by David Sweeney

Doncaster season and transfer policy = relegation

3-2 up in the 90th minute against fellow strugglers Pompey, Doncaster somehow conspired to lose 4-3 which sealed their inevitable relegation to League One. I use the word inevitable because their transfer policy is not only ludicrous but is also orchestrated by one of the most unsavoury characters in the game: Willy McKay, who for those of you who don’t know is essentially conducting a footballing experiment in bringing in high profile, ex premier league players on small wages in an attempt to put them in the shop window whilst supposedly hauling Donny out of trouble after being granted an exclusive two-year transfer consultancy policy by the chairman John Ryan. As Rovers were relegated without so much as a whimper yesterday it is clear that McKay’s madness has failed miserably.
When he came in many stated that the club had two choices; trust Mckay or go down. Sadly and unsurprisingly both have happened. How can you expect to have good team morale when the dressing room door is constantly revolving? To his credit he did deliver big names such as El Hadji Diouf, Pascal Chimbonda, Hérita Ilunga, Freddie Piquionne and Habib Beye but what was their motivation for playing to the best of their ability? It’s hard to see why they would. They are all well over the hill with their best days firmly behind them and what big club is seriously going to come and snap them up after seeing them consistently humbled at Doncaster Rovers.
What McKay and Ryan have done is rip the soul and spirit out of what was a decently run family club in order to put previously over-paid mercenaries in the shop window to line McKay’s back pocket. Had this model worked I would have feared that more clubs would have adopted it. The fact that it has failed so badly in my opinion is the best outcome and a lucky escape for other struggling clubs who may have mimicked this stupid tactic.

Stockport County

Yesterday I had the misfortune of going along to Edgeley Park with my County supporting mates to watch Stockport take on the mighty Braintree. It was the first time I had been for a good couple of years and their dramatic fall from grace is both saddening and interesting. As the game was hardly awe inspiring it gave me the chance to reminisce about previous players who donned the royal blue shirt when I had attended fairly regularly 5-6 years ago. The difference between the current side and the old one is night and day with the only constant being Jimmy Gannon, likened to Houdini on the terraces for his happy knack of dragging the club out of relegation trouble, whichever league they find themselves struggling in.

I thought it appropriate to trace the 07/08 team, assembled solely by Gannon, and marvel at the upward trajectory of their careers whilst hoping and praying that the Irishman can somehow repeat the feat with the bunch of losers he has inherited. Beginning at the back with the two goalkeepers, who, due to varying loan deals, interchanged as the season progressed. It comes to me as no surprise that they are both currently Premier League number ones, in the shape of John Ruddy and Wayne Hennessey. The current Wolves stopper was in goal for County’s entire record-setting streak of nine consecutive wins without conceding that campaign. Moving onto the defence and again two are regulars in the Prem – Norwich’s Paul Tierney and Swansea’s Ashley Williams have both had impressive debut seasons in the top flight and look to be worth every paltry penny both clubs paid Stockport for their services. Anthony Pilkington also joined Paul Lambert’s East Anglian revolution and he has been nothing short of superb, with his mazy runs mesmerising some of the best full backs in the world. Given Gannon’s lack of firepower in the current squad it is almost cruel to see Ricky Lambert and Adam Le Fondre firing Southampton and Reading to the top division. Quite an impressive list right? And that’s without even mentioning the likes of Gary Dicker and Tommy Rowe who have carved out very respectable careers for themselves at Championship level with Brighton and Peterborough respectively. The only underachievers from the class of 07/08 are ironically two of that team’s better players – Liam Dickinson and Michael Raynes, who unfortunately find themselves languishing in League Two. They could do so much better. However League Two is still higher than the Conference and one can only hope under the stewardship of Jim the foundations of a hungry young team can once again be built and County can rise up the divisions. It will be tough because as a club they lie in a geographical nightmare of an area in the heavily congested North West and with no rights to stadium ownership, no sugar daddy is likely to come in and save them. Therefore the rebuild is going to have to be done on the cheap with young players from the semi pro leagues needed to sustain a push to a higher level. Usually that would be near impossible, but maybe not with Jim at the helm who quite patently has an eye for a player.

Sylvain Distin

Everton bottled it and showed a complete lack of fight in the second half yesterday. The fact of the matter is that Liverpool just wanted it more and rightly won the all Mersey semi-final at Wembley. In the second half, Everton should have been battling for a place in the final but instead they let down their success-starved fans. Despite the team as a whole being poor in the second half it is Sylvain Distin who receives a massive mauling for his failure to deal with Luis Suarez throughout by playing too high up the pitch and it was his catastrophic back pass that allowed the slippery Uruguayan Suarez to race through and score the equalizer. Despite being a good pro and a steady defender Distin was poor yesterday and with his contract up in the summer Moyes has a big decision on his hands over whether or not to keep the big Frenchman. However given Everton’s blatant lack of resources it’s likely he will offer him a deal due to the inability to pay for a replacement. Everton were timid and once again succumbed to their near-rivals who may have problems themselves but papering over the cracks with silverware sure seems like an attractive option right now.

Carlos Tevez

While it seems odd to ‘maul’ somebody who has just scored a quite brilliant hat-trick this is more about venting my frustrations at his lack of availability throughout the season leaving me and fellow blues to ponder what might have been.

His impressive partnership recently forged with Sergio Aguero has seen City banish their goalscoring blues and fire ten past beleaguered West Brom and Norwich defences in the past five days. If they had been paired together throughout the season I have little doubt that Mancini’s men would be 5-6 points clear at the top; they are that good together. From Carlos’s beautiful back-flick for Sergio to hammer home to his predatory headed goal, he is the complete player, the best – I have ever seen in a sky blue shirt – and it’s such a shame he went away for so long. I doubt I’m alone in saying this but I would love to see the diminutive duo start next season’s title assault together up front, although I realise it may be a big ask. No amount of money would compensate his loss; you simply cannot replace his work-rate and goalscoring ability, and there truly is only one Carlos Tevez. I still am undecided however about whether that is a good or a bad thing. His unique playing style coupled with his unusual physique makes him the complete centre forward. Unfortunately it is offset by his sulky, selfish attitude.