29 year old Lee Nicholls arrived on a free transfer from MK Dons and the fans did not know what to expect. We all felt that we needed a proper first choice keeper after several seasons of players coming in and failing to impress and stamp their authority on the side. Nicholls missed the first 2 league games of the season, a draw against Derby and defeat against Fulham due to a positive covid test. He then made his first league start of the season in the 1-0 win over Preston which was Towns first win of the season in our third game. Nicholls had started against Sheffield Wednesday in the Carabao Cup match before the positive test result and was a instant hero in the penalty shoot out in that match. Throughout the season Nicholls went on to make 43 league appearances as he established himself as first choice having arrived after 131 games for MK Dons.
Nicholls brings a command of the penalty area to the side. He is vocal in his organising of the defence. Handling is strong and his positioning makes even difficult saves appear routine. His distribution is good and manages time well when we are in front.
Without Nicholls we would not have been in the play-offs. He has been essential to the club’s success this season and we need to keep him for the forthcoming season.
28 year old Blackman arrived in January after his Los Angeles FC contract came to an end. Blackman originally came through the ranks at Chelsea and has been at a host of clubs since. He played in the FA Cup matches against Barnsley & Notts Forest before playing in the last league game of the season in the 2-0 win against Bristol City. The only game where he was really tested was against Forest when he struggled but looked comfortable in the other games.
For an experienced keeper I would say he is not first choice material at this level but is a good second choice. His contract is up at the end of the season so it remains to be seen as to what happens.
Ryan had a very difficult season in the 2020/21 season. Performances were littered with errors which cost the team dearly and the defence was very unorganised. He got his chance to start again with a fresh slate at the start of the season. He came through the game against Derby successfully without being too exposed but made errors during the Fulham game which cost us again and you could visibly see any remaining confidence disappear. We didn’t see Ryan again until the FA Cup win at Burnley which we won but Ryan had to come off with injury after 40 minutes.
Ryans positioning, command of the area and handling are poor. He is good at the reaction save, but lacks the confidence and self-belief to be a successful keeper at Championship level.
Ryan has a contract to run until the end of the 2023 season. Personally, I feel it would be best for Ryan and the club if we looked to move him on.
Pipa (Gonzalo Ávila Gordón)
24 year old Pipa arrived from Espanyol for the 20/21 season and was a regular making 37 appearances and scoring 2 goals. This season Pipa has been hampered with injuries and managed 14 games in the league. When fit he struggled to hold down a first team start on a regular basis.
The Spanish under 21 international struggled a little in the first team this season. Although being right footed he likes to cut in from the right and does have a tendency to want too many touches on the ball. His finishing has been poor too which in his first season was much better. Heading into his final season of his 3 year contract Pipa needs to step up and show more consistency. He is only 24 but needs to improve his ability to spot when he needs to pass the ball. Defensively he has improved a little but if we are to push for Premier league football then he needs to improve further.
29 year old Ollie arrived on a free transfer at the start of the season having turned down a contract from his previous club Blackpool. Initially the fans were dubious over his acquisition and some nervy early performances from Ollie did not help. He did however settle down and was used in a variety of positions. Carlos showed consistent faith in Ollie and the fans soon came on board due to his consistency and not overplaying but doing the basics really well. Ollie went on to make 40 appearances in the league during the season, many from the bench but has been very impressive.
Turton is very consistent and keeps playing the simple ball. I would like to see a little more confidence sometimes by putting the cross into the box rather than handing the responsibility over to someone else. He has a good right foot and has been equally as comfortable at the right side of a central defensive 3 or as a right back/right wing back.
Dubbed the ‘Ginger Cafu’ by Town fans I would like to see Turton stay at the club due to his versatility and what he does offer when in the starting line up.
Now 26, Toff arrived in the January transfer window during the 19/20 season, signed by the Cowley brothers who worked with him at Lincoln. Until Lincoln Toff had struggled to breakthrough into a first team, but since working with the Cowleys he has been a first team regular. He made 42 league appearances during the season meaning he has now played 92 times for the club with 9 goals, 6 of them coming during this season. Toff has been a key part in the way that we play and with his contract coming to an end now Town need to act and if need be activate the 1 year extension although hopefully we can agree a longer new contract.
Toff operates as a left back/left wing back. He gets forward regularly and could be mistaken for a left winger at times. He is very affective in an attacking role and when asked to play more defensively you don’t get the best out of him but he is very capable and does what he needs to do for the team. He is left footed but did score a cracking goal on his right foot against Coventry. He has a good connection on the pitch with O’Brien and weighs in with goals and assists. Very unlucky to have not won numerous penalties over the last games of the season, despite the genuine foul he does go down a little theatrically, similar to how Tom Cowan did back in the 90s which appears to influence the referees to not call the foul.
Hopefully Town can come to an agreement with Toffolo which will keep him at the squad for next season and beyond as he will be key to any success.
Ruffels signed at the start of the season on a free from Oxford where he had been a regular starter for 8 years. The 28 year old left back made 8 appearances over the season usually from the bench. His first team opportunities were at a minimum due to the form of Toffolo. He has looked steady as a left back however with such few minutes on the pitch it is hard to determine his long term ability for the team. Certainly he is worth holding onto and should remain a squad player for the following season.
The 28 year old local lad from Keighley returned to Yorkshire after 3 years with Luton where he made 128 league appearances. Matty made 37 league appearances with 3 goals during the season. He was a regular on the right side of a back three. Solid in the air and with decent distribution. Matty picked up an injury towards the end of the season which meant he missed the last couple of months. He is strong in the air, good in the tackle but perhaps not the quickest of centre backs. Built a good understanding with Tom Lees. Matty being on a 3 year contract should be here for the next couple of years and re-establish himself in the starting line-up next season.
Tom left relegated Sheffield Wednesday for Town at the start of the season making 41 appearances with 3 goals. He missed the first few games as it took a while to gain full match fitness. There was some initial scepticism regarding Lees but he soon answered critics with his good consistent performances. The 31 year old has been one of many stand out performers during the season. His experience and reading of the game has been essential and will be again for any success in the coming season. Lees is strong in the air and his distribution is consistently good. He has operated n all 3 positions across the back line of 3 centre backs during the season but I believe he is more comfortable in the centre. We need another good solid season from the towering centre back.
One minute Naby can be the hero and the next the villain. Naby signed from Charlton in September 2020. He had made 95 appearances with 6 goals for Charlton where he had been a first team regular. In his first season at Town Naby had been a regular starter making 41 appearances with 4 goals, however after the arrival of others in the close season he dropped down the pecking order for the following season making 20 league appearances with 3 goals. Naby is capable of popping up with a goal and is a handful in the air, being a big physical presence in both boxes. He is capable of good cross field balls but can be very slow with his distribution and can dwell too long in possession, therefore he can create problems for his own defence. It has to be said though that Naby has an instinct to defend and blocks shots well and on many times has cleared balls from off his own line.
Personally, I would be comfortable with Naby moving on in the close season although if he was to stay as a back up player that would be fine as well. I do feel that Edmonds-Green should now be ahead of Naby.
Levi arrived on loan from Chelsea for the season and established himself in the side usually on the left side of 3 central defenders making 28 appearances with 2 goals in the league. The 19 year old has been consistently good all season and does like to drive forward on occasions. He is quick which has been key for the side as that is a downside of the other central defenders. Levi was very unfortunate with the own goal in the play off final as he could not do anything with the deflection. Hopefully Chelsea will allow him to return next season although I do feel that he will go to a higher profile club for a further loan.
Hoggy, better known as the General made 31 appearances with 2 goals during the season. He is the longest serving member of the team and the sole survivor of the premier league stint. Captain who after a dip in form mid-season came back stronger than ever. As the season developed, he tended to drop back to play in the middle of a back 3 but is usually the holding midfielder. His passing can be wayward on occasion, but his reading of the game is first class and we are a lot better with him than without him. Having weighed in with 2 goals this season this has been the best goalscoring season Hoggy has had for us at the age of 33.
Still under contract Hoggy needs to stay and be used in the central defensive role going forward as his presence there provides us with better shape.
Big Jon Russell was signed for the B team from Chelsea but impressed quickly at that level that he was promoted to the first team and has not looked back since. For a 21 year old he plays with a great maturity. He dictates the pace of the game and is comfortable putting his foot on the ball and slowing things down. Being the size he is and the quick skills he does possess opponents end up backing off and giving him space. Jon still needs to develop but has come along really well this season and has to be considered a first team regular. He has the ability to really command games and I look forward to seeing how he develops having played 19 times with 2 goals this season.
Yet another quality season for Lewis. He just keep on getting better. As the season progressed, he was targeted by the opposition who resorted to hacking him down every time that he got on the ball and due to the standard of refereeing there was never any protection. Lewis has been more consistent this season clocking up 43 games and 3 goals. He is still only 23 and has a big career still ahead of him, hopefully this will be with us but he is the most likely player to be targeted by Premier league teams and we may have to prepare for the new season without him. Lewis is quick in the tackle but is equally as good on the ball running through the centre or off to the left. He is very left footed and I would like to see him be able to use his right foot more than just to stand with.
Eiting returned to the club in January after being released by Genk, but struggled to get many minutes and failed to impress when he did get on the pitch. He likes to play in an advanced central midfield role and to have time on the ball which he is not often afforded. Carel is only on contract to the end of the season and I don’t expect it will be renewed. He made 5 appearances this season with 1 assist.
Vallejo has shown promise during his time with us but has failed to hold down a regular starting position largely due to injury but also due to the form of other individuals. 30 year old Alex managed just 5 appearances this season and with his contract coming to an end it is likely that it will not be renewed, however I would be quite happy if he did stay provided his injury worries are behind him. He is a good passer of the ball who reads the game well but does not close down aggressively and tends to sit in midfield.
Tino arrived on loan from Chelsea and struggled with injury, so his impact was limited to 7 games with 1 goal. He is quick and likes to run at the opposition defence. Against Coventry in his 20 minutes he tore them apart at will, but that was the only time we saw that from Tino. I expect Chelsea will want a guarantee that he will play regularly next season if going out on loan so we may not see him return.
Aarons is another one that has struggled consistently with injury having appeared on just the 1 occasion this season. He needs to step up big time next season or be allowed to leave be it on loan or permanently.
21 year old Aaron has only made 1 appearance this season due to injury and the form of others. For his development he needs to go out on loan next season and get some first team experience.
Scott started to make the grade at the end of last season and impressed enough to replace Hoggy when injured this term, but he struggled with the holding midfield role as time passed. I’m not sure that we have found Scott’s best position just yet and he does need to improve considerably with his strength. 21 year old Scott made 22 appearances with 1 assist this season. I feel he would benefit greatly through a loan to a league one side where he could get regular first team football.
What a season the 23 year old has had. After arriving from Borehamwood in January of the previous season he appeared very raw and whilst full of running he looked to be a long way short of the player he has become. I doubted that he was good enough for the first team but with 43 games, 3 goals and 12 assists, let alone the chances he created he has been one of the stand out performers of the season. Hopefully we hang on to him and he can be a key player for us again this season. He is particularly lethal from corners, but does need to improve with his delivery in open play.
The 27 year old arrived back at his first club from Derby the previous season and has been a regular in the side this season with 37 appearances and 5 goals. Duane has had a good season and managed to influence many matches. He is the type of player who can go missing at times and has struggled for consistency. I like his positivity as he always looks to get the ball and drive forward but his first touch can let himself down and he does like to make too many touches when he should play in a teammate much quicker. Duane has had a very good season and he does give us a good balance to the attack but I feel that we have seen the best of him. I’m happy for him to stay again this season but he does need to release the ball much quicker as he can get out muscled when he wants too many touches.
Danny signed for us the previous season and immediately was injured he has never yet been able to get into the matchday squad. He needs to go out on loan next season.
Jordan Rhodes arrived back at the club for the second time. Having been a goalscoring machine the last time it was hoped that he could work his magic again, even after he had had a difficult seasons at Sheffield Wednesday, Norwich and Middlesborough, the fans were very pessimistic. The 32 year old did not start too many games, but did manage to clock up 25 appearances and 3 goals. Most of the appearances were from the bench but he weighed in with a couple of MOM performances late in the season and really showed that he still has what it takes. Jordan offers us something a little different with his physicality and poacher instinct. I believe he will be a part of things for the new season.
23 year old Koroma struggled for form this season but still managed 4 goals from 33 appearances. Josh had been our most promising attacking player in the previous season prior to getting injured but has not yet been able to re-establish that form. He appears to be lacking in confidence but hopefully the club will extend his contract for a further season as I feel he can still offer the club something. Koroma does like to attack down the left side of the pitch ad cut back inside on his right foot, but he needs to believe in himself again.
34 year old Fraizer made 21 appearances for us during the season but most of them came early in the campaign. Fraizer struggled for form being a little short of his usual pace and his touch was not as good as it used to be. You can’t fault his commitment always harrying the opposition and playing with a real passion, but Championship level is too much for him now and being out of contract at the end of the season it is time for him to move on although he may be missed within the changing room.
31 year old Wardy missed large chunks of last season due to injury and many of the fans were pessimistic that he would produce this time. He answered the critics though with 14 goals in 40 games. He was always working hard closing down the opposition and dropping into holes to pick up the ball and help the team build attacks. Danny will not be the most prolific striker as he does not possess loads of pace and tends to help build attacks rather than leading the line but he helps keep things intact and helps the side stay in games. He picked up an injury towards the end of the season and did not quite re-establish his form. He does need more support in the attacking areas than he has been getting.
Sinani has had a productive season with 6 goals from 43 games. He was subbed many times during the campaign, but you could not fault his believe and passion. The 25 year old worked well for the team keeping us compact but as a striker or attacking midfielder you need more form him. He rarely created too much other than from set-plays. Personally, I feel he is not good enough for where we are wanting to get to but with an option to sign being part of the loan agreement from Norwich I think we may end up signing him.
What a season. Expectations were that we would be relegated but with a 3rd place finish and a narrow play off defeat we achieved so much. The main thing now is that we build on what was achieved this season, to do this we need to keep the bulk of the squad together and make just a couple of additions. If we start the season the way we finished and with a side knowing what is expected of them from the off then we can go a long way. The past season started with a draw at the beleaguered Derby and then a thumping 5-1 home defeat to Fulham, but that was the lowest point of the season. Gradually the team evolved and bought into the style of play Carlos wanted us playing. We had to keep ourselves in matches and if we could snatch a lead, we played to try and see it out. If we didn’t find the breakthrough then in the second half we would open up and go for it more. The tactics worked, but Carlos was able to tweak things and brought in new players such as Russell from the B team that helped to give us more depth. Even after the rare back to back defeat to Millwall and Bournemouth we went again and found our form. Many thought we would fall away but we just got stronger, in the end we ran out of matches in order to achieve automatic promotion but went into the play offs with confidence, unfortunately we were unlucky in the end but are ready to go again next season.
39 year old Carlos has proved all his critics and the majority of fans wrong. Many expected he would be one of the first managerial casualties of the season and after the 5-1 home loss at the start of the season this appeared even more likely. Over the course of the season he has proved that he is a tactical master working out how to get the most out of the players at his disposal. There have been some similarities to the Wagner era with the togetherness that he had the players working with. They operated as a team rather than a bunch of individuals and had a believe in themselves that we haven’t seen for many years. A lot of people questioned the recruitment at the start of the season but bringing in players that were experienced at championship and league one level and approaching their prime worked. These players had a great mentality that fitted in well with what Town were building. We need to do the same again in the coming season, but no overhaul is needed just the addition of a few key personnel. Hopefully Carlos will stay to carry on what he has started at Town.
Since writing the above Town have announced that Toffolo and Koroma have had their contracts extended for a further year but Sarr, Campbell, Eiting, Vallejo and Blackman have been released and Town are not taking up the option to sign Sinani.