With the departures of Luke Young and Dennis Rommadahl, plus Pardew talking in fairly strong terms about wanting to keep Jerome Thomas and Andy Reid, it would seem that the exit door is now not far off shut, with the emphasis on the final addition(s). Diawara, Faye and Marcus Bent could still depart but I would imagine only if there are decent offers. I hope Diawara stays and would expect him to be in the starting XI (we really must be told about those gloves: he even wore them against Welling); Faye seems to have disappeared completely; and as we still seem to be chasing another striker without success and Pardew has talked about Dickson going out on loan, Bent could still be needed if he mind is right.
As comes through from the other blogs nobody is really shedding tears about the two departures. There's grudging respect for Young but no great affection. He just didn't seem to realise (or didn't care enough about) what was needed to take him to being international class. As a captain he was poor (I'm assuming it's going to be between McCarthy and Holland for the coming season) and I get the impression that Pardew is not especially sad to see him go. There does seem something of a contrast between the tough line the board took on the price for Darren Bent and the evident concession made to pave the way for Young to leave. Maybe this was down to contrasting attitudes on the part of the player.
Dennis. Oh Dennis. I'm more sympathetic towards him than most, simply on the grounds that overall he simply wasn't as good as we hoped he was. Because he was so fast we expected him to work wonders every time he got the ball. To be kind he was unable to adapt his game to what was required (and we were seldom able to get the best out of him); to be unkind he never gave the impression that he was trying to. At times he looked as though he was going to destroy the opposition (even as recently as the first half of the home game against Sheff Utd). But I've never seen a player so lacking in courage; it's safe to say that Dennis would be top of nobody's list for being in the trenches with.
Rommadahl's best moments came in The Crown, or rather I watched all three of his greatest moments in that pub: the goal against Palace of course, the winner away at Portsmouth, and for me the best: the goal away at Middlesbrough in what was a wonderful team performance based on that five-man midfield. I'm not sure whether Dennis' demise was due to the fact that the one player we had capable of playing him in and reading his game, Danny Murphy, upped sticks, or whether it was because The Crown stopped showing football. But it was never the same again.
Onwards and upwards. I took a look at the list of teams we will be competing against this season to try to make some tentative predictions - and to set these against latest betting.
My first group of teams (those likely to be there or thereabouts) conveniently numbered six: Charlton, Leicester (under the new ownership they will expect to be up there and are buying up players), Sheff Utd (despite Robson), Watford, Wolves, and West Brom.
The second group (the probable also-rans but with some that could surprise) was the largest numerically: Burnley, Cardiff, Coventry, Crystal Palace (I'm trying to be realistic, they are unlikely to be relegated), Ipswich, Norwich, Preston, Sheff Wed, Southampton, and Stoke.
The third (those assumed to be scrabbling around the bottom) are: Barnsley, Blackpool, Bristol City, Colchester, Hull, Plymouth, QPR, Scunthorpe.
My early forecast final table - with current odds on getting promoted - is:
Sheff Utd (13-5)
West Brom (2-1)
Crystal Palace (11-2)
Sheff Wed (13-2)
Bristol City (16-1)
Not surprisingly there aren't enormous differences between my placings and the bookies' odds. They seem to rate Southampton more than I do (maybe they are still assuming a big-money takeover) and Leicester less. Suffice to say we'd better beat Scunthorpe.