Swans stay up, but struggle to see how this will be possible without a significant investment this summer. Still, stranger things have happened and I wouldn’t have predicted Birmingham or possibly even West Ham for the drop this time last year. It can all change so quickly…