By Tim Tweddell
My recent three week trip to England gave me the
opportunity to see twenty-four of the first team squad in action,
even though the only sight I had of Foley and Panayi were
in pre-match warm-ups, as they were non-playing
substitutes. This included everyone on the books other
than the injured players and a couple of juniors. If this
isn't a squad system, I don't know what is.
During the warm-up, several things became clear, or unclear
as it turned out. Issa and Fisken had replaced Hyde and Noble,
with Helguson partnering Smith up front instead of GNW. There
was a substitute who from his shorts was number 35. The Bradford
programme, which listed players for us up to number 40(!), identified
number 35 as Barrie Matthews, a reserve team player.
The team was announced with numbers from 1 to 16, in direct conflict
to the numbers they had on their shorts. This resulted in Hughes
wearing shirt number 4 with shorts numbered 10, and Helguson in shirt number 10
wearing shorts with number 18.
Then Issa took his place, not in midfield as expected, but in the
centre of the back three, between Cox and Galli. This forced Robinson out to left
wing back, with Glass moving inside. It was now clear that the previous
appearances of Issa in the deep midfield role were a preparation for his
introduction at centre-back.
It is not really a surprise that the new left-hand side was exploited
to the full by Bradford. The second goal, in particular, demonstrated
the problems. The ball was dinked toward the corner flag in acres of
space over Robinson and Glass who were standing virtually together,
allowing the advancing Bradford player to cross in to the box under
absolutely no pressure.
At 3-0, Vialli had seen enough. Vega came on for Galli, for no apparent
reason, and Robinson was reinstated in the back three, Issa replacing
Hughes as the midfield anchor. Fisken and Glass gave way to Wooter
and number 16/35. This team won the second phase 3-1 but the damage had
When number 16/35 came on, why was someone shouting "Come on Jason"?
Could it be a reincarnation of Mr. Lee? Ner, this guy had talent.
"Jason Norville" we were informed, which left us none the wiser.
Regardless, he had a hand in two of the three goals we scored and
looked very useful.
Sunday's papers were no help, as the pressbox had decided that
number 16/35 was Panayi. But an earlier Watford programme showed
Jason Norville as an under-19 player. He is predominantly
left-footed, and I seem to recall another young left-footed forward
who did quite well for us in the past. Here's hoping.
Helguson and Smith are looking good together up front. Hughes is
impressive and assured in the deep midfield role. Issa appears to
think and act in a different time/space continuum, but he usually
seems to be in the right place and finds time to lay the ball
off to one of our players. It is also nice to see "The Hoof" or "Row Z"
being employed when there are no other options.
Wooter made his usual token appearance as a substitute and didn't
impress. It is difficult to see where he can fit into a 3-5-2 system.
The second half performance showed a lot of promise, marred only
by Blondeau, who stupidly got himself sent off. I think he is the
weakest player in the current team. Maybe Nick Wright could do a job