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A fans view. 10

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Any Reason to be Optimistic?....
..by Jono Smith...19-05-04


It's the middle of May and the dust is settling on season 2003/2004.  Euro 2004 is around the corner and we can all go down the pub and discuss whom we'd have had in the squad over Emile Heskey.  Arsenal have reinvented the phrase 'unbeatable' and the lucky few are squabbling over who gets the lucky changing room at the Millennium Stadium.

One might think that the world of KHFC takes a back seat for the time being.  At least until Premiership Wolves roll into town in July.  Oh sorry - did I say Premiership?  You're having a laugh.


v Southend However, with the news that 9 players had been released, it became clear that the summer may be pretty busy for the bloke who draws up contracts at Aggborough.  The dumping of Kenny Coleman, Adam Willis and John Williams was not surprising.

Disposing of Graham Ward, Sean Parrish and Stuart Brock caused one raised eyebrow, and the discarding of Scott Stamps, Mark Yates and Matt Gadsby saw both eyebrows rise.
That's not to say I wasn't disappointed with the clearout.  It can sometimes be easy to remember the good performances come the end of the season.  The boys put in some eye-catching displays at home to Hull, Huddersfield and Boston as the season drew to an end and a few thought that one or two from the nine released had done enough to warrant a contract.

It's easy to assume that the exodus occurred to give Jan room to bring in some quality players.  With the hope of building a side to challenge for the play-offs perhaps?  One would imagine taking Stamps, Brock, Gadsby and Yates off the payroll would free up a decent wage-budget to work with.

Unfortunately, comments coming out of the club in the last couple of weeks suggest that we shouldn't expect many 'prestige' signings.  The usual suspects on the official forum were quick to get their daggers out, predicting an influx of untried kids and ageing journeymen.  When you hear the manager say that the new and reduced budget is geared up for relegation you can't help but think that the doom-mongers have got a point.

I'm not going to use this piece to have a go at the club because I'm sure that if there was 'spare' cash available it would be used to increase the playing budget.  However, I don't think you can blame the fans for getting grumpy when they hear several negative and pessimistic comments come out the club after such a poor season on the field.


So, onto the personnel we have officially signed up at present.  There's no denying that we have a good nucleus of players.  John Danby has suggested he has what it takes at this level and has already been handed a confidence boost after being installed as the first choice keeper with the arrival of rookie Daniel Lewis.  In defence we have player of the season, times 3, Wayne Hatswell.  Enough said, but who partners him?

Abdou Sall is now officially a Kidderminster player again on a long(ish) contract.  In the final home game of the season he impressed me with a dominant aerial display.  I think its essential to have at least one tall, powerful defender at this level.
I'm sorry, but this means that Hinton can't play there any longer.  Is Abdou up to the task?  That's another question……… his discipline is suspect, he's awkward and prone to giving the ball away in very dangerous areas.

I expect Jan to get at least one more player in who can play at centre-half.  If he could pull someone out the bag as good as Wayne then we'll have a solid start at the back, but we may just have to settle for someone to understudy Sall.

Steve Burton won the battle of the left-backs as it looks as though Stamper's ill discipline may have cost him his job.  Steady if not spectacular is how I'd describe Burton's contribution this season.  He does look confident on the ball and like's to get forward.
Looking at his stats, you realise he's actually not played that many professional games in his career and I'm sure his defensive nous will improve as he gets more games under his belt.  At time of writing, Craig Hinton has not made up his mind about a new contract and if Craig didn't sign, it would be sad, but not a disaster.  I hope he signs as he's very capable at this level, but not the player he once was.

Molby may have Lee Jenkins in mind to play at right back.  I'm still struggling to form an opinion on the former Swansea man.  It seems like he can play anywhere in defence or in midfield, which may be pretty useful when injuries and suspensions come round.

Dean Bennett has, today, signed a new contract - I think this is very good news for us.  I've often criticised Benno, but this is only because you feel he could sometimes do so much more.
When the chips are down in a game he often goes missing but when he's on his game he can unlock defences with his skill and forward runs.  I'm looking forward to Benno striking up a formidable midfield partnership with Adam Murray and Dean Keates.  It may seem like stating the obvious, but Adam Murray is a footballer and looks like a footballer.  He's comfortable on the ball, intelligent and always looking to make things happen.

It'll be a nice sight to see Adam Murray fit and raring to go come August.  He has the ability to be very influential at this level but I think he needs a player or two around him to do the donkey-work to allow him to flourish.  Dean Keates may be able to do some of this donkey-work, but describing him as a 'work-horse' would do him a disservice.  Like Murray, Keates has suggested he has the ability to unlock defences and score good goals.

Another season over

The prospect of a midfield of Bennett, Keates and Murray is certainly exciting, but you get the impression that someone like Mark Yates would have been perfect to do the aforementioned donkey-work.

It may be that Jan wants Benno to play as part of a front three, but I still expect a 'bite-yer-legs' type midfield player to be brought in.  I think some people will be asking questions if any new hard-men type midfielders turn out to be not as good as Yates or Parrish.

What's the most important thing in football?  Goals.  Stopping them and scoring them.
Have Jesper Christiansen and Scott Rickards got enough goals in them?  I REALLY want Jesper to succeed because he's clearly an intelligent footballer, but was found wanting physically.  The game just seemed too quick for him.  Luckily, this is the type of thing that a foreign player can learn.
As for Rickards, I'm not even sure what his best position is as he's rarely played.  One or two people even suggest the former Tamworth man won't be around next season.  He has shown glimpses of ability on his rare appearances and it doesn't make sense to pay for a player and then him leave 6 months later for nowt!  Jan has been quoted as saying he wants five forwards for next season so he can play his much debated 4-3-3 formation.  He may have Dean Bennett in mind to play in one of the 3 forward positions, but this still means he has to bring in a couple of players at least.

I'm sure we'd all love Jan to sign someone and proclaim 'I'm confident J. Bloggs has the ability to score 20 goals in this league'.

I doubt this will happen.  The names of Torpey, Steele and Conlon have been bandied around - okay, they're not spectacular goalscorers, but they've shown they can hit the net at this level.  As far as I know, Torpey and Conlon have now committed themselves for next season anyway, but would we have been able to pay that type of player what they wanted?  Would we be able to afford to bring a goalscorer out of the Conference?  I don't know the answer to these questions, but I think its more likely we'll sign a young lad, just released from a larger club, who has no 3rd division experience.

Lets hope Jan chooses the right one.

White, Larkin, Melligan, Appleby, Bishop, Forsyth, Brown …………… are names that people keep repeating.  I suppose the theory is that these players know what we're all about and may welcome a move to us.  I would imagine Mansfield will wait and see whether they get promoted before they make decisions on White and Larkin.  Either way, I see no reason why they'd let Larkin go (and why Larkin would come to us), but Andy White may be looking for regular football.

v Boston I'm not even sure what Appleby is doing now, but I don't think we can afford to invest in such an injury-prone/unlucky player.  JJ Melligan would surely be interested in moving to 'better' club than us now he's shown he's pretty good at this level.  What are the chances of Cheltenham moving for him?

Whatever happens, it seems likely we'll be relying on loan players at some point in the season.  I'd much rather have a couple of quality season-long loan players (Simon Brown anyone?) than short-term panic moves.  However, with a small squad, I'm sure they'll be some point where we'll need short-term cover.


So, to summarise, Jan has a big job on his hands!  I hope he sorts out quite a bit of the 'new squad' before he disappears to Portugal for his TV work.
I don't think its that helpful to try and plough through dozens of trialists during the friendlies.  But I suppose you can't be sure whether you want them until you've seen them play!

Good luck Jan - I think you're going to need it.

Photos © Jono Smith

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