David Cameron Walker

Posts Tagged ‘Billy Clarke’

End of season report

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Another season has passed and it seems incredible to think that it’s nearly a year since Scott Neilson’s 67th minute goal at Accrington. Since then, a lot has changed.

For example, only six first team players from then are still with Crawley Town. Dannie Bulman, David Hunt, Kyle McFadzean, Josh Simpson, Sergio Torres and Billy Clarke, and I would be surprised if that number isn’t lower come the start of next season.

The club also have a new Chief Executive, are up for sale and on the pitch have just secured a very respectable 10th place in their first season in League One.

Next season there is plenty to build on, and if we keep the core of this squad and build on it I think we really stand a chance of making the play offs, particularly as we weren’t far off this year and we held our own against a number of the top six. This included wins away at Doncaster and Sheffield United, draws at home to Swindon and Doncaster when we really should have  won, a win at home to Bournemouth (admittedly before they sacked Paul Groves – indeed, it was that game that prompted the Bournemouth board to sack him.)

Also, it was a case of not winning games we should have won which has cost us, such as the aforementioned home games against Swindon and Doncaster, Walsall away, Yeovil home (a game we lost but dominated) and away, Stevenage at home, Carlisle at home, Notts County at home, to name some.

It is a case of converting performances that merit wins into wins for next season, as we have shown we are one of the better sides in this division, and the core of this side is excellent. Players like Dannie Bulman, captain fantastic Josh Simpson, Mark Connolly, Paul Jones, Nicky Adams, Billy Clarke, Kyle McFadzean, Joe Walsh, Jamie Proctor and Mat Sadler are the players we should build our side around, these are the players who will form the nucleus of a successful season next term.

Josh Simpson has signed a new contract which is excellent news, but added to that inevitable departures of several out of contract players such as Shaun Cooper means that Richie Barker will surely be looking to add at least a few faces to his squad for a second season in League  One – but where do the Reds need to strengthen?

A new striker, or likely two, will surely be brought in, as both loanees Paul Hayes and Aiden O’Brien are returning to Brentford and Millwall respectively and the out of contract Lateef Elford Alliyu has been released, leaving just Jamie Proctor as the club’s sole striker currently (discounting Billy Clarke as he’s more of a forward than an out and out striker). Proctor himself has shown he is capable of leading the line this season, scoring seven goals since joining in January, and he will surely be a crucial part of the side next season.

A new central midfielder may also be on the list as whilst out-of-contract Matt Sparrow looks set to sign a new contract, Dannie Bulman is out of contract although I expect talks about a new deal to begin soon if they haven’t already,  and of course Josh Simpson has signed on for another two years, but four central midfielders will probably be an ideal number.

Right backs David Hunt and Mustapha Dumbuya are both out of contract this summer and so that is another area which will need to be strengthened, even if one of them signs a new contract.

There’s a lot to be optimistic about going into next season, and, whisper it quietly, I believe there is a genuine chance of us making the play-offs and even challenging for automatic promotion if the right players are retained and brought in.

This past season has been a funny one, one of great memories tinged by a hint of frustration  we slipped up in games we could and should have won. Winning away at Portsmouth on Boxing Day, the recent win at Sheffield United, Nicky Adams’ wondergoal in the first minute against Reading, beating Bolton at home with two goals in the last five minutes. All wonderful memories and moments that will brighten up a season which, after looking like it could have promised so much, fizzled out into a season of consolidation.

Finishing 10th however is far from a disgrace for our first season in League One, and as one of the smaller if not the smallest club in the league it’s a position we can be very proud of. Barker’s done an excellent job on a small budget and this year he has a pre-season to build his own squad, something he didn’t have last year and if he uses the summer wisely, next season could be a very exciting one for the club.

Written by Louie Elmer, We Are Going Up’s Crawley Town blogger

Louie tweets at @louie_j_e

Promotion challenge falling to pieces

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

After a good start to the season which saw Crawley Town up to the dizzy heights of second in League One at one stage, the club has slipped to ninth thanks to a run of  just one win in November, away to Met Police in the FA Cup, and no wins in six in the league. Worrying times indeed, but the lack of goals and indeed a goalscorer is the main concern. Gary Alexander, reliable for much of last season for both Brentford and Crawley when he joined, is clearly lacking confidence (although he did hit the post this weekend.)

It’s been frustrating because for much of this period, the team have played okay but individual errors and lapses in concentration have cost us. For example, against Oldham we were comfortable for much of the game, but had to settle for a draw after going behind and then being rescued by a late Kyle McFadzean strike.

Against Yeovil on Tuesday night, we put in probably one of our best performances of the season (certainly at home,) and somehow came away with nothing after a late own goal by David Hunt – this was despite dominating them in the second half and failing to convert numerous goal mouth scrambles. You get the feeling that if, dare I say it, Matt Tubbs had been playing, he may have stuck away a goal or two and we’d have got the win we deserved.

Is Matt Tubbs the answer? I’d say yes. Part of it is the sentimental side of me wanting the best striker in the club’s history back ‘home’ but part of it is thinking logically. Crawley needs a goalscorer, Tubbs is a goalscorer. The club, in particular the fans, need a lift and signing a club legend would bring exactly that, so why not? He’s out of favour at Bournemouth, has already said he’d be open to a move back and is exactly what we’re missing. The only problem I can see is that Bournemouth paid a huge fee for him and would want a fair amount of that money back, money Crawley just don’t have.

Despite us spending huge amounts of money on back to back promotions, mainly transfer fees, we  have cut back on our spending and this summer, in the main relying on loans and free transfers. One thing is for certain though, and that is we need goals desperately, whether it be in the form of Matt Tubbs, Gary Alexander finding his shooting boots or perhaps a young striker who’s scored 23 goals whilst on loan at Met Police – Jonte Smith.

Granted, League One is a completely different level, but I’m a firm believer that if you’re a natural goalscorer you’ll be able to make the step up to any level (to a degree) and unlike Tubbs he won’t actually cost anything. He’s a product of the revamped youth system here at Crawley and it would be nice to see him given a game.

Despite all this, there have been a few bright sparks – namely Nicky Adams and Kyle McFadzean.

Both have been absolute class and should be playing in the Championship. McFadzean is definitely the best defender we’ve ever had, and has been an absolute rock alongside Big Claude Davis. Somehow the club have managed to convince him to sign a three year contract, but if he stays for even half of that I’ll be surprised. Nicky Adams is equally brilliant, always giving 100% and he’s the kind of winger that gets people off their seat – always looking to take the full back on and get a cross in. He’s even chipped in with a few goals this season.

So it’s not all doom and gloom – and if Crawley can start taking our chances we’ll rise back into the play off places once more. But to be honest, I think a lot of people are over reacting to an admittedly bad period considering where we were a few years ago. If you ask me we need to just enjoy being in League One and support the team and Richie Barker. Moaning won’t serve to help the team, and, let’s be honest, if you were giving 100% each week (and I don’t doubt the players do) and all you got in return was fans getting on your back, what would you think?

Written by Louie Elmer, We Are Going Up’s Crawley Town blogger

Louie tweets at @LouieElmer

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot….

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Rugby jokes aside, the visit of literal Premier League giants Stoke City in the FA Cup will be, without doubt, the biggest game to have been played at the Broadfield Stadium. Ever. It easily surpasses the third round visit of Derby County last year, as one might imagine.

As crazy as this may sound, I believe Crawley do have a half decent chance of getting a result. At home I think they can beat anyone, especially as Stoke are playing Valencia on the Thursday night and will probably rest players – meaning there’s a good chance Kenwyne Jones will, for the first time ever, come up against someone that’s more of a tank than him in big Claude Davis. Imagine Jones and Bayo Akinfenwa up front!

Stoke’s robust style will play right into Town’s hands, and Evans will have the players fired up and focused on the task in hand. Talking of hands, it’s absolutely devastating news that today it’s been found goalkeeper Scott Shearer requires knee surgery on an injury picked up against Cheltenham – he’ll be out for probably two months. The club haven’t revealed exactly what the injury is, and whatever it is it didn’t stop him walking around and being named on the bench for Tuesday’s game at Swindon.

All this means that Michel Kuipers had to start against Swindon – and whilst he didn’t cost Crawley the game, he was terrible. It’s a good thing Rene Gilmartin has been brought in from Watford on loan until the end of March. Whilst Town deserved nothing from the Swindon match, they could have taken something had Dean Howell’s effort gone in instead of bouncing off the bar and Crawley could have had three goals in the final five minutes of the first half. The referee technically should have sent himself off for denying Billy Clarke a goal scoring opportunity after Sanchez Watt was fouled as he played Clarke through – the referee initially gave an advantage, but then inexplicably pulled play back. In reality though, Crawley were poor.

Back to the Stoke encounter. It will be a record crowd and hopefully a fantastic atmosphere. I’ve no doubt the performance will improve drastically from Tuesday’s debacle, and hopefully the ESPN cameras will get what they came for – an upset.

New signings Billy Clarke and Karl Hawley are yet to make an impact in terms of goals, although Clarke impressed particuarly on his debut against Cheltenham, hitting the bar in an eye catching performance. Sanchez Watt, who arrived just two days before the fourth round tie against Hull, sparkled on his debut at the KC Stadium and was superb on his home debut against promotion rivals Cheltenham, scoring two goals and generally giving the visiting defence a torrid time.

I worry about Clarke’s ability to score goals however – he’s not been particularly prolific in his career and whilst he is still young  he seems to be more of a creative player who likes to drop off, rather than be an off-the-shoulder goal poacher. He’s linked up well with Sergio Torres and Sanchez Watt however and Steve Evans’ side are playing better football than when Tubbs was the focal point of the attack. Besides, who needs a Tubbs-esque goalscorer when Tyrone Barnett is scoring ridiculously good goals like his two against Cheltenham?

If Crawley are to be champions, the side need to prove they have a winning mentality by bouncing back from Tuesday’s defeat with a good performance against Stoke, and who knows, perhaps even a good result?

Que Sera, Sera…

Written by Louie Elmer, We Are Going Up’s Crawley Town blogger

Louie tweets at @LouieElmer

 

Blackpool Boys leave big shoes for Blades to fill

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

On Tuesday night, just as I was considering how soon is too soon to roll out the “I never cared about the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy anyway” line, it struck me that two of Sheffield United’s best performers in a disappointing month were playing probably their final games for the club. The pacey Matty Phillips and the tricky Billy Clarke were returning to Blackpool after the Blades’ penalty shootout defeat to Bradford City.

It has been a bizarre month while they’ve been at the Lane – two wins, three draws and one loss does not sound like a particularly disappointing return, but it doesn’t tell the true story.  It could equally read as two reasonable games and four shocking performances.

With the exception of the surprise 4-2 humdinger away to Preston North End at Deepdale and a win over MK Dons, it’s been a period littered with defensive errors and lost points. Ten minutes of madness in the derby against Wednesday, defensive shambles against Exeter, injury time woe at Orient and an inept performance at Stevenage. Three points – yet had United held onto the the score at 85 minutes in each of those draws, it would have been 9 points accumulated instead. That would have put Danny Wilson’s men level with Huddersfield Town, rather than clinging to the play-offs.

United have not been playing well. There have been goalkeeping errors from first Steve Simonsen, then young George Long. In defence, Neill Collins is the only consistently reliable performer at present – a huge shock to anyone that saw him six months ago. The side have struggled to win any midfield battle and up front have been inconsistent. Chris Porter is still showing signs of a player coming back from a long injury, while Richard Cresswell’s early form has deserted him. Of late, the quality players have looked like average League One players – Stephen Quinn for example has started to look more like the Ginger Mess than the Ginger Messi.

The Tangerine loanee duo had therefore been a breath of fresh air. In Phillips, fans saw a goalscoring winger with blistering pace. In five league starts he scored five goals and finished with a superb effort in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Clarke, though leaving with only one goal to his name, gave the forward line a less predictable feel. The Porter-Cresswell-Evans permutations haven’t scared defences in this league. Clarke’s quickness of foot and mind really provided a different option, and though not prolific he leaves with probably as many assists as Phillips had goals. Holloway sent both players out to bring them up to fitness and form, and United have certainly been able to facilitate that – though frankly the fact Clarke has been behind former Blade Daniel Bogdanovic in the Blackpool squad is a mystery to me.

So a short but sweet loan spell for both players and some serious problems going forward for the Blades. Unitedites have been weary of the loan system following last campaign – the over-reliance on high-paid half-arsed disappointments wrote the story of the season. One of the few decent loans in that collection of rubbish was Andy Reid and it’s the memory of him that concerns me about the Phillips/Clarke exits. Reid in his short spell was a class above the rest of the squad and central to everything that worked – his exit left a gulf that was never filled. The team were over-reliant on him during his loan spell and couldn’t work out how to operate in the immediate aftermath. The concern now is that United been so reliant on Phillips and Clarke, there could be a repeat this time around. Lee Williamson isn’t quite fit enough (and arguably not a proper winger anyway) while Nathaniel Mendez-Laing is still injured and others, like Ryan Flynn, are yet to properly impress.

Manager Wilson has been able to show through the Phillips and Clarke loans that he can attract some quality to the club. His signings up to that point had been mixed at best. But while the club simply act as a fitness-building enterprise for teams from higher leagues they are not going to develop the type of consistency needed to rejoin those clubs.

Priority number one though should be to bring in the personnel necessary to offer some reliability and leadership through the spine of the team. Like last year, the Blades are missing Chris Morgan immensely – the chances of his return from injury any time soon look slim. In the middle of the park, Nick Montgomery and Michael Doyle may be experienced, but they aren’t people to depend on at the minute.

If Sheffield United are really get to grips with this division, they need to bring in the type of player that can help sort the basics out as a start. They can then sprinkle some quality onto those firmer foundations. If the club don’t – as with the two Tangerines – they will be wasting the benefits from any quality brought into the squad.

Written by Joe Clift, We Are Going Up’s Sheffield United blogger

Joe tweets at @josephclift