Monday, 3 September 2012

Summer Transfer Window: Wheelings And Dealings

Barnsley fans tend to dread the time when the transfer window comes around, and with good reason to. It is normally the case that the best players at Oakwell are destined to move on, be it an uphill or downhill move, and this summer has so far proven to be no different with creative captain Jacob Butterfield packing his bags for a move to the bright lights of the Premier League with Norwich City. However it's not just the outgoings that are the vitriolic reminders of why Barnsley fans hate this time in the calendar year... Many incomings have created a sense of worry and false panic, and this was shown through Keith Hill's signings in his first year at Oakwell - he brought in League One players who against the odds, performed at consistently higher standards than most of our so called 'Championship-proven' players. So here starts my quick look over our new recruits so far...


Of course, there's no better place to start than with the Egyptian ace that is Mido, the man who astonished a whole nation when he penned a one-year deal at Oakwell. Formerly of Ajax, Marseille, Tottenham and Middlesbrough, Mido was brought in by Keith Hill seemingly to replace the void left by hold-up man Andy Gray, and on my first and as of yet only viewing of him, away at Alfreton, he did just that despite not being heavily involved in proceedings. He did show Dagnall-esque qualities though as he blazed over the bar from six yards out. Since his Premier League days he's flown back to his native Egypt and due to the financial struggles in his homeland's top division he offered to play for a mere £1,000 a week. In his two year hiatus away from England he's piled on the pounds and won't be fully fit until September at the earliest according to Hill. Despite the increase in his weight that will undoubtedly have affected his abilities, fans can take solace in the fact that he will be able to bring a wealth of experience from his time across Europe with him to Barnsley to benefit others and may be able to showcase skills he learnt from past strike partners such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Didier Drogba.

I and many other fans will be hoping this tremendous coup will prove to be another Ricardo Vaz Te story, and if Hill can nurture Mido like he did with the Portuguese superstar then he'll be sure to make opposition defenders quake in their boots. However, getting Mido up to that standard will prove to be a much sterner test and will really assess Hill's capabilities. Mido and Hill will know that with strong dedication and endeavour from the both of them could see the stocky striker rediscover his form from his early career days which saw him transfer between European giants.

Mido in action on his debut - he needs to shed the pounds.

Tomasz Cywka

Now I've been a fan of the tricky little Polish attacking midfielder for a couple of years now. The creative star will bring added flair to an already inventive side and his scintillating runs will entertain the adoring fans and attract the crowds. Derby fans don't understand why Nigel Clough released him from his contract, and on recent evidence their views can only be backed further. An impressive debut against Rochdale saw him grab two assists after coming on from the bench. A similar player to Jacob Mellis, the two could go hand in hand in the centre of the park.

Putting in a man of the match performance in the game vs Bristol, more appearances like that would surely propel Barnsley up the table. However, like Vaz Te, he is only on a year-long contract and it is essential that we tie the 24 year old down on a longer basis before he the curse hits Barnsley again and we lose another gem for next to nothing in January.

Cywka's talent will delight the crowds.

Kelvin Etuhu

Kelvin Etuhu was a player who Keith Hill has been fond of for a while now and after pursuing his signature last term, he finally got the young Nigerian to put pen to paper on a one-year deal at Oakwell. On the books of Manchester City as a youngster, he never showed the talent expected of him - appearing a disappointing ten times in five years - and was loaned out on various occasions to Football League clubs where fans around the country got glimpses of his unquestionable quality. Combining electric pace with his silky dribbling, he could be a deadly opponent for defenders in the forthcoming season and being able to operate anywhere across the forward line could pay its dividends for both the Yorkshire outfit and Etuhu himself. This isn't the first time Hill has worked with Etuhu - he was on loan at Rochdale in 2007 under Hill's reign which fits the 'Hill DNA' as some fans like to call it.

Brought in as the first signing in Hill's second season as a Championship level manager, he'll have a tough job working his way to being an fan favourite such as other past wingers Jamal Campbell-Ryce, and more noticeably, Adam Hammill. In March 2011 Etuhu was handed an eight month prison sentence following an attack the previous year, and most fans will more than likely be hoping the speedy Nigerian winger will be able to replicate this dynamic attitude and aggression on the pitch.

Etuhu has pace to burn.

Jacob Mellis 

Ex-Barnsley loanee Jacob Mellis was sacked by Chelsea in March this year following a training ground incident in which Mellis set off a smoke bomb, and after trial periods at QPR and Burnley, the creative Nottingham-born midfielder signed a two-year deal at Barnsley. Following on from this, police were called to his home in April after a fight broke out between him and his girlfriend. This signing triggered debate amongst fans as shortly after the episode that got him sacked, Keith Hill told the media he would not have someone who could disrupt the high-spirited morale around the dressing room in his team, yet went back on his word only three months later - which is not like Hill, given his stubborn nature.

Offering a range of qualities to the team, Mellis could be a real star for Barnsley this season and could outshine most other young prospects in the league. His perfectly executed passes can unlock defences with relative ease and he knows how to strike a ball as well as possessing decent pace, which for a central midfielder is vital - especially in a league which is as demanding as the Championship. Despite being touted as a new star, Mellis does reiterate the fact that he feels he is not a young hotshot anymore so this season is a chance to prove his worth to the manager, fans, and the footballing world.

The signing of Mellis is a signal of intent from manager Hill as he promised Championship quality players - and Reds fans know all about Mellis' eminence - after two goals and a handful of brilliant performances in early 2011. Mellis was signed ahead of other central midfielders Oliver Norwood and Lee Williamson, who now play for Huddersfield and Portsmouth respectively. Brought in to replace the old Jacob, the new Jacob brings with him the abilities of former captain Butterfield and is a similar sort of midfielder to the new Premier League player, with respect to his physical and mental attributes. All in all he is a very exciting addition to the squad and I for one look forward to seeing him play week in week out.

This is Mellis' second spell at Barnsley.

Toni Silva

In late July speculation circulated around Oakwell after it was revealed that a Liverpool player would be joining the revolution at Oakwell on a permanent deal. Names were thrown around by fans such as Conor Coady or Nathan Eccleston - the latter of whom spent time on loan at Rochdale, not under Keith Hill's time in charge I may add - but Keith loves Rochdale players both new and old, doesn't he? It was eventually announced that Portuguese winger Toni Silva was the man who was signing for the South Yorkshire outfit.

Now I can't say I've seen that much of Silva playing but from what I've heard from the Liverpool faithful, he's a great player who has lightning speed in abundance and is a fantastic dribbler who knows how to create chances. He did spend a period of last season on loan at Northampton Town, notching only one goal in 15 league appearances, and the reviews I've got from The Cobblers' fans vastly contrasting, with supporters saying that he's not good enough to cut it at this level. He'll have to prove those fans wrong by putting in some good shifts at Oakwell to get ahead of fellow wingers Jim O'Brien, Kelvin Etuhu and Matt Done.

A video of Silva's two goals on his Liverpool U18s debut.

Ben Alnwick

Brought in to cover for Luke Steele, journeyman Ben Alnwick hasn't had the best of starts to life at Oakwell after being offered a chance to resurrect his career by Keith Hill. Prudhoe-born Alnwick was highly touted to be the next great English 'keeper when he completed a £1.3m move to North London to don the white of Tottenham in 2007 as an inexperienced 20 year old. Seven loan spells in four years never allowed him to show his potential and as a result, was released in the summer of 2012.

When he first signed for Barnsley some fans went as far as to say in him and Luke Steele we had "the two best shot stoppers in the league" and I was quick to agree with that statement, until he made his debut... He has been nothing but average in his first few games and along with being given his marching orders on his first start, has made countless errors. Mixed with poor distribution and even poorer kicking, it would appear the standard of Alnwick's game is on par with that of mistake prone Vito Mannone - yes, that bad. However, the season is young and the now 25 year old has plenty of time to make amends for his meagre performances.

Alnwick needs to improve after his first few games.

Marlon Harewood

Marlon Harewood, like Jacob Mellis, is now in his second stint at Barnsley after a spell that gained him mixed reviews from Barnsley fans, and in my eyes, the four goals in ten games that the ex-West Ham, Aston Villa and Blackpool striker scored only resulted in him giving a good account of himself. Now back at the club after a period in China and then at Nottingham Forest, he's restarted his Barnsley career without putting a foot wrong. The big man looks like the ideal replacement for Andy Gray and has the perfect physical stature to hold the ball up as well as chip in with a few goals. The Hampstead-born forward also brings fantastic positional sense to the squad, and that could be the difference between winning or losing games. Amalgamated with Craig Davies, Harewood's strength and awareness could prove to be half of a fruitful partnership with the Welshman and I for one cannot wait to see how it pans out.

Harewood in action away at Wolves.

Martin Cranie

The eighth and final signing of the summer for Keith Hill. Martin Cranie provides extreme versatility which could cause problems aplenty for Hill regarding his selection choices. He can play anywhere across the back four as well as just in front of them in a defensive midfield role and that's a key element in any successful squad - being versatile. Another free transfer, Cranie's last club was newly relegated Coventry City, where he was highly rated amongst the Sky Blues fans, and his time at the Ricoh Arena also brought Cranie the most successful stage in his career so far.

Not the tallest of defenders at only six foot, a good leap gives him that extra inch in the air needed to beat his opponent to the ball which is pivotal. Assurance is guaranteed in abundance as Cranie is a no-nonsense, solid centre back who gets his job done efficiently. A very similar player to Jimmy McNulty in a certain sense - operating in different positions is a big part of his game, and he portrayed this magnificently in the recent win over Bristol City, in which he delivered a sublime cross to allow Jacob Mellis to head home the winner.

Versatility personified - Martin Cranie.

Final Verdict: 

These additions to the squad will bring a lot of different attributes into an already great side that has enough power to swerve a relegation dogfight with ease. Pace, dribbling, passing, vision, power, awareness - just a few of the skills that these players have and with these signings Keith Hill has assembled a quite remarkable squad on a shoestring budget.

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