Monday, 14 May 2007

..... Baby Blue

I must admit this morning I'm struggling to work out a scenario under which we stay up. I think we finally have to accept reality: we are probably relegated.

Bowing out with a little pride at Anfield was no comfort at all. It was a game that Liverpool barely stirred for and which we should have won with something to spare. And any joy in the performance of the 'team' has to be tempered with the realisation that maybe six of the starting 11 won't be with us next season. The picture of Darren Bent after scoring has all the hallmarks of a farewell salute. Of course we would love it if he stays to spearhead a promotion campaign, but I'm assuming that the numbers just don't add up if we hold onto him, even allowing for a chunk to go to Ipswich - and that we would not stand in his way in the event of a decent offer from a club he would like to go to (just don't let this be West Ham - they should be with us in the Championship).

It is pretty much a waste of time to talk about the shape of the team for next season before we know more about the finances and the main departures (Carson, Young, Diawara, Song, Zheng, Rommadahl, Thomas, Bent(D), Hasselbaink, maybe not all, maybe others). But here goes.

The first decision for Pardew is whether Randolph is good enough to be our first choice goalkeeper. I have no idea. If he isn't, letting Mhyre and Andersen go was poor business as we will need a replacement. I'm assuming we don't have the money to sign Carson, so a seasoned veteran has to be drafted in, whether as first or second choice.

Decision number two is whether Sankofa can be relied on as Young's replacement. Clearly the answer would be 'no' in the premiership, but for the Championship maybe. I like Diawara and hope he stays, but there has to be a good chance that he'll go, including to cut the wage bill. That would leave HH, El K, Bougherra (who has to date been less than impressive) and Fortune. It's not the best quartet but could suffice - but we do have to bear in mind that El K and Bougherra could be off for the Africa Cup (Diawara too if he stays).

Midfield is a real problem. We know Rommadahl is off, maybe Thomas too (especially if we are signing the winger from Gillingham). The key question is whether we can rely on Reid to be fit for most of a season. If he stays and if he's fit we would presumably build midfield around him. Ambrose has I feel been a real disappointment, being too slow to be a winger and not strong enough to impose himself on a game in the centre. But maybe the Championship will suit him. For Holland it's a question of whether the legs will last; Hughes can do a job in the lower flight.

Up front there's little goodwill left towards Bent(M), Hasselbaink, or Lisbie, although whether they leave will presumably be down to how long their contracts last. Rumours that Warnock wanted JFH are now irrelevant. For now we have to hope that Dickson is something special - and at least for him there is a better chance of development in the Championship than being thrown in in the Premiership.

In short it's too soon to see the formation of a core of a team capable of rebounding. And it's too soon to expect that, given our situation.

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