Doyle was a surprise story of the season previous recovering much like Collins from the relegation and his own horror shows to be one of our more consistent players. He actually was very effective alongside McDonald, Quinn and Williamson and just did the dirty and simple things well. He was the captain and had a good season. This season I cannot say the same. Somehow he played 43 league game (3 he missed were due to a stamp at Scunthorpe) and never lost his place despite for the most part some very average (at best) displays. Some games he was ok and did what he had done last season but many he was very poor. He would give the ball away often and was ineffective at harrying/covering as quicker, fitter and more athletic midfielders often took our midfield apart. An area we had won so well the previous year was often exposed badly as our pair was unfit, slow and pedestrian. He tried to win free kicks by playacting but then thought nothing of cynical lunges at the same opponents. As the season petered out Doyle was one of the chief ‘bottle jobbers’ as he put in a series of no shows. What is more incredulous is that earlier in the season someone in the club decided we should give him another 2 years. Not one of the out of contract players (outside of say Long and Maguire who were on longer contracts) should have been given any extensions till they get this club promoted. If they failed they should have been moved on. Now we have failed and we are stuck with many of them. As a captain he offers little to no leadership and often seems to shout at others or blame everyone but himself. We really need to change the captain next season. He also should not be in the side moving forward but only a new manager with no idea of who he is may be able to see him for what he is and change this area of the field.
McDonald’s ability had been one of the shining lights of the previous year with his touch, technique and range of passing something completely different to what we had seen before. He did not score goals, was unfit and lacked mobility but he could pass and could get it down and make us play. His link up with the likes of Lowton, Williamson, Quinn and Evans were vital in so many goals we scored. I did wonder why he did not command many offers elsewhere reportedly. It was a relief to us that he stayed as he was out of contract as many others moved on. However this season he was nowhere near as influential and whilst in many games he still stood out as one of our better players he often let games pass him by or looked disinterested. He did not have the same outlets/runners to find and often looked up and had no options. Still for someone of his quality you would expect him to do more and often he just let games pas him by. He simply did not seem bothered and his total lack of celebrations when we scored (never was with the rest of the team) did not help the impression of him as an ‘individual.’ Still for all his shortcomings (awful shooting, scoring record and ability to get up and down) he still was one of few players who showed glimpses and you actually liked to watch due to ability to move it from left to right and vice versa. With the right players around him I still feel he could be an asset to this club (and many at this level or even a bit higher) but sadly it is a combination of him being dragged down with those around him and him not being as good as we thought (where has he actually done anything of note or stayed anywhere for any length of time – short spells everywhere for someone so long and bounced around leagues). Be interesting to see what a new manager makes of him when he does come in and makes him a fulcrum of what we do (maybe use him in front of a midfield 2 where his strengths could be better utilised) or whether he sees his lack of commitment at times and lack of desire to get up and down and actually dispenses with him. For me he is still one of few I would keep around and feel the problems are much worse elsewhere.
A player who I have debated a lot on forums but sadly one where my opinion of him stands and is a symbol of much of the current playing staff. That is of someone who is slow, unadventurous, does not go at men and does not make things happen. He tried hard and is seen as an honest player but his sort of average, middle of the road club men (Doyle and Collins) are the sort of player why we are stuck at this level. Quite simply if we want to stay at this level then it will be as we have a team/squad full of these type of players. He is a winger that does not beat a man, does not get to the by-line and does not get crosses I is painfully weak in 50/50 contact and seems to avoid confrontation in terms of challenges and seems to just float around games without really getting involved. Many games I did not even know he was playing. I fail to see many qualities in him other than he does get back and help defend and can get up and down the wing. He had some decent games (Bournemouth and Stevenage home) but scored only 3 goals and I cannot recall many assists really much of the season. He played 36 games and mostly on the left but don’t think he got better as the season went on and played less at the end (loss of form combined with injury) and was not involved until the last few minutes at Yeovil towards the end of the year. He has another year left on his contract but will have to improve massively to secure another or will probably have to head back to the relative ease of the Scottish leagues.
Murphy was linked with United for sometime before he finally signed from Motherwell for a six figure fee. He was seen as a very good prospect and had been tearing up the SPL and impressed under former Blade Stuart McCall. When he came I was looking forward to seeing him and felt he could give us some pace, trickery and goals. Alas, it never really happened. He scored a few goals (Bournemouth, Bury) and a few assists (Brentford, Shrewsbury) but sadly like the above (Flynn) he looked painfully weak, games passed him by and his touch/control was not the standard I had seen on the videos on YouTube! He was played out wide and whilst many said he would be better up top I am unsure whether he would have been much better as he was not that quick, lacked determination and his shooting was often erratic or weak (many trickled into keeper’s hands or over the bar). He did end with a better game against Yeovil and hopefully with a pre season underneath him he c sadly can make more of an impact. I do feel he has more potential than Flynn as at least has shown on occasions he will attack the defender but he needs to show more physicality and use the ball better when he has it. Another player that sadly confirms how bad the SPL is in comparison to even the lower English leagues. We may be better scouting elsewhere in future as I am sure for the reported fee we could have got a league one player that had more impact.
McAllister had done well in limited action when we went down and actually looked like someone who could shoot and get goals from midfield but began in the reserves as Doyle and McDonald got the majority of games. He had a few games last season but did not convince (poor at B2net for instance) and had a long spell on loan at Shrewsbury. He returned and with Lee Williamson moving on and our lack of options actually began the season wide right. He scored a good goal v the Shrews in the league opener but looked poor both wide right and in the centre and was another that was painfully weak in the challenge and another he simply did not assert himself enough on games. He was not really a passer, not a tackler and it was hard to see what he did well. He seemed to have regressed since he came into the side and looked a decent prospect. It was not a surprise when he was allowed to move on and to be fair he seems to have done alright at the New Greenhous Meadow. However when we played there he looked as poor as I remembered and vindicated the decision to move him on.
Robson was a surprise signing when he came in around January just before the deadline after he left Vancouver. He had always looked decent at Middlesbrough but clearly he was another who was coming to the end of his career and thus would not be on a small wage. He made an immediate impact assisting on a goal v Coventry and then did ok from the bench in successive away games helping keep the ball in wins. Took a terrific penalty in the win v Colchester and seemed to be a good pick up but then somehow ended up playing as more of a striker in the hole and despite us winning at Tranmere, his form dropped off at the same time as United’s. He became so slow when he got it and often slowed the play right down until he made his pass/decision. Another (like Kitson, McDonald, Higginbotham that was woefully unfit (old!) and lacking in pace/mobility. As the season tailed off he became a bit part player but sadly he was still one of main hopes of a chance/goal as he could still get on the ball and make a pass/cross. Got hurt in the semi final and the last memory of him at the Lane will be him hobbling off with an injury. Won’t be back but unsure where he goes from here (been to USA) and not even good enough for a contender in League One. Back to Scotland I guess!
McFadzean was given an outing from the bench versus Burton on the opening day and was on the bench for some of the early part of the season. He then stayed in the u21’s and was not that involved but came in and out of the squad without ever really coming on other than the League Cup/JPT games. He was seen as someone that deserved a chance but never really got one properly until Wilson moved on and then got a few games and played a role as we won the first leg and he scored versus Yeovil. He did ok in the second leg and one of the few that actually put a shift in and at least tried to get beyond them. Not sure he is that neither quick nor tricky but seems a game kind of player that has a big heart. Expect he will be more involved next season and get a longer look.
Pre season he was seen as someone who would be involved quite a bit but he then broke his foot and was out for some time. He finally got back and started at Doncaster but then disappeared without trace again as we preserved with the gruesome twosome in central midfield that was clearly not working. Like with some of the other youngsters he was given his chance again when Morgan came in and made a few sub appearances where he put himself about quite a bit without having much impact. The key for him is to stay fit and get a good pre season under his belt. With a new manager he is another that has to now make people take notice.
Stephen Quinn: Quinn began the season after he remained (despite being linked with a few clubs) but only played three league games before he left at the end of the January. Pleased he got a decent club and move and he referred to the play off defeats when he discussed his dream of getting promotion. A good player who was actually underrated when he was here. You say you do not know what you had until he is gone and for Quinn that is definitely the case as we watched the likes of Flynn, Murphy etc in his place.
Nick Montgomery Monty never actually played a game but he is worth mentioning due to the longevity he had at the Lane. It was the right time for him to move and he got a dream move for his family (hot weather/lifestyle etc). His team won the league and he seemed to be quite successful. I have a nagging feeling he will be back on these shores in a few years and we may see him at the Lane for or against us!
Jordan Chappell: Chappell seems to have been around for a while without ever breaking through and has had numerous loan spells but has never really come back and seemed any closer to the first team. He played briefly against Hartlepool as a sub and then came on at Crewe. I have not seen anything in him to suggest he will ever make it at this level and with him being out of contract I expect him to leave.
Paul Gallagher A player that seems to have lost his way after a promising start to his career at Blackburn and then Stoke. He was a bit part player at Leicester and seemed a player who should stand out at League One. However despite him scoring the winner at Hartlepool, he made little impact at the Lane and never really influenced games like I thought he would. He was going to stay but we had to sign a keeper (Coyne) and thus he went back as funds were short.
Matt Harriett As with Chappell he also has been around for a while without ever really being involved in the first team squad. He looked promising when he was in the Youth team that got to the final and seemed a decent box to box midfielder that kept the ball well. However he did not really progress and has had loan spells at Burton and also in the Conference but did play at Nott’s County and gave an ok performance. He disappeared again after this and has been back in the u21’s. Another who will probably move on?
Erik Tonne A player who showed a bit of promise in a few games earlier in the 2011/12 season and scored a decent goal v Bury. However he never really held down a place even on the bench and ended the season at York where he did not even feature for them. He was oddly given another 2 year contract which was made even more bizarre when he was never really involved this season and did not even make the bench. He returned to Norway and I will be surprised if he ever comes back, although the fact he has another year complicates matters a little.
Next Season sees a midfield that has McDonald and Doyle still under contract and firmly stuck in the centre of midfield unless someone hopeful comes in and shakes this axis up. It clearly is not working and something has to give. Flynn has another year and Murphy will hopefully show some improvements. We then have McFadzean and Whitehouse as two young players and the rest will almost certainly be gone. We need at least one central midfielder; probably two and a quality fast winger. We need mobility, pace, strength and oh, goals! Not much to ask. It is clear that the defence has not been too bad despite some of above criticisms but midfield is an area that we looked behind many teams last year that had at least some of these aforementioned qualities. How we will get them with few funds I am not sure but teams like Brentford, Yeovil etc seem to have signed players cheap that are hungry, fast and show some skill. Above all we have to find players that can create or score goals in this area as at the moment the return on both these fronts has been pitiful and seems a world away even from the midfield that ended the previous season.
Player / Position Years remaining (contract expires)
Kevin McDonald 1 year (2014) with 1 year option
Michael Doyle 2 years (2015)
Ryan Flynn 1 year (2014)
Callum McFadzean 2 years (2015)
Jamie Murphy 2 years (2015)
Elliott Whitehouse 2 years (2015)
Barry Robson Out of contract (2013)
Matt Harriott Out of contract (2013)
Jordan Chappell Out of contract (2013)
Erik Tonne 1 year (2014)