How to dispose of Champions League quarter-finalists

Possession with a purpose

We’ve seen managers at Wolves try to go down the road of possession football in the past. With Mark McGhee, this usually ended up with us knocking the ball aimlessly around at zero pace around the halfway line before eventually thumping it upfield in the vague direction of Iwan Roberts. Paul Lambert produced a fantastic cover version of that in last season’s home game against Rotherham (for which I’m still receiving therapy). The most successful (in relative terms) exponent of it was, for a while, Kenny Jackett until that plan fell on its face when he started including Tommy Rowe, Ethan Ebanks-Landell and Leon Clarke in the team.

I look forward to welcoming him back later on this season when Sheff Utd come to visit.

This is somewhat different. Now yes, this was only a friendly, and Leicester approached it with an attitude which made it look like they had 11 Carl Robinsons on the pitch at times. But still, the style of play is evident; while we look to keep the ball and dominate possession, the first thought of everyone is to move forwards, not backwards and sideways. There should always be a pass on and a run being made, the wingbacks are pushed right on to the opposing full backs when we have the ball around halfway, defenders step into midfield, inside forwards drop in deep if we need support…it’s all quite alien to anything we’ve seen before. All that was lacking was an out and out forward to give us a focal point through the middle; it appears that this is being addressed with the impending signing of Leo Bonatini. It would be fair to say that our fans will never be receptive towards a sterile variety of this kind of play, which is one of the reasons why Aitor Karanka would have been a terrible appointment this summer. But if we’re able to play in the fashion that we did on Saturday – albeit in games where the intensity will be a great deal higher – then it should prove popular. The aesthetics are there, married to a coherent plan and a genuine threat. All of this with Helder Costa currently missing. Wonders will never cease.

The new signings will not be bullied

I wrote last week about how “Championship experience” is an overrated commodity; while there is a possible upside from having players on the books who have played in successful teams at this level in the past, the key to recruitment should focus on quality rather than an arbitrary number of games played against fellow second tier teams. However, the trope persists that our new foreign lads won’t like it up ’em at Burton or Ipswich. Having seen them in action, this seems unlikely.

Ruben Neves is not only a wonderful player – his ability to perpetually find a couple of yards of space is the most striking of his many qualities – but more than willing to dig in defensively and stand up to challenges. Diogo Jota shrugged off challenges with ease and even withstood an out-and-out assault from Harry “head possibly bigger than Grant Hanley’s” Maguire just before he was replaced in a pre-planned move. Willy Boly is a man mountain with a “they shall not pass” mentality. Roderick Miranda strolled into midfield effortlessly and also looks to be solidly built.

There might be times when teams do a number on us; it would be unrealistic at this stage to suggest that we’re going to sweep all before us with virtually an entirely new team being built. What they won’t be able to do is knock us out of a game physically.

Boly’s gonna get ya.

Conor Coady may have found his niche

It’s fairly apparent now that Conor Coady is not going to be able to do the job he was initially signed to do. As a midfielder he looked lacking in technical ability even to do what Kenny Jackett, Walter Zenga and Paul Lambert wanted; in a Nuno team, he has no chance of fitting in (I would say the same also applies to Dave Edwards, but then again I saw him complete three passes in the space of around 30 seconds on Saturday. Scenes). He performed competently and creditably in an unfamiliar right back role for much of last season but Nuno switching him to the centre of our three man defence could turn out to be a very shrewd move. It was noticeable in the pre-season games in Austria that Coady was extremely vocal, both on the pitch and when he was on the sidelines and on Saturday he was tasked with keeping that backline organised. He did it in an extremely impressive fashion. For all the good work as club captain that Danny Batth does in the community, being vocal and making sure everyone else is well drilled has never been anything like his forté. Judging from his showings for Norwich, it wouldn’t really appear to be Ryan Bennett’s game either. Kortney Hause has yet to feature this summer following an injury picked up on England duty. Coady doesn’t have to do anything fancy; just hold the line, sweep up any danger, don’t get pulled out into the channels, pop it off to someone else when he makes an interception. There was also time for what is becoming something of a trademark in a heroic goal line clearance (although there’s little doubt that Jamie Vardy should have given him no chance). I’ve criticised him a lot in the past and with good cause, questions may still remain regarding how he might deal with more of an aerial threat, but these were good signs at the weekend.

Our glorious Leader.

Getting the best out of Romain Saiss

There were three principal problems with Saiss last season; firstly, he frequently looked leaden and lacking in dynamism. Secondly, he was deployed far, far too deep, meaning that his range of passing was largely useless to us. Finally, he suffered from alarming inconsistency within a game; 10 minutes where he looked dominant would be followed by 10 where he would be passive, a further 10 where he struggled to make even the simplest of passes, 10 where he’d do his best Seyi Olofinjana impression by seeming to completely disappear from the park altogether…seldom did we see a joined up performance from him over a whole match.

An effort appears to have been made to address the first two of those failings. Saiss definitely looks trimmer and sharper (an observation which can also be applied, shock horror, to Matt Doherty…there isn’t really an excuse for professional footballers to look like they have a sack of spuds shoved down the back of their shorts). With the extra centre half in our team now and with how comfortable Miranda in particular is on the ball, there is no longer any need for Saiss to park himself five yards in front of the defence and he can actually play in er, midfield. At times on Saturday he was the furthermost player pressing Leicester on the relatively rare occasions they managed to get on the ball. When he himself picked up possession, he was in a position to pass the ball into dangerous areas and materially influence the game.

The final part is, of course, up to Saiss himself. We know the ability is there and it might be that having such a quality partner as Neves will be the making of him as he tries to forge a career in this country. All the ingredients are there for him to make a success of it now and it appears that at least to start with, he will be given the opportunity to cement a place. What he can’t afford is to slack off in games again or have spells of play where he’s finding opposition shirts more often than he’s finding gold ones. Nuno simply won’t tolerate that.

A friendly should not mean the rules change

Our final three pre-season games have been characterised by some shall we say robust challenges. Shrewsbury seemed intent on hacking us out of the game, leading to the early, precautionary removal of Ruben Neves, there was an awful challenge on Doherty in the Peterborough fixture that could easily have led to a serious injury and as mentioned earlier, Harry Maguire decided that the best way to stop Diogo Jota was not to defend like you might expect a £17m signing to do, but to hack him down with the kind of challenge you’d see in the Wolverhampton Sunday League. The latter two in particular would almost certainly have been punished with a red card in a competitive game. There remains the opportunity for referees to invite the manager to substitute a player in a friendly under these circumstances; nothing was done bar a token booking for Maguire. The laws of the game have been interpreted in recent times to protect creative players such as Jota and for his appalling, cynical, brutal play on Saturday, Maguire should be missing the opening three games of the season. As it is, he’s free to carry on. We are fortunate that our player is available to us. There should be no way that referees should be allowing that kind of treatment to be meted out and to go effectively unpunished, friendly game or not.

Oscillating Wildly is a “pay-as-you-feel” website. The content will never disappear behind a paywall. However, if you enjoy my work and would like to help me continue to write – as this is essentially my main focus now – please consider making a small donation via the button near the top of the page. If you want to and can, that’s great. If not, then no worries.


Serious business

The Internet is, on the whole, a great thing for football fans. Gone are the days when information was limited to the local paper, an hour here and there on local radio in midweek, Ceefax and tantalising ClubCall adverts. If something’s happening at your club, then the details are out there, in real time. Leaving aside the fact that if there were no Internet, there’d be no place for me to run propaganda campaigns against hopeless Welsh relegation specialist managers or cumbersome Irish full backs. The world would undoubtedly be a poorer (if less repetitive) place.

“International Striker signs”, they said. Thanks ClubCall.

All of this does, however, mean that there’s a huge amount of misinformation out there. Depending on taste, fans tend to run with whichever most optimistic/most pessimistic story they have read in some obscure corner of the Web and run with it as unadulterated fact. The issue we’ve had this summer is that it’s not just random crackpots that have been firing out the #fakenews regarding Wolves. It’s established outlets that really should know better. Once they start to spread tales of doom (or simply the clearly untrue), mud tends to stick. If there are valid criticisms of the club to be made, then it is of course of benefit to everyone that they’re heard. Rabid, blind optimism is as unhelpful as default ultra-pessimism. But you would think the actual media would bother to check some facts first or engage a bit of logic and common sense. Responsibility to the readership and all that. Or maybe that doesn’t matter any more, I lose track.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the theories that have been flying around in the last few weeks, ranging from the easily disprovable to the purely off-the-wall. Some of this will not be new information to many of you and I’m not revealing any huge secret knowledge here, much of it is already out there in the public domain for anyone to look at. Which makes it all the more galling that journalists don’t bother. Anyway…

Wolves are in danger of breaching Financial Fair Play regulations”

The Football League continually move the goalposts on their own sketchily created rules, but for the time being, clubs in the Championship are permitted to lose up to £39m over a rolling three year period. Wolves’ last set of published accounts (for the year ending 31 May 2016) showed a profit of £5.8m. That profit therefore goes on top of the £39m in terms of what we are “allowed” to lose at the moment. So, are we about to announce a loss in excess of that, leaving us at the wrath of the vengeful League forces who will surely immediately relegate us to the Midland Combination League as punishment for our sheer nerve in brazenly breaking the law?

The answer is, of course, no. For a start, football accounts always run around nine months behind real time. Whatever we’re doing now won’t show up on the books until some time in early 2019. When we announce our next set of accounts (normally in February), this will reflect all of last season’s business, including the injection of equity from Fosun when they bought the club from Steve Morgan.

Secondly, players are treated as depreciating assets rather than fixed-sum cash purchases. When we sign a player, the transfer fee we’ve paid doesn’t immediately disappear in full from our books, not in an accounting sense (and that is all we are concerned with here). For simplicity’s sake, let’s say we’ve paid Porto a round £15m for Ruben Neves. We know we’ve handed him a five year contract. This means that for Financial Fair Play purposes, the cost of Neves is £3m per year, plus wages. Meanwhile, any player sales do show straight on the books as money in, in full, even if (as is common) the fee is being paid in instalments. So whatever we’ve received for George Saville, Jed Wallace and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson this summer from Millwall and Reading respectively – that goes straight onto the “profit” side of our balance sheet. If it’s anywhere near £3m for the three of them, which isn’t entirely fanciful, then that’s Year One of Neves “paid for” already. There will also almost certainly be more departures to come this summer to add to what we’ve already been able to write down as transfer income.

Bod reacts to moving to a ground where a B&Q warehouse is the nearest attraction.

Furthermore, these rules only really affect us if we remain stuck in this division, like some recurring nightmare of the days of Mark McGhee. I already have enough nights waking up in terror having dreamt about a Darren Ferguson-Steve Corica-Mark Atkins midfield, so let’s hope that doesn’t happen. Bournemouth received a fine of £7.6m last year for breaching the regulations when they won promotion. But they’re in the Premier League. Do you think they really care about that kind of sum now? The ends justified the means in their case. So, if we ever did fall foul of Financial Fair Play – and we aren’t anything like close to doing so at the moment – and if it were ever to have the kind of impact that would materially damage us…it would mean we’ve failed to attain promotion. Which I’m sure would be Matt Doherty’s fault. Anyway, the upshot of that failure would be that just to pick one example, Helder Costa would want to leave. We’re already fortunate that he’s giving us a second season at this level. So, off he would pop for £20m or more, not only giving us a healthy profit on what we invested but giving us a nice clean £20m entry on that “profit” side of our books…and wiping out any such “problem”.

To summarise:

  • There is not a problem at all regarding Financial Fair Play at present

  • If we ever do find ourselves in trouble in this regard, it will be a long time in the future

  • If we are spending the kind of sums that we currently are and yet fail to ever get promoted, there is clearly something seriously wrong here that would be a lot more concerning than breaking some fairly tame and toothless regulations

  • If the time ever does come when this is a concern, players will be leaving us anyway. Not because we need the money to make the accounts look nice, but as a natural consequence of us failing to reach our goals. But happily it would solve this hypothetical problem at the same time

Wolves have spent all their budget and cannot afford a striker”

This was being widely flashed around when we completed the signing of Neves. The narrative being that we’d reached the end of the line in terms of what the owners would fund themselves this summer and everything else had to be sourced through selling players. This didn’t ring true then and has since been blown out of the water with us signing Diogo Jota on loan with a view to a permanent deal from little known Champions League last four regulars Atletico Madrid. Handy really, as there isn’t a queue of clubs willing to hand us £10m in a double swoop for Joe Mason and Lee Evans.

Come on Championship clubs. I can do you a highlight reel of er, six goals.

Whatever people think of their tenure to date, Fosun are not stupid enough to do one or both of the following things; a) spend all our money on one player when there are still areas that desperately need addressing, b) look at our strikers’ pitiful returns from last season, sell one of those strikers and then refuse to bring in anyone else whatsoever to add to those attacking resources. I appreciate that Jeff Shi and Guo Guangchang probably aren’t China’s answer to Jonathan Wilson and Gary Neville, but I’m sure they understand that you need to score goals to win football matches. This is comfortably the toughest area to recruit and it may take some time. We may be waiting for our target to be allowed to leave his current club, which can’t happen until they in turn have signed their own new forward. We have to get this right; just look at the strikers we’ve signed in the last two years. Adam Le Fondre, Grant Holt, Joe Mason, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Paul Gladon. It doesn’t make for particularly pleasant reading. It would be easy enough to go and sign a striker right now, but there seems little point in doing that and ending up with another player who isn’t really up to scratch, purely to bulk out numbers. There will be at least one arriving, that much is an inevitability, and everything else about our transfer business suggests that they will be an exciting acquisition. Flapping around as if we’re not going to sign anyone is just perverse and defies logic.

He is available on a free and has played for lots of clubs, which is a good thing, or so says Big Kevvy T.

To return to the budget issue, just like any other club that isn’t managed by Harry Redknapp, we have to keep an eye on the wage bill. We can’t allow it to spiral out of control and it’s pretty obvious that Neves and Jota haven’t come here to play for bus money and all the Wagon Wheels you can eat. However, we have plenty of headroom. We are not working from a base where we were already running a very high wage:turnover ratio and are piling a further load on top of that. For many years, we have run in an extremely conservative manner where that is concerned; indeed, many would argue that policy was the root of our failure to consolidate a Premier League place under Steve Morgan’s ownership. There is a degree of speculating to accumulate at the moment as the rewards should we reach the Premier League are obvious – Fosun also didn’t buy us to spend years and years mooching around the middle of the Championship. At this point, there is little reason to suspect they will allow our wage bill to spiral out of control. We’re also investing in genuine assets with a tangible value rather than chucking dead money at old players. On which note…

Wolves’ backing is unfair and skews the division”

We have, of course, got obscene wealth behind us relative to our current status. I wouldn’t sit here and deny that we’re spending big in an attempt to gain promotion in the quickest time possible. Of course we are. However, we most certainly are not the only team splashing the cash in this league. Following relegation from the Premier League, Aston Villa proceeded to spend around £33m net of sales on new signings. That’s right, they went DOWN and went on to spend £33m more than they brought in. That’s not in any way normal. This summer they’ve gone down the road of bringing in “experience”, which invariably is just a polite word for “old players who aren’t wanted elsewhere any more”. The likes of Glenn Whelan, Ahmed Elmohamady and in particular John Terry will be on huge money by Championship standards and have zero resale value. It seems strange for the media to largely ignore what’s going on down the A38 – which is accompanied by a soundtrack of “Dr” Tony Xia tweeting bizarre equations which make him look like a Casio calculator on the blink, making up fictitious bids for Villa’s players and openly criticising players and other clubs – while it’s us that come under scrutiny and criticism. Maybe that’s the benefit of having a Proper Football Man like Steve Bruce as your manager. In terms of skewing the division, we briefly mentioned Bournemouth earlier on; when they went up, they reported annual losses of over £30m and a wage bill that was approaching three times their entire turnover. If that isn’t “skewing the division” then I’m not sure what is, but again, it all seemed to go under the radar.

Besides which, in an era of Premier League financial dominance, where any kind of prolonged stay in the top flight allows even historically small clubs to amass great sums of wealth and large parachute payments often lead many to conclude that the top flight will effectively become a closed shop at some point – witness Newcastle running a Premier League wage bill last season and the money Middlesbrough are currently spending despite selling no-one of any note to date – is it not better for the game as a whole that clubs presently outside of that circle are also able to compete? Unlike other clubs, past and present, we are not owned by a fly-by-night individual with dubious credentials as to how this is all being funded (hello again, Dr Tony. We must stop meeting like this). We are owned by a huge corporation with assets that run into the worth of tens of billions of pounds. We can afford what we’re doing.

I’ll give him some small credit for this one.

Jorge Mendes controls Wolves’ transfer activity”

Despite the board stating upon the appointment of Nuno Espirito Santo that this is not the case, the innuendo continues to swirl that Mendes is using the club merely as a vehicle to park his players. The reality of the situation is this; Mendes has a material interest in making sure that his clients are well settled and find good moves. He has ties to our owners (there has never been any secret of this whatsoever). He can provide us with access to players that we would otherwise have absolutely no chance of attracting. He is not our Director of Football, he is not an employee of Wolverhampton Wanderers, he does not sit on our board and many of the players we are signing have past connections to our current Head Coach just as they do Mendes. It’s not necessary to like his involvement here or in football generally. The genie is very much out of the bottle though and like it or not, that’s the way the sport is now.

The immediate consequence for us is that we will begin this season with all of Helder Costa, Ruben Neves, Ivan Cavaleiro and Diogo Jota in our squad. In the Championship. Will Mendes want his pound of flesh in the future? Quite possibly. There may well come a time when these players are spirited away at his behest. But then again, we don’t really have any right to own them as it is, in an organic footballing sense. If they are attracting admiring glances from elsewhere, that means they’re doing well for us, which should in the process mean that as a whole, we are doing well. As someone who’s watched dozens, nay hundreds of execrable players pass through our doors over the last three decades, I’m not going to complain about being able to watch that kind of quality every week, even if some of it is only on a short term basis. Players don’t generally stick around for that long anywhere these days regardless of where they’ve come from or who represents them. Besides which, if people think that other clubs don’t operate in a climate whereby managers, Directors of Football and owners have their own preferred agents to deal with, they’re kidding themselves.

Nuno and the players don’t have the required Championship experience”

If anyone could quantify what the mystical quality of “Championship experience” is for me, I’d be eternally grateful. Dave Edwards has it in bundles. Anyone fancy having him as a mainstay in central midfield next season? Grant Hanley is as ready made a “Championship experienced” player as you could get. Just won the league as well. I don’t recall reaction to his potential signing had we retained Paul Lambert being that favourable. In fact, by dint of playing loads of games for us over the last two seasons, quite a lot of the squad that finished 2016/17 have this fabled quality. Yet everyone knows we needed to clear them all out. Many players who have hundreds of games behind them at this level have that CV because they aren’t good enough to progress any further. That’s not to say that no-one who has that kind of career can be an asset, or it’s impossible for them to improve, but when you’re talking about “Championship experience”, you’re normally talking about players of relatively modest ability. We already have plenty of those. Our best player by a country mile last season was Helder Costa who was a completely new arrival to England, let alone this league with its apparently unique demands that are not replicated on any level in any other division in the entire world.

Turns out he probably can do it on a wet Wednesday in *insert grim, inevitably Northern ground here*

Personally, I’m not bothered where players and managers come from or where they’ve been before. I simply care if they’re good enough. Recent history suggests that on the managerial front, it’s far less of a factor than has been made out in the past. Rafa Benitez had never managed in this league before last season and won the league (so he should have, but that’s another argument). Slavisa Jokanovic has a promotion and a playoff finish to show for his 18 months in the Championship. Carlos Carvalhal has back to back top six finishes behind him. David Wagner led Huddersfield from lower mid-table nobodies to the Premier League. Now, it’s fair to say that this isn’t necessarily a portent to anything. There’s no guarantee that Nuno will work out here. There are certain adaptations that he will need to make; evidently the club trust him to do so. We don’t know if all our new signings will work out. There are examples of highly rated players and managers simply not grasping what is required in this division. Our old friend Stale Solbakken would be one of them, although there were a litany of factors behind his failure that don’t simply come down to “he doesn’t understand the Championship”. We’ll simply have to wait and see how this pans out. The notion that you can only succeed in the English second tier with a battle hardened manager with years of experience at this level, leading a mainly British squad that has spent the best part of a decade battling it out against Charlton, Hull and Birmingham is outdated. This is a physically demanding league, but not an overly complex one.

Jordan Graham has had a fall out behind the scenes”

A minor point here perhaps but I’m getting thoroughly tired of the constant rumours about young Mr Graham and his supposed attitude. It’s true that he stalled and eventually failed to break through at Aston Villa because of his failings on that part. It’s also true that he was disciplined by the club last season (along with Kortney Hause). But it seems that every time he misses out on a squad, or is on the bench, or sometimes just at random, there’s someone who knows someone who knows someone who assures us that Jordan has fallen out with the manager. He even had to take to Twitter himself to scotch such talk when he missed the tour to Austria owing to a minor knock – Occam’s Razor would suggest that the club are being cautious with a gifted player who is still on the comeback trail from a very serious injury. But no, there has to be something else. Always. It was forever the same with Wayne Hennessey for some reason, I think I counted five separate occasions where he apparently wasn’t in the team because he’d fallen out with Mick McCarthy or wouldn’t sign a new contract. Of course serendipity dictated that he did eventually fall out with Kenny Jackett…but that’s another story.

It might turn out that Nuno doesn’t much fancy the way Graham plays, or doesn’t feel that he can fit him into his system, or we already have too many players to operate in the front three and he can’t force his way in. If that does turn out to be the case then it will be a real shame; the number of assists he has produced in his brief (to date) Wolves career showcases the talent he has. But there is nothing to suggest that he’s a habitual problem behind the scenes. It’s needless tittle-tattle and not helpful in the slightest.

With four managers in a year, Fosun are just another trigger-happy foreign owner”

Obviously, you don’t really want to be making multiple managerial changes in less than 12 months. Not only does it suggest a large amount of instability at the club, but it also means that you’re frequently getting it wrong when you pick the man to lead the team. However in this case, it’s a context free statement that doesn’t really give the whole picture. This is all old ground but nevertheless:

  • Kenny Jackett shouldn’t really count in this discussion. He barely lasted a week under Fosun. He took charge of a grand total of 0 games (we played one friendly while he was still here after Fosun took over, and handed control to Joe Gallen). He was the incumbent manager following a takeover and was moved on when they decided they wanted their own man, having very little left in terms of personal credit after a poor season. So far, so normal. It’s actually far less common for new owners to retain the existing manager.

  • Fosun clearly courted Julen Lopetegui throughout the takeover process but as it dragged on for weeks longer than anticipated, he somehow got attracted by the prospect of working with Isco, Cesc Fabregas, Alvaro Morata and Marco Asensio. I can’t think why anyone would want to do that. Nevertheless, we had to deal with that snub very quickly as the season was quickly approaching. Inexperienced as they are in the world of football, they went with someone known to them and a famous face in Walter Zenga. Everything about Zenga suggested that he would be a short term appointment, right down to him being handed a one year fixed term deal. Despite a few encouraging early results, it was evident at a reasonably early stage that he was never going to be the man to take us up and the board took the decision – amid dubious off-field conduct – to remove him from his post. I’m not really sure where the controversy lies here. We needed someone extremely quickly and we decided when the dust had settled that we required something different. Or maybe we should have just carried on with someone with very few credentials to manage at this level and who had a record of rapidly declining results.

  • Paul Lambert came in and after an indifferent start could be summed up as follows: good run, awful run, good run, poor run. There simply wasn’t enough there to suggest that he’d come up with a formula – with six months to do so – that would have us competing at the top end of the league. There were far too many poor displays and puzzling decisions to allay doubts and the opportunity was there to go for a perceived upgrade. So we took it, knowing that Lambert just hadn’t shown enough. We could of course have kept a manager over whom we had serious doubts and allowed him to waste time and money taking us down a course we didn’t really want. In the process wrecking another season. Or we could have made a clean break, which we did.

  • Yeah, Nuno is number four. We’ve just appointed him. We haven’t sacked him.

There are definite criticisms to be made of Fosun’s first year in charge but it’s not one that’s entirely dissimilar to any number of other foreign owners who have since gone on to make a success of their time in English football. They have had to learn on the job and work out what is effective and what isn’t. Nuno is their man and they have given him ample resources so far, and we shall see how it pans out. As my crystal ball is currently away for repair, I don’t know for sure what will happen. But if we do fail and Nuno becomes another casualty, it won’t be because of a trigger-happy mentality. Barring an absolute disaster, I fully expect him to be given at least a full season.

Don’t let me down, man.

I think that wraps most of it up. As I said at the outset, none of this should be remotely controversial; what baffles me is that newspapers and high profile websites choose to run with articles that patently are based in falsehood. It’s all easily checkable and a lot of it relies on a simple assessment of what the most likely scenario is. But hey, I guess that doesn’t get as many hits or sales.

Now, let’s get back to action, starting on Saturday at home to Leicester in our final friendly. There’ll be a report of some kind up on Sunday or Monday. I promise not to be too horrible about anyone.

Oscillating Wildly is a “pay-as-you-feel” website. The content will never disappear behind a paywall. However, if you enjoy my work and would like to help me continue to write – as this is essentially my main focus now – please consider making a small donation via the button near the top of the page. If you want to and can, that’s great. If not, then no worries.


Beating a Europa League team in their own backyard, go us

Harry Beasley: My first look at him, he’s got the same build as a very young Wayne Hennessey with a pleasing Britpop throwback haircut. Wasn’t overly tested but command of the box was excellent – took charge of situations where necessary and was a calm presence.

Hakeem Odoffin: Never going to be a flying wingback – he has the look of one of those players who managers will endlessly shuffle between playing at full back and centre half – but did a competent enough job in joining in with attacks as well as looking solid overall defensively.

Connor Johnson: Oh dear. I spent part of the back end of last season suggesting that Johnson was at least close to ready to making the step up. It’s not to say that he isn’t of course, but last night was a shocker for him personally. Beaten in the air too often, constantly getting touch tight to his man and as a consequence, being turned easily, a handful of slack misjudgements and should have conceded a penalty and been sent off for bringing down an opponent clean through on goal after his own error allowed the chance. Fortunately for us, the linesman on the near side didn’t appear to think keeping up with play was important. We’ll put this down as a bad day at the office as I’ve seen him play way better than that against far better players.

Ryan Leak: A much steadier game for his centre half partner. Doesn’t look the greatest in possession which doesn’t necessarily augur well for him going forward, there were a few minor errors but nothing catastrophic.

Anthony Breslin: Another impressive outing at left back. I’ve been quietly impressed every time I’ve seen him – I wouldn’t necessarily say you could throw him into the Championship right now and he’d slot in effortlessly (although it would have been preferable to effectively playing no-one at left back), but he gets all the basics right. Holds position, gets round to cover when we get in trouble, doesn’t back off too much, supports attacks without bombing forward haphazardly, decent left foot. There’s plenty to work with.

Dan Armstrong: Decent threat on the right hand side, not afraid to take his man on and put in some dangerous deliveries. Far from lightning quick but seems to be a good enough footballer to compensate for that.

Christian Herc: Quiet opening 10 minutes or so but from then on dictated play in the middle. His range of passing was on show and his first thought is always to drive forward with the ball; an exquisite spin to take him past an opponent showed his quality. It can’t be too long before he’s getting first team football, whether with us or out on loan.

Ross Finnie: It’s hard to write too much about a defensively minded midfielder when you’re playing against a semi-professional Welsh team and you have the lion’s share of possession. So I won’t.

Will Randall: A frustrating loan spell at Walsall last season seemed to indicate he had a way to go before he’d be making any kind of impact but there were some more promising signs here. Yes, the level of opposition wasn’t great. Yes, they allowed him to do pretty much as he pleased (it shouldn’t have taken a genius to work out that playing from the left, he cuts in virtually every single time). None of that is really his problem though and he was our best player in the first half. A continual threat, a decently struck goal (past the Lonergan-a-like in the Bala goal) and hopefully he’ll get another chance out on loan soon.

Donovan Wilson: As we’ve seen in his brief first team outings, there’s still a way to go for Don. There’s no doubt that he has plenty going for him; he can obviously finish and any forward with that amount of pace is always going to be a danger to a point. What is lacking at the moment is his hold up play or indeed any semblance of it. Last night he wasn’t even really trying to shield the ball or bring others into play. You can’t keep trying to turn everyone on halfway and run clear. Then again, this time last year he wasn’t even first choice in this team. So it’s early days.

Niall Ennis: Some similar issues to Wilson in that a lot of our attacks broke down when they reached the front two, particularly in the opening 20 minutes or so. But then he produces that finish for the opening goal. We’re not quite looking at Helder Costa vs Cardiff levels of making the keeper look silly, but not far off. Ice cool. It’s a crying shame that he lost a year of his development last year but it was no accident that before his injury, he was very close to being selected for the first team. Once he gets some more games under his belt (and depending who we sign between now and the close of the transfer window) then I would expect him to be pushing hard for inclusion once again. His talent demands it.

All change at half time and a completely different XI:

Rory Brown: Not that he did anything wrong (or even had a great deal to do), but there was something just not quite as convincing about him as Beasley. No chance with the goal, more on which later.

Dion Sanderson: Big lad for a full back. Looked very decent though. Composed enough on the ball and has an obvious physical presence.

Ben Goodliffe: Gave us a much more reassuring presence at the back than we’d had in the first half. Organised well, dealt with the broadly long ball threat from Bala and seems to be reasonably quick across the ground. Very vocal, too. Which meant that we learned that he is either extremely Welsh or assimilates local accents like a turbo Steve McClaren.

Adam Osbourne: One vital block at 2-1 was the standout moment for him. Fairly untroubled.

Joel Whittington: Believe me, I don’t like having a go at young players, especially on first viewing. It’s hard to see how this lad has made it as far as this through our Academy though. Positional play was all over the place – maybe in a Football Manager style, we’ve asked Matt Doherty to ‘mentor’ him – beaten far too easily a number of times, no pace to speak of and he supplied the assist for the Bala goal with a ludicrous header back across goal on his own six yard box under minimal pressure. As first impressions go, this was on the Mark Williams vs Fulham scale.

Carlos Heredia: If you were asked to draw up the prototype of a young, low key Spanish midfielder, you’d probably sketch up young Carlos (who does, as his unveiling photos suggest, look about 12). You can instantly see that his ball control and eye for a pass is already there. You can also see that he’s so slight that Norm from the Twix adverts would beat him in an arm wrestle. Started on the right and did ok in an understated way, but faded from the game when switched to the other side.

Elliott Watt: We decided to play long ball for some reason in the second half so Elliott spent 45 minutes essentially watching the ball sail over his head and occasionally putting in a few challenges on the Love Island wannabes in the Bala midfield.

Ryan Rainey: As above, but did get a goal right at the death with a well hit strike from 25 yards into the bottom corner. Though once again, the keeper showed the reactions of Grandad from Only Fools and Horses on Mogadon.

Andrew Sealey-Harris: Sounds like a mid-range solicitor, plays a bit like Ashley Young (when he was good). Threatens the full back on both sides and has plenty of pace, looked more at home on the right.

Jordan Allan: Tiny but refuses to be pushed around. Definite footballing intelligence on show as he made a number of excellent runs which took defenders away and made space for others. Would probably be tough at this stage for him to make an impact as a main striker, but definitely as a role to play as he develops.

Duckens Nazon: The Duck has been a minor figure of ridicule since we signed him from ultra-obscure origins. Having finally seen him play, he definitely isn’t all that bad at all. That is not to say that he’ll make it here, especially with our ambitions starting to skyrocket. But he’s no Frank Nouble-style joker. It would be fair to say that his first touch isn’t the best at this stage, but once he does get on the ball and start running at goal, he’s very hard to stop. Built like a middleweight boxer, he batters opponents out of the way and has a more than decent shot on him. Unlucky not to score on a couple of occasions. If – as remains likely – he doesn’t end up breaking into our first team, there are League One and Two teams who have far worse options up front. He also gave me a nod and a smile when I said “Well in, Duckens” to him after the warm up, which was nice. Well in, Duckens.

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