Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Fans’ season preview 2012/13 – part three

Michael – @mikeywoods89
8th in League Two – “Just fallen short”
We lost a few players, in particular Paulo Gazzaniga who has joined Southampton, but we have brought in some good replacements and perhaps strengthened in areas that were otherwise weak last season such as the defence.
With the quality of players we have this season and Martin Allen in charge (hopefully he'll last the season), I expect us to make the play-offs as a minimum. I believe the highest we can aim for is 3rd but there are some strong teams in this league.
Rotherham and York are of particular interest – Rotherham because of the new ground and York because of the place itself, and it's a team I haven't seen us face before. Also looking forward to Burton Albion as it's the final game of the season and I have yet to visit Burton.
Jack – @MorecambeJack
15th in League Two – "Room for improvement"
We have lost Lawrence Wilson our left back with a great attacking threat who I think we will miss terribly. We have brought in Robbie Threlfall as a replacement but it remains to be seen whether he can fill his boots. Garry Hunter was released, despite being Morecambe born and bred, but we have brought in Championship-level experience through Andy Wright from Scunthorpe.
Expectation is to stay in the league and with a reduced squad this year, anything more than that will be a success. We are going to heavily rely on youth this year and hope that we do not suffer many injuries. Showing relegation form over the last 7 months of last season, we really need a good start again this year to avoid being in a scrap at the bottom.
I think most Morecambe fans are looking forward to the Fleetwood games this year, as they become our nearest "rivals" once more. The York game also has some interest as we beat them in the play-off semis the year we got promoted (with a bit of controversy!). Other than that, I am looking forward to the Bradford games particularly at home on New Year's Day and our away game at Accrington which for the first time I can remember, is on a Saturday in spring rather than a cold Tuesday night in winter!
Northampton Town
20th in League Two –
Oxford United
Jennie – @x_Jen_xx
9th in League Two – “Disappointing, frustrating, inconsistent”
We've kept a lot of our key players, I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, because something needs to dramatically change in our squad! I’m glad that we've kept Constable and Craddock, so I’m expecting a lot more from them this season. We've signed a couple of players who could be vital for next season and have a couple more on loan, such as McGinty and Cox, which should hopefully get the players fighting for their places instead of becoming too complacent!
I think a lot of Oxford fans will expect us to be in the play-offs by Christmas and if we're not... then I think Wilder will be sacked. It's a shame because I do like Wilder, but we can't just keep finishing in mid table in League Two because people will just stop going. By the end of the season, I think realistically we would be lucky to get in to the play-offs, but anything less would be heartbreaking for the club. We have a new chairman so hopefully that should push the club forward. A play-off place will be good enough.
I’m looking forward to Wycombe away – bit of a local derby and it's always a game that we look forward to. Exeter away too, just because there's some old rivalry there from when we were in the Conference with them! I’m hoping for a good cup run going as we haven't had one in a very long time, but knowing Oxford, this will not happen this season either!
Plymouth Argyle
Edward – @ArgyleEd
21st in League Two – “Difficult, stressful, successful”
Our biggest loss is Simon Walton who we let go to Hartlepool for personal reasons. Walton was never universally popular but in my opinion really came through for the club last season during difficult times. He was made captain after Fletcher became manager and I believe his leadership made a big difference to a young and inexperienced team that were really struggling. He was also our top scorer, they were mostly from the penalty spot but by keeping his head under pressure he scored several goals that turned out to be vital in our League survival. He was never as good as we thought he would be considering what we paid for him back in our Championship years and some fans always held that against him but I believe that in League Two he'll be missed. Other than Walton our only losses are the loan players who returned to their clubs, they all played a part in our improvement in the second half of the season, MacDonald, Hemmings and Tsoumou all gave us a greater attacking threat that what was provided by our permanent players.
Jamie Lowry was brought in not long after Walton's departure, he's got a poor injury record but fans of his previous clubs mostly think well of him and think he'll do a good job in League Two, unfortunately he has suffered an ankle injury that will keep him out for three months. I'm hoping to see Luke Young play a big role for us, he's only 19 but has shown a lot of promise despite mostly playing out on the wing which is not his best position, if he gets a chance in centre midfield I believe he could have a very good season. We really lacked a genuine goal-scorer last season, it was a position that needed sorting, I like Nick Chadwick and Warren Feeney but neither of them will score the goals to keep us out of a relegation scrap. Fletcher's solution appears to be Welsh striker Rhys Griffiths, he's got a fantastic record in the Welsh league (180 goals in 181 appearances for Llanelli) but no experience at a higher level and at 32 years old quite a bit older than most players who make the step up to League football. If he can reproduce anything like the coring form he's had in Wales it'll be a fantastic signing but if he can't then we'll be left with a real goal-scoring problem. Andres Gurrieri signed after being released by Burton, he impressed here on trial last summer (supposedly we couldn't sign him then due to his previous club wanting compensation) and Burton fans seem to think he was ok for them, I'm happy enough with the signing and he's not the only new winger, we've also signed Johnny Gorman from Wolves on loan until January. If they can replace what we had with Hemmings and MacDonald and allow Luke Young to play in the centre of midfield rather than on the wing I'll be very pleased. Our only other signing so far is goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin who was released by Watford who says he has signed to challenge Jake Cole for the number one spot rather than to be back up, Cole however was impressive for us last season and I'd expect him to at least start the season as number one.
I honestly don't know where we'll finish this season. I'm not expecting a promotion challenge despite our owner's comments on expectations and wage budget. We came very close to going down last season and at the moment I'm not convinced our team is much stronger, what we've lost has mostly been replaced but as yet the quality of the replacements is yet to be proven. Without the stress of administration and no wages and the experience gained last season I don't think we'll be in quite the same struggle as we were last season but I'm expecting to be paying more attention to the bottom of the table than the top. I don't think we'll get relegated but if we are to leave League Two at the end of the season it seems likely it would be into the Conference rather than League One. It's important for our fans to remember that rebuilding from the disastrous period in administration will take time and if we can't yet afford to immediately compete for promotion then we shouldn't try to, if spending within our means signing cheap, unproven players for now and having a few disappointing seasons then that's a price worth paying, I hope our fans don't demand we put our future at risk again if things don't go too well. Right now I'd be content with a mid table finish and a season without the constant worry of relegation, after four desperately stressful relegation battles in a row I think we deserve a relaxing year. I'm also hoping to see some more attacking football, our ultra defensive set up worked for us in the desperation of last season but it was not much fun to watch, Fletcher has said he'd prefer a more attractive style of football and I think we have the players to do it if they're allowed to and there's not the immediate pressure to get results that a relegation battle creates.
With all three of Devon's League clubs in the same division the obvious fixtures to look forward to are the derbies between us, Torquay and most importantly, Exeter. However, as I am not too confident about our chances there's a fair bit of worry mixed in with the excitement and as I'm not a season ticket holder I won't be able to get tickets for the away games and so will have to follow them from home which never helps the nerves. Living in London I usually look forward to our away trips to the capital and some shorter journeys to make, AFC Wimbledon will again be my local game so that's a game I'll definitely be attending.
Port Vale
Matt – @pvfc_matt
12th in League Two – “A complete mess”
We saw a few of our key players take up offers from clubs elsewhere.  The main two were definitely last season’s top scorer Marc Richards and tough tackling midfielder Anthony Griffiths.
Richards leaving was always on the cards and once Chesterfield offered him a substantially better wage than what we could he was on his way; mixed views from Valiants as to how much he will be missed. The bigger and more surprising loss was that of Anthony Griffiths who decided to make the move to London to join Leyton Orient.  A tough tackling, fully committed, hard working midfielder who would put his body on the line for the sake of breaking up an oppositions attack.  His distribution was not always the best but was certainly a part of his game he had improved upon during the last season.
We have completed the ‘signings’ of six players to date, although these are still currently subject to the ongoing administration process.  At time of writing this we are under the belief that the Football League have authorised us to complete the deals whilst still in administration.  These players are:
Goalkeeper Chris Neal who played a full part in Shrewsbury’s promotion from this very league last season and will make a very adequate Number 1 for us.
Defenders Dave Artell, who captained Crewe to playoff victory last season and is a natural leader and Richard Duffy who played in League 1 with Exeter last season and comes to Vale with a lot of good reviews.
Midfielders Jennison Myrie-Williams who showed a lot of promise with his speed and trickery on the wing whilst on loan with us last season, Ashley Vincent who is another pacy winger and joins us from Colchester and finally Darren Murphy who we are lead to believe could do a similar job to what Griffiths has done for us in recent seasons.  Murphy was part of the Stevenage side which one back-to-back promotions from BSP to League One.
We also have Liam Dickinson who has agreed a deal in principle providing he can prove his fitness after fighting back from a broken ankle.  Hopefully Dickinson can prove to be the replacement to Marc Richards after scoring goals at this level for Southend, providing he proves to Micky Adams that his ankle is fully recovered.  We have also had Tadhg Purcell on trial following his release from Northampton and he’s been banging goals in for fun during our friendlies. All in all Vale fans are very impressed with the standard of players we have signed so far this summer after seeing plenty of dross and deadwood brought into our club on the ‘cheap’ in the past.
I’m not too sure how we will get on at the moment.  Back in July it seemed as though we had everything falling into place.  We had announced the signings of six players, all of which are so much better than the usual standard of player we bring in. Our preferred bidder was seemingly a signature away from taking control of the club and building on his vision to see us back in the Championship in the coming years.  There was a real buzz around Port Vale again (something we have not had for many years now) and there was genuine expectations of us fighting competitively in the top seven and finally getting ourselves back out of this league. Then everything just seemed to go stale and for weeks now there has been nothing positive coming out of the club.  It seems our ‘saviour’ Keith Ryder is struggling to complete his takeover with talk of him not having the funds to do so and we are now back to square one with our administrators re-opening the door to other prospective owners.  We apparently have two other bidders looking into buying us out of administration but this will mean the process beginning over and will almost certainly mean we start this season in administration. Despite this dark cloud hanging over us, we could still have a decent season providing the stories of the Football League allowing us to officially sign the players we have brought in during the summer are true, and providing the CVA we have in place stays in place for any new bidders and we are not hit with any further points deductions. If things take a turn for the worse with regards to the administration then who knows what this season will bring.  In fact I don’t even want to think about it.
Well we lost some of the closer games that Vale fans always looked out for. Crewe and Shrewsbury both went up and Macclesfield suffered relegation. These were all fixtures that saw a large away following from Vale and were always the ones to look for first. With the clubs that are in this league for this coming season, I think it has to be York followed closely by Torquay.  Never been to York’s ground so it will be another one ticked off the list plus I am told there is a cracking weekend to be had up there.  We always spend the weekend in Torquay and this season will be no different and can safely say it is one of the nicest places in the UK – there is nothing like an away win at the seaside!

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