I think there are some pointers for next season's starting XI to be had from the teams put out last night against Welling and Tooting, especially potential combinations in the key areas. Any conclusions have to be tentative, given that there's still the potential for half a dozen to leave and a few to come in before the window closes. But here's my reading.
Broadly speaking, ignoring the goalkeeping spot the defence against Welling could be said to have comprised the likely candidates (and that at Tooting the back-up), the central midfield at Tooting was more first team than that at Welling, while up front Welling and Tooting saw a competition for the two places.
To expand, the starting back four at Welling was Yassin (so much easier to write than Moutaouakil), Powell, McCarthy and Diawara, with Gibbs coming on. Now, assuming Young is off and barring other departures, I can't help thinking that Weaver, Yassin, Gibbs, McCarthy, Diawara could be the first choice combination. At Tooting we had Fortune, Bougherra and Samedo, who may be the back-up, and full-backs I've never heard of.
A Welling midfield of Thomas, Morris, Sinclair (who I thought had just jetted in from Chelsea but seems to have come via a less glamorous route) and Christensen was a mixed bag - possibly first-choice wide men, while at Tooting Walton, Holland and Reid - all likely to be there or thereabouts - featured.
Up front it could be said that Marcus Bent and Iwelumo were put out at Tooting to see which of the two gets the 'target man' role, whether starting or on the bench, while at Welling Todorov, Varney and Dickson could be said to be competing for the role as the partner. Maybe instead Pardew was looking at Todorov and Varney (who started together at Welling) as the first-choice pairing, with Bent and Iwelumo competing for the spot on the bench.
So - with the obvious caveats (standard of opposition, training ground exercise etc) who impressed? I thought the star of the show at Welling was Chris Dickson. Coming on in the second half (replacing Thomas, with Christensen then switching from right to left) he started wide right but when switched inside provided an injection of pace that lit up the game. His goal surprised everyone as the goalkeeper ambled out to pick up a long ball only to find himself getting there second. I don't know if Dickson should get a first eleven slot, but he looked as if he doesn't know yet how to miss, or to be bothered if he does. He looked like he would be a handful for a defence at any level and great to watch.
Christensen was a clear positive, whether or not he's ready for the first eleven. He looked lively. Diawara played as he did last season and seemed unaffected by the surroundings. Yassin looked good, especially moving foward, but my concern was that he appeared a little lightweight for the physical challenges of the season ahead. It was very pleasing to see Gibbs come in as he could make the left-back slot his own. And I thought Todorov showed glimpses of class in a self-contained performance.
The negatives? I don't want to dwell on them. Others commenting seem to have been more impressed with Varney than I was. He was in the right place for his goal and he clearly wanted to do well on his first showing for the fans. But he didn't really get past his marker, was bundled off the ball a little too easily, and didn't seem to me to have pace. Maybe just needs a little sharpening with match-practise. And there were lapses of concentration from McCarthy (including his passing at the back) which might have been punished by better opposition. Oh, come on. It was a bloody friendly against Welling almost a month before hostilities commence. What do you expect?
It is worth considering who didn't get a game last night (and anyone overlooked for two teams and umpteen substitutes must have a good excuse). There may of course have been injuries/niggles involved. Young and Rommadahl are presumably off, so no issue there. But where were Sankofa, Thatcher, Faye and Ambrose?
So, as things stand, my starting XI for Scunthorpe looks like:
Weaver, Yassin, Gibbs, McCarthy, Diawara, Reid, Faye, Holland, Thomas, Todorov, Varney.
Subs: Randolph, Bougherra Walton, Iwelumo, Dickson