Who will stay and who will go?

Posted on April 5, 2010

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*Article originally appeared in When The Ball Moves

We’ve reached a point where most people are resigned to the inevitable. We may be only four points from safety with five matches to go, but Burnley just don’t look like picking up any points and a return to the Championship after one season away looks closer and closer with every passing match.

Thoughts, therefore, will turn towards next season. Some might argue that the board were already thinking of next year’s campaign in January when they appointed Brian Laws to succeed Owen Coyle. With this campaign drawing to a close, I hope that someone on the club at least has half an eye on next season, because with several contracts ending soon and other clubs bound to be approaching us for some of our major assets, a game-plan is essential if the club is to hit the ground running next year.

Let’s take a look at our squad and try and guess what the club’s thinking is with regard to next year (a tough task, I know!).

Goalkeepers: Difficult to predict. Laws obviously doesn’t fancy Penny, in just the way Coyle didn’t, so I would be surprised to see the Peruvian at the Turf next year. The signing of Nicky Weaver appears more and more ridiculous and wasteful with every game he continues to warm the bench, and it would be bizarre if his short-term deal was extended considering this. Which leaves the Beast. This season, particularly in the last few weeks, he just hasn’t looked up to it. His communication is non-existent; he doesn’t come for the ball when he should and comes when he shouldn’t; his kicking is wasteful and inaccurate; and he has an awful tendency to palm the ball into the path of oncoming strikers when he should hold it, as with Carlos Tevez last week. Laws may yet be persuaded to offer him a new deal, but I’d be tempted to let him go too and start again.

Defenders: Tyrone Mears will surely leave, but the club should make a tidy profit on a player bought for so little a year ago. Danny Fox is a recent acquisition and will probably find his level in the Championship. Clarke Carlisle and Leon Cort are decent Championship centre-halves who will remain, though question marks must remain over the fitness of Steve Caldwell. Mike Duff’s form in recent weeks is deserving of a new contract. I’d personally like to see David Edgar back at the club, but it appears Laws is no fan of the player and he may well leave. Eckersley and Easton will return, hopefully to feature more. A big question mark is Andre Bikey, apparently disliked by Laws and training with the reserves. This seems extraordinarily wasteful of a quality centre-half to me, and I’d like to see him back. But with Laws at the helm, he’ll go.

Midfielders: Joey Gudjonsson will surely leave the club, as will Jack Cork, to return to Chelsea. Graham Alexander will probably sign on for another year. His leadership and experience could be essential back in the lower division. McDonald will remain, but both management and fans will be hoping for huge improvement from the highly-touted youngster, who has looked out of his depth in this league. Chris McCann should return from injury to be the force in midfield that we have so sorely missed. Doubts must remain over Wade Elliott’s future. He is another who has looked like a fish out of water at this level, but he was a quality Championship player a year ago and there is no reason why he cannot be again. Then onto Burnley’s two most creative players. Chris Eagles has been linked with moves to Everton and Tottenham, and will surely leave the club. I won’t be too disappointed to see him go. Yes, he is a talented player, but too often the end product is missing. If we can get £3/4 million for him and therefore keep hold of someone like Fletcher, I’ll be delighted. With Robbie Blake’s contract up this summer, he is a question mark also. Laws will keep his cards close to his chest, but I’d be tempted to give him another year as an impact sub.

Strikers: Martin Paterson will remain, and he has proven himself as a 20-goal a season man in the Championship. If the club can retain Fletcher it would be a major coup. He too is capable of a large goal haul in the league below, and it will be interesting to see if Premier League managers, particularly Coyle at Bolton, are interested in prising him away from Burnley. David Nugent is another one over whom doubts linger. There has been much talk of him not joining the club full time should we be relegated, but I find it hard to believe that a Premier League club would want him. Perhaps Coyle could again be the key here. Nugent may yet find himself forced to return to Portsmouth, and face Burnley next year. Jay Rodriguez will return to the club, hopefully a better player than when he left.

Manager: It pains me to say it, but I fear we may be stuck with Brain Laws until early next season at least.

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