Sunday, November 18, 2007

End of Tour Report

Well almost. As it's international weekend, and as I'm going back into Exile in 2 weeks' time, I thought I'd do a quick review of the players so far this season, a quarter of the way into the league season.

Alan Mannus: one of our better performers, and South Stand Says Player of the Month for October. Still prone to the odd blunders (see Cliftonville Sky match) and kicking could be better, but still a great shot-stopper.

Steven Douglas: one of those who divides the Blues' support. I'm not a fan, and still believe wee Jim should be in the team, though both are equally mediocre. For every good thing Dougie does, he does 3 or 4 bad things. His throws are good, he can link up well with Mouncey, he covers the CBs well, but passing, crossing, and general play are iffy.

Pat McShane: Came straight back into the team after regaining fitness, and has been a shadow of his former self. Particular shcokers came against Dungannon and Newry. I'd drop him for O'Kane if we had an alternative at LM. I fear his time has gone.

Winkie Murphy: dropped for a while by DJ, but has been his usual solid best since, except for that Swifts match (like everyone else) culminating in an unfortunate OG. Lost a bit of pace?

Noel Bailie: has been beset by injuries, but I really do think this is a season too far for him, he's had numerous shockers, his legs have gone, the sharp anticipatory brain is still there, but often the body can't do what he wants it to fast enough. Sad to see.

Kris Lindsay: started off stormingly, but has fallen back in recent weeks. Really is 'The Future', always a goal threat, strong in the air, and likes to bring the ball out from the back, perhaps a little too eagerly at times, and needs to stop diving in so much.

Aidan O'Kane: another one that polarises fans. Started at LB but moved to LM after the return of McShane and the poor displays of Curran. His free-kicks and corners are as dangerous as ever, but I still feel he's not an IL midfielder, too small and goes missing too often, and doesn't have the pace or skill to beat full-backs and whip in those crosses. But he's been ok.

Michael Gault: has played well this season, the old energy levels are back, he's everywhere, covers every blade of grass. Control, passing and shooting still poor, but scored a lovely rare goal WITH HIS LEFT vs the Whites!

Paul McAreavey: Hmm. Has finally showed signs of promise in recent games against Newry and Larne, controlling the tempo, putting the foot on the ball, showing the old skills, but prior to his, he's been a huge disappointment. Fitness levels are still shocking, and his mobility is not that of an IL midfielder. Fingers crossed.

Tim Mouncey: generally very good, back to RM and back to his active, bustling best, beating men, getting crosses over and looking hungry. Good to see.

Damian Curran: Disappointment of the season. Maybe expectation level was too high, but he looks one-paced, has no perceptible skill to compensate, his passing is poor and his set-pieces have been, well, not very good. A poor man's O'Kane. We tracked him for 2 years and I can't see why, apparently he's not a LM, something we need, and he's not good enough to replace our CMs, so I don't see the point. I fear he'll never make it at the Blues.

Jamie Mulgrew: very stop-start, not really getting the chances he deserves after his apparent great form last year. Good and average performances intertwined. Currently injured, and apparently unsettled. Needs to cut the hair, the opposite of Samson!

Mark Dickson: not been playing well so far, which has disappointed me as I only heard good reports about him last season and saw him score in the ICF. Maybe a victim of his success at RW, where he is now being played every week, despite it not being his natural position. Form in last 2 weeks been more promising.

Glenn Ferguson: Player of the Season so far, belying his advanced years. Strong and creative as ever, the flicks etc have been pleasingly lacking and he's stuck to the simple stuff. Goals have dried up in recent weeks, but he's still the focal point of our team, and most of DJ's tactics seem to go through Spike. Still being exceedingly overplayed, IMO. A 38 year-old should not be playing 180+ minutes per week when we've younger blood waiting in the wings.

Peter Thompson: Very poor start to the season, his goal vs Portadown seems to have got his confidence up, and now he's banging them in, producing a top quality display vs Larne. Still oges to ground far too easily, and his turn inside is far too predictable imo, but the old verve and sharpness is back. Needs to work on his shooting though.

Thomas Stewart: another that divides fans. Some say too lazy and disinterested; some say, give him a decent chance as striker, then comment, he has skill to burn. I'm a fan, but think DJ soesn't fancy him and that he'll end up at the Gurns next season, he face just doesn't seem to fit. I do feel he has looked uninterested in his substitute appearances at LM, esp compared to Dicko, but also think he's been promised things that the management haven't delivered. I think he needs 5 games in a row upfront before we can judge, but i don't think he's going to get them. Scored against Larne as sub last week, but also missed two sitters. He's not the striker that will run through brick walls that many Linfield fans demand, and to me he still looks a bit too 'weak' for the IL, but I fear that if he goes to the Dark Side, he'll punish us.

Tim McCann: sporadic substitute appearances. Some think he's useful to have around; I don't think he's Linfield standard.

Stephen Garrett (on loan - Newry): scored 6 goals and according to Newry fans, has been a revelation, speed, trickery, finishing. I fear we'll not see him back at Windsor, which I think is a huge shame.

DJ: needs to shut up, stop channelling all play through Spike, be a bit more sensible with substitutions, and stop writing off inept tactical displays as 'a bad day at the office'.

Overall: we're third in the league, 3 behind the Glens, and in the final of the League Cup, but we're far from firing on all cylinders, and I feel too much has been placed in Conor Downey and Oran Kearney coming back to full form and transforming us into a wonderful footballing outfit. Our superior fitness will tell eventually, but I still feel we should be seeing more for the quality of playing staff we possess. Apparently NI u-21 striker Andrew Waterworth is coming in the January transfer window, my sources tell me he'll be a good 'un. Think our priorities lie elsewhere, though. Oh, and would like to see the potentially huge Billy Joe Burns get a chance, esp as Noel is close to the end and Winkie is possibly not too far behind.

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