Next Man Up: Why Fergie must show faith in young attackers

imag1671The injury curse has struck again! Just as a clutch of players make their return from spells on the sidelines, it emerged over the weekend that Rovers striker Andy Williams, the club’s top scorer so far this season with 7 goals, will be out for around 8 weeks with an ankle injury suffered in the last moments of the 3-2 win over Barnet two weekends back. Williams netted the last-gasp winner in that game, underlining his importance to the team’s early season success, and will be a big miss over the coming weeks.

The question now is who will step into his considerable shoes? Today ITEN assesses the options.

Mandeville in the Hot Seat

The starting berth currently belongs to Liam Mandeville, but the youngster didn’t exactly set the world alight in Williams’ place against Colchester. We shouldn’t be too harsh on him though, as the entire team was off-colour in this one and only one or two players really came out of the game with any glowing praise. Add to this the fact that Mandeville did impress the previous week playing alongside Williams, in place of the suspended John Marquis, and the decision to keep him in the side, if that is the route the manager now opts for, should be seen as a wise one.

The big up side to this choice is that Mandeville provides the most natural fit for the current system. Fergie prefers to play two up front, rather than the more popular lone striker set-up, and avoiding having to change this is potentially crucial to our hopes of maintaining the current upward trajectory. As discussed last week on this website, Mandeville’s strengths in off-the-ball movement and passing vision suit being a foil for the more physical Marquis, and this attacking formation, be it with a Diamond or 3-5-2 behind, gets the best out of James Coppinger in the hole behind the front men too.

No Need for Reinforcements

The emergency loan window is no more, meaning the tendency for managers in the EFL to look for the quick fix in the form of an out-of-favour temporary option is no longer a viable option, but this hasn’t stopped some fans from suggesting the need to dip into the Free Agent pool. Fergie himself has raised this as a potential solution, but I do not believe this is the way forward. Despite the current financial climate in football, there is still some weight to the argument that a player finding himself without a club by this stage in the season probably has a good reason for not having done so.

A quick glance over the available strikers does not make for encouraging reading, with names such as Leroy Lita and Calvin Zola only stand out due to surprise that they haven’t retired yet, whilst others such as former Rovers loanee Kiko Macheda or controversial veteran El-Hadji Diouf don’t seem realistic targets. Indeed it is more out of amusement that names such as Emile Sinclair jump out, and I would hope the manager recognises that these names are by and large not going to improve the squad.

Waiting in the Wings

Couple this dearth of quality with the fact that Rovers now implement a strong youth policy and suddenly Williams’ injury presents itself as a positive: an opportunity for young blood to step up. It may require an alteration to Fergie’s preferred system, but if Mandeville fails to stake his claim in the next couple of games there are two hungry young players waiting for the chance.

Alfie Beestin has earned plenty of praise for his encouraging start to life in the professional ranks, signed in the summer from Tadcaster Albion after a strong trial period at the club. Beestin has excellent physical presence for his age, and has already demonstrated his ability by scoring against Mansfield in the ill-fated EFL Trophy, following that up with a sumptuous assist for Mandeville in the following tie against Derby U23s.

Another to stand out in that one was midfielder Will Longbottom, who netted a superb diving header late in the game, demonstrating incredible bravery to beat several Derby defenders and find the corner of the net. Both Beestin and Longbottom have already made their league debuts for Rovers too, so have had a taste, albeit a fleeting one, of “proper football” and in those showings, both players demonstrated that they would not shrink in the sun if thrown out into the open.

Neither are out-and-out strikers, so a switch to one up front may have to be made if either are brought in, but this is workable: Beestin is adept playing in the #10 role behind the striker, and Longbottom could be deployed across a three-man attacking midfield, or we could see James Coppinger pushed up front alongside Marquis to accommodate. Copps is thriving in his current role, but clearly has the ability to be a threat if asked to do a job on the front line and this could be a consideration for Fergie.


Job Done, Just: 5 Takeaways from Rovers 1-0 Colchester

imag1667It may not have been the finest performance of the season to date, far from it in fact, but it was still a win. Here are five takeaways from our 1-0 victory over Colchester United this past weekend.

1. The Art of Finishing

The biggest factor in any football game is of course the capability of a team to score goals. Strikers trade on their ability to do this, but on Saturday it was a midfielder who shone by example. In a game that was hard to watch from start to finish, one moment of quality that surpasses League Two settled things. Tommy Rowe showed composure and class typical of his on-pitch demeanour to slot home the winner just before half time. A languid, disjointed showing to that point didn’t really deserve a goal but Rowe’s finish after James Coppinger’s bobbling cross, taking one touch to set himself then applying a deft dink over Sam Walker in the U’s goal would prove decisive.

John Marquis’ clever dummy to step over the ball and allow it to run through to Rowe was also a good touch of class in that moment, but Marquis will be wishing he had shown the composure and skill of his team mate later in the game when he latched on to a long clearance to go clean through and look to seal the points. However, with too much time on his hands, Marquis took too long to pick his spot and, despite going round the stranded keeper, his low finish to the bottom corner was met by scrambling defender Richard Brindley, ensuring a slightly nervy finish to proceedings.

2. Magnificent Marko

Just as important as any good finisher is an effective shot-stopper at the end, and in young Marko Marosi, Rovers appear to have found a new firm Number 1. On this very website I wrote off the Slovakian in the summer, suggesting he had had his chance and should move on, but after surprisingly signing a new deal shortly after that Marosi has shown his determination to succeed in South Yorkshire. Saturday was arguably his best performance yet for the club, pulling off a couple of diving saves as well as a point-blank block from a first half header by Chris Porter moments before the goal and an agile stop after half time when the visitors broke through on goal, Marosi having to rush out of his net to close down the angle and maintain his clean sheet.

It was a Man of the Match showing from the goalkeeper, and summer recruit Ross Etheridge must be wondering what he has to do to force his way back into the manager’s plans. Etheridge was hailed as the stopper to lead the way going forward after an impressive debut season with Accrington last term, but a shaky start cost him his place and now he is left on the fringes as Marosi continues to go from strength to strength.

3. Who’s Best for Butler?

Players are slowly but surely returning from injury and the squad is beginning to look fuller again. Tyler Garratt and Niall Mason are both now back in the squad, whilst fellow defender Craig Alcock is set to resume full training on Thursday having missed the entire campaign up to now due to an injury suffered against Newcastle in pre-season. However, the one man really pressing for a start in the back line is Mathieu Baudry. The former Leyton Orient defender was hailed as perhaps our biggest signing of the summer but an achilles injury meant a long wait to see what he was capable of. A couple of recent substitute appearances suggest he is now ready to step in and provide the calm, skilled and powerful presence he was brought in to provide.

This poses a big problem for Darren Ferguson, but it is one we’re happy to have. Whilst Andy Butler appears a lock to keep his place, as a natural leader at the back and the sort of no-nonsense presence that every club in the fourth tier needs, it is the selection of young Joe Wright alongside him that raises the dilemma. Wright has been superb since joining from Huddersfield, but was not originally expected to be featuring as a regular starter until the aforementioned injuries to Baudry and Alcock, along with Luke McCullough who unfortunately is missing for the entire season with a serious knee injury. Wright has done little wrong, but did struggle to deal with the physical Colchester attack at the weekend and the Rovers defence looked more solid when he was replaced by Baudry. The Frenchman needs a run of games and might be able to strike up a better partnership with Butler than Wright can at this stage, but this doesn’t mean that both can’t be integral parts of our side for years to come.

4. Mandeville’s Latest Audition

We’ve seen Liam Mandeville deployed in several different roles this season now. As an impact substitute, the teenager impressed in the early weeks of the season providing several good assists and netting in our EFL Cup defeat to Nottingham Forest. Last week, Mandeville again played well when asked to deputise for John Marquis in the 3-2 victory over Barnet, laying it on a plate for Matty Blair to cap a superb team move for our second goal. Against Colchester however, Mandeville did not quite have the same level of performance on an afternoon where he huffed and puffed with little to show in place of Andy Williams.

My belief was and still is that Mandeville’s game is more suited to playing alongside Marquis than it is Andy Williams, but the proof wasn’t there on the first go round. With Williams out for eight weeks or so according to reports, Mandeville must now step up and stake a claim to a regular starting berth. His vision and movement should be the perfect foil for Marquis’ strength and hold-up play, and a run of games might be all the duo needs to get into the swing of things, but the academy graduate needs to be careful he doesn’t have any more shy showings like against Colchester or his place could be nabbed by any one of several waiting in the wings. More on that coming later this week on ITEN.

5. Winning Ugly

Many fans were left unenthused by the manner of performance on Saturday, but at the end of the day Rovers still came away with the three points. It was the same last week against Barnet, after a poor second half showing nearly cost us what had looked a comfortable win, but there is no need for concern right now. The message from the manager afterwards was that it is a mark of a good team to be able to win when playing poorly, and he is right. This was rightly labelled our worst performance of the season, yet it was a victory and a clean sheet to boot to keep us second in the table, closer to leaders Plymouth and with clear daylight behind us to the Play Off places.

Plenty of positives, but fans are right not to ignore the warning signs. Rovers do need to find a way to execute a Plan B when things aren’t going our way, and quickly need to address how to get around physical teams with game plans to stifle our usual passing game. Barnet did this quite well, combined with the aerial bombardment of the long throws, and Colchester were even better at pressing us out of our rhythm, but in the end couldn’t add quality up front to punish us. We will play worse teams than John McGreal’s side this season and probably lose, but we will also play better sides and win. Such is the nature of this division.


Rovers step up in Barnet late show

That sweet feeling of a late winner brings everyone off their seat.

Rovers remain safely in 2nd place in League Two after a captivating 3-2 win over Barnet this past weekend. ITEN looks back on that last-gasp victory as well as ahead to the upcoming visit of Colchester, with attacking considerations coming sharply into focus for Darren Ferguson’s side after another bout of injury misfortune.

Sting in the Tail

Saturday’s game was a captivating one, a microcosm of the contrasting styles that largely make up the tactical landscape of the bottom division. As Rovers turned on the style in the first half to take a deserved 2-0 lead with a pair of fantastic goals, the visitors executed a near-perfect gameplan in the second half to wipe out that lead. The nous shown by James Coppinger to send an exquisite volley into the bottom corner of Josh Vickers’ net on 17 minutes set the tone for how we would approach the game, but the passing move to create the second goal a quarter of an hour later was something to be applauded for the excellent display of teamwork and fluidity. Andy Williams won possession back near halfway, the ball eventually came to Matty Blair and he performed a superb one-two with deputy striker Liam Mandeville before sweeping home coolly. It was to be a Man of the Match display from Blair on the day the winger put himself firmly in the favour of Rovers fans everywhere, but his best moment would arguably come much later.

Before that however, Barnet bit back as “Mad Dog” Martin Allen brought his side out for the second half rejuvenated. In the first 45, the Bees’ attempts to make John Akinde the focal point had failed to pay off, our defenders dealing well with the threat and managing the long-throw ability of Sam Muggleton. After the break however this changed, Barnet pressing us higher up the field and disrupting our game, gaining more possession and forcing many more long-throw situations. Muggleton can launch the ball to the penalty box from inside his own half, so it is to the credit of Andy Butler and his defensive partners that they managed to deflect so many missiles, but ultimately the power of defenders Bondz N’Gala and Bira Dembele coupled with the sheer relentlessness of the set pieces paid dividends, Dembele glancing home to make it 2-1. The aerial bombardment continued and, having wasted a couple of decent chances to go clear again we were punished late on when Maltese international Luke Gambin, suspended from his national squad for a trip to Wembley, tucked in the equaliser to make sure Barnet’s pressure paid off.

Indeed we could even have gone on to lose the game, but Darren Ferguson’s sides do not know when they’re beat and don’t accept laying down in the face of adversity late on. We have seen this before, most notably in the incredible comeback win over Crewe last season, and again it showed here. Blair had already been announced as MOTM by this point, but he marked that award by tearing down the right wing, out-running and out-gunning opponents as they came in to stop him. He then put in a superb cross to the front post where Williams, who had enjoyed an impressive performance without finding a goal up to that point, swept home his seventh of the season to send Rovers into delirium. As well as their plan had worked in the second half, Barnet were ultimately undone by a quality counter attack that underlined our superiority with the ball on the floor. Both of these sides’ styles of play have their merits, and certainly both can and will be effective throughout the course of the season, but against clubs towards the bottom end of the table Rovers will have too much for them if they play as crisply and fluidly as they did here.

Stoked Mandeville

With John Marquis suspended, the onus fell on Liam Mandeville to partner Andy Williams in attack against Barnet. Whilst no one was expecting Mandeville to perform the loveable pitbull role Marquis does, the hope was that he could contribute his bright ball-playing abilities to meaningful attacks, and he proved more than capable of doing this throughout. His best moment was in the build-up to Blair’s goal, providing the assist as part of a give-and-go move in the penalty area, and he also showed a keen sense of tactical awareness and vision in his play, pushing us on several times and beating Barnet defenders more than once down the right channel. He was also unlucky not to receive the ball in superb positions on more than one occasion, usually missing out as Williams looked to go it alone in search of goals.

This audition showed he has a lot to contribute to this team, but whether he is truly ready or not to step up to a starting role is not something we are likely to have the luxury of debating for long. Williams left the Keepmoat on crutches following a bad tackle from behind right on full time, and is rated doubtful at best for the Colchester game. With Marquis back from suspension, it looks like Mandeville will keep his place and have a new strike partner, and it may be to his benefit that it is Marquis standing alongside him this weekend. Mandeville’s game is not a physical one, he is the foil of finesse. Marquis, a strong physical player who harries defenders and holds up the ball, will suit partnering Mandeville more than Williams does, but this does mean the teenager will need to discover the goalscoring form he has lacked since stepping up to the first team last year. His movement on and off the ball will be an asset, he can feed off Marquis and therefore the team can maintain the same shape and style that it has become accustomed to playing in so far in 2016/17.

Boiling Over

They say a watched pot never boils, but if you watch a Kettle for long enough he’s bound to whistle eventually. And whistle he did, referee Trevor Kettle doing his utmost to affect the game in his favour as the minutes rolled on. We actually have a superb record in games refereed by the controversial official, but he did not endear himself to anybody in the vicinity in this one, earning the ire of both sets of fans with some downright ridiculous decision-making in the second half. Applying the rules liberally concerning the stoppage of play for injuries, Kettle elected to begin a bizarre war with Rovers players after taking exception to a perfectly reasonable complaint over the home side getting the ball back after a Barnet player went down with an itch in his own half. After a visibly heated exchange with Tommy Rowe in which the midfielder was booked, Kettle elected to restart the game with a ‘contested’ drop ball, promptly blowing for a free kick to the Bees for utterly no reason after dropping the ball into play and souring what had to that point been a fairly benign showing.

What possessed him to turn on us remains a mystery, but Kettle appeared to be disappointed when Williams turned in the winner in injury time, and post-match allegations from Fergie that Kettle used inappropriate language towards our players is worrying. It is more worrying that officials like Kettle can be allowed to turn in such blatantly incompetent performances and get away with it. Do assessors actually go to these matches as they’re supposed to, or do they merely protect their own in a world where they are increasingly seen as the villains of the piece. Make no mistake, some – like Kettle here – willingly make themselves the villain, and the pattern of doing so is something that has followed him around for years and sullied his reputation. The name of Mick Russell still causes outright fury in Rovers circles and for good reason, yet despite several notable examples of downright appalling officiating in matches, Russell continues to referee in the league. He is just one example, along with Kettle, of a system that perhaps does not work as it should, and to prove I’m not merely criticising an official for not favouring Rovers in this match, feel free to consult the story of how he earned the ire of Accrington Stanley last season and possibly cost them promotion in the long run.

Should a referee even be allowed to take charge of a league match again after that? You already know the answer to that.


EFL Trophy: The Ongoing Failure


Last night Doncaster Rovers earned two points from a game for the first time since 1981. The reason was not down to the league reverting to the pre-Jimmy Hill winning points tally, but in stead down to one of the many baffling, nonsensical changes made to the former Johnstone’s Paint Trophy for this season by the newly re-branded “EFL”.

Many fans have stayed away, including myself, taking a stand against what is being perceived as the “thin end of the wedge” in the pursuit of adding “B Teams” from top flight clubs into Football League and, although that idea has seemingly being quashed now by the powers that be, their continued presence in the Checkatrade Trophy, as this competition is now known, remains on the table despite the backlash.

Fact, not fiction

Shaun Harvey is the man at the centre of the proposed changes to our league set-up, and it is Harvey who has rightly come in for most of the criticism from the fans after demonstrating his complete lack of understanding towards the issues actually facing his organisation. What makes this all the more astounding is that Harvey is a true “football man”. He has worked in the game at all levels for over 20 years, from holding an important position at Bradford City when they were in the Premier League to slumming it in non-league with Farsley Celtic. Yet, his decisions and comments continue to make him appear no more clued in on English professional football than my six-year-old niece (she’s a fan of Peppa Pig, among other things).

Earlier this week Harvey gave an interview to the BBC’s Simon Stone attempting to defend the EFL Trophy changes that have been met with such an outpouring of negativity, and in it the reality of his opinion was borderline laughable. In his very first answer here he tried to big up the fact that 13000 extra fans had attended matches in the opening round of fixtures compared to last year, despite clearly being aware of the fact that there were double the amount of games this time around owing to the expanded number of teams competing. By that token, and considering the 16 new teams are all from well-supported, high ranking clubs, an increase in attendances of only around 44% is nothing to boast about. Harvey also tried to blame the perceived “staleness” of the competition on the format being unchanged in a number of years, yet this is not a problem for the F.A. Cup, which has been contested under the same format for most of its modern history with only minor changes to replays and the venue of the final rounds.

The full interview is available at the link above if you wish to pick through the rest of Harvey’s nonsense, but the facts remain that he is proving with every interview that he is on a different page altogether to the majority when it comes to solving the issues facing our game. Claiming the importance of EFL clubs providing elite youth prospects is aided by this competition directly contradicts the introduction of top flight U23 teams, along with the nature of the rules surrounding EPPP, whilst comparing the prospect of two U23 sides playing at Wembley for the Checkatrade Trophy to two EFL sides reaching the FA Cup Final is a flat-out insult to every club Harvey is allegedly in charge of representing. His answers to straight-forward questions pointing out the obvious flaws in this format unfolding before our eyes are akin to those of US Presidential Candidate Donald Trump when faced with the facts on climate change.

Even the positives weigh themselves down

The headline that Harvey and co. want to take away from the new EFL Trophy is of course the valuable experience it gives to youth team prospects, holding up the idea as the way forward for developing young talent and bridging the gap between academy football and the professional ranks. We can see at the Rovers that the matches played in this tournament are affording good opportunities for the likes of Alfie Beestin, Liam Mandeville and Will Longbottom to impress, but even here there is a fatal flaw in the EFL’s plan.

The rules do not apply universally for all 64 teams competing. Whilst the invited U23 teams are encouraged to play their youth prospects (albeit only a minimum of 6 in a starting 11 need to fit this criteria), the senior sides from League’s One and Two are actively penalised for doing the same thing. Luton Town have risked a fine in both games so far, changing more than the allotted number of players in their squad in order to rest first choice players and blood youth graduates instead. Manager Nathan Jones today stated he would pay any fine himself pointing out the truth that being fined for playing youth in a tournament designed to help youth development would be outrageous. Yet this is the reality for us, an uneven playing field.

Last night our youngsters earned a creditable draw against the young prospects from Championship side Derby County, a result made all the more impressive by the fact the starting attacking quartet for the visitors were all first team players, three of whom were aged 25 or 26, including a Scotsman and an Austrian. The only one of these players fitting the age criteria was opening goalscorer James Wilson, a 20-year-old on loan from Manchester United, a team who refused to even participate in the tournament. This says it all, and you will find numerous examples across the group stages, from 30-year-old Scottish international Charlie Adam netting in a game for Stoke, to 28-year-old Frenchman Tony Andreu scoring a hat trick for Norwich that actually earned him a move to the illustrious Scottish Championship days later.

Tackle the real issues, please

Instead of wrecking the long-standing, traditional and popular formats that help make the game at this level what it is (that being the most successful pyramid league system in world football, if not all of sport), perhaps Harvey and his chums from the Premier League and the F.A. should direct their attention at the real problem areas adversely affecting the national game. How about the growing corruption scandal starting at the very top, that has cost the England manager his job? Perhaps they should address the ever increasing financial gap between the top flight and the rest, a problem that has led to clubs with the history and standing of Darlington and Hereford United going completely out of business for what amounts to a similar amount of money that a top Premier League footballer makes on his own in less than a month. Sorting these very real issues would do a lot more for our game than the meddlesome “Whole Game Solution”, the moniker reminiscent of 1940’s Germany seeking to completely ruin the English league structure.

Rather than arbitrarily forcing teams to field their U23 players in front of 600 apathetic fans at reduced prices, they should do something to address the flagrant misuse of the youth team system that clubs such as Chelsea enact every year, buying up talented players from across the globe only to loan them out to eight clubs before subsequently releasing them without making so much as a dozen first team appearances. Manchester United sold or released eight players over the summer that were either youth team graduates or young prospects signed from EFL clubs in their teenage years after the arrival of Jose Mourinho in the summer, discarded to make room for big money additions like Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, two men as concerned with their own personal branding as they are with their performances on the pitch.

Pep Guardiola became another example of the Premier League’s obsession with attracting “superstar” names from abroad instead of aiding the progression of homegrown playing and coaching talent when he joined Manchester City earlier this year, and one of his first acts as boss was to jettison England’s first choice goalkeeper Joe Hart, denigrating him to the point of putting him in a substitute rotation with 35-year-old Argentine journeyman Willy Caballero before shipping him off altogether to play for a mid-table Serie A side. That things like this are allowed to happen at all is down to the long-term mismanagement for selfish reasons of the governing bodies, and it is more concerning now than ever that the Premier League, the F.A. and the EFL appear to be singing from the same incorrect hymn sheet.

Rovers Rising

Up to second in the League Two table, Rovers head into a stretch of tough fixtures in confident mood, but can we keep it going?

Man of the Hour, Month…Year?

Back-to-back wins have seen Fergie’s boys dispel the worry brought on by the 2-1 defeat to Crewe that we can’t put enough chances away to compete in this league, and the man at the centre of proving that theory wrong is James Coppinger. The veteran midfielder is enjoying a vintage run of form and has deservedly taken all the headlines at the club in the past couple of weeks. Copps was the starring man as Rovers put Morecambe to the sword on a glorious afternoon on the west coast, justifying his award of the division’s Player of the Month for August by having a major hand in two goals then scoring a peach himself to wrap up the 5-1 win on his historic 500th appearance.

The club legend continues to be a record-breaker with every passing appearance in the shirt and if he keeps up his current outlay this could easily end up being his most successful of thirteen seasons playing for Doncaster Rovers, and that is no mean feat considering the huge part he played in the promotion campaigns of 2007/08 and 2012/13. The 35-year-old produced the goods again on his first home outing after reaching the big 500, netting a sumptuous free kick to put us on our way to victory over Newport last Saturday on his way to yet another Man of the Match award. As long as Coppinger continues to have this kind of impact on games, Rovers are always an even bet at worst to win games.

Attacking Harmony at Last

Barnes and Blundell, Sharp and Diouf…”The HeffnHayter” (okay, maybe not)…it has been a while since we could say our front two are in-sync with one another. Indeed, it isn’t something that Rovers squads through the ages are known for, but in the opening six weeks of this season we have seen strike partners Andy Williams and John Marquis strike up quite a rapport. Of course this isn’t just down to the two of them, but in amongst a terrific team effort we have seen excellent results out of both forwards, and a goal return of nine from 8 games is impressive in any league.

Indeed, we currently boast three of the top ten goalscorers in League Two with Williams, Marquis and Coppinger netting thirteen goals between them, and the Reds are now the outright top scoring team of all. The understanding between these men, along with fellow attacking talents Tommy Rowe, Matty Blair and the improving Harry Middleton, mean we should not fear any side in the league and that is a message worth conveying by Darren Ferguson as we prepare for away trips to pre-season favourites Luton and Portsmouth, either side of a home game against undefeated Carlisle.

Where is our ceiling?

Most would answer that question quite easily: we don’t have one. Rovers should be aspiring to top the table and are now just two points off of doing just that, but the highest praise you can give this team in the early months is that they have dealt with adversity pretty well. The treatment room has had to deal with nearly as many players as the full training sessions have, and Rovers’ run of five wins in the last six games has come with an increasingly depleted squad. So if a team missing a number of first choice players can perform this well, what might they be capable of if and when everyone is fighting fit again?

A makeshift defence has coped very well with continual losses over recent matches, and whilst Matty Blair should be commended for his displays as an emergency right back, the return of Frazer Richardson is needed to allow Blair more freedom going forward again. Mitchell Lund is also missing, whilst the arguable first choice in that position, Craig Alcock, is also still a few weeks away from a starting place. Add to that the yet-to-debut Mathieu Baudry, loanee Niall Mason also in defence, tough nut Paul Keegan and forward Gary McSheffrey, and suddenly the manager could have a huge selection dilemma on his hands come October. Imagine having that dilemma whilst sitting top of the table already? It’s entirely possible.