Back in the summer we had Wael Gomaa over here on trial and he appeared to impress Hughes and it was thought they had agreed for him to join come January. Nothing has come of it yet and I thought that if anything were to materialise then it would have happened by now. He has warned that should they not pursue interest in him he is tempted to accept a financially rewarding contract leaving Al-Rayan for Al-Ahly keeping him in Qatar. He has made it clear that his choice is to come here and I would like to check him out but it does not look promising.
It must have been gutting for Steven Reid when he was well on the way back to recovery just to fall at the final hurdle and damage a cruciate ligament Click Here for Full Article. It must have been boring having to sit about twiddling his thumbs for ages doing nothing and then only light exercise and now he finds himself having to do the same for the rest of the season. Should he be out for the remainder of the season then at least he will have plenty of time to fully recover. Still poor chap must be terribly frustrating.
Chairman John Williams is still showing an interest in David Dunn even though it looks as though he is about to sign for local rivals Bolton. He has undergone a medical and they have agreed a fee and unless we do something quick it will be too late. I thought he was as good as a Bolton employee but until the paperwork is finalized and dotted there is always a chance of poaching. If we are as interested as is made out then the possibility of returning to his local team could appeal. Should that be the case then we have to hope that Mr. Williams will match Bolton's agreed fee. If we can get him and keep him injury free when fit then hopefully he can reproduce the form that made him a favorite.
Tuesday 16th January 07
Steven Reid has set pre-season as his targeted return. Should he look after himself and do as he is told then this is definitely possible. He is in good hands and he knows what he has to do. He has a good attitude though as he is not moping about and looking ahead; it probably helps though the fact that he will be getting well paid whilst being off sick and don't have to worry about cash in the bank. When he was told he'd be out for the rest of the season he was expecting it. It's a shame as he has had a good couple of seasons and looked to be hitting his peak. Hopefully he can come back all guns blazing as though he had never been gone.
According to Emile Mpenza's agent we have been in talks with them over a possible move to the club. Hughes has been playing down the possibility of the Belgian joining us but perhaps they know something we don't. Either way we will eventually find out. He does play for the same club as Wael Gomaa so perhaps they all want to leave and think they can come here. Also there appears to be a lot of Al teams!
It looks as though we are set to hijack Bolton's bid for David Dunn but we have left it very late Click Here for Full Article. He has been at Bolton nearly a week and it appears everything is done but the paperwork. We have only just put in a bid and that falls short of Bolton's offer. Surely it is worth at least matching them as I think should we do that then hopefully Steve Bruce will be wrong as in thinking we left it too late and we can bring him here, get him match fit and he can do for us what he was not able to do at Birmingham and show the quality that he showed for us last time.
Wednesday 17th January 07
Derby County have tried to get Jay McEveley but their request was rejected following the uncertainty of what is going to happen with Lucas Neill. If Neill were to depart then Jay would be needed as cover. I like him as he is only young and has plenty to offer. A loan spell would not do him any harm as he will be getting plenty of first team action but should he stay and play then that`s cool as well.
Our game against West Ham on Saturday 17th March has been re-scheduled for a different time. It will still be played on the same day but now kick-off will be at 17:15 as it is going to be screened live on Prem Plus so I will be watching that and will be disappointed should we loose.
Our late attempt to sign David Dunn has paid off as he has now joined us signing a three and a half year deal Click Here for Full Article. Hopefully it will not take this long to get him fit and playing regular football as we have had enough long-term casualties as it is. I am not surprised that he spurned Bolton to join us as he has never hidden his desire that he wanted to return home and the knowledge that we wanted him gave him no doubt about where his future was to be. No doubt that should he have joined Bolton he would have been at a good club and they would have looked after him but we are equally as capable of giving him what he needs. Welcome home Dunny boy and here's to hopefully what will be many happy injury-free days!
It looked certain that Lucas Neill was to go to Liverpool should he leave this month, which I'm sure he will, but it now looks as though there is a new front runner with West Ham jumping queue and wanting to splash the cash Click Here for Full Article. Perhaps they are offering big money as they now have a rich sugar daddy. Maybe it's the challenge of getting them out the bottom three of the table, who knows. But should he go there, despite Mr Egghead chairman's visions for the future, I do not see this as a move forward…yes it is a fresh challenge but I honestly cannot see him achieving anymore with this club. We are partaking in a wonderful adventure with the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and a current surge in the league and I do not see why he would not want to be part of the ride.
Thursday 18th January 07
I never thought I would see the day but someone would finally taken Dominic Matteo off our hands Click Here for Full Article. He will join Stoke on a free transfer so we will no longer paying him for nothing, which makes it only fair that we did not ask for a fee.
Following talk that Lucas Neill was looking to join West Ham it now seems that he has agreed terms with them and is looking forward to the challenge. Talks are still ongoing but figures so far are said to be very generous which is obviously very tempting to him. If it is not about the money then how come he does not want the challenge of leading us to UEFA Cup victory or trying for the FA Cup as that is a challenge and you won't be getting that with the Hammers.
It also looks as though we will still get Stephen Warnock from Liverpool even though Neill probably will join West Ham. A swap deal would have been fair if Neill had gone Liverpool but the money we will get for Neill should cover the fee for Warnock as he will cost £1.5 million which is probably the fee west Ham will pay us for Neill so it will work out nicely for us. I like Warnock and he is only mid-twenties so he should settle nicely and be a hit. He won't have to put up with that constant squad rotation nonsense and will get a decent run in the team should we finally get him.
Hughes was delighted at the recapture of David Dunn yesterday. They obviously knew each other from when they played for us together and Dunn is said to be hopefully over the worst of his injuries due to his strengthening programmes, which are thought to have made him as fit and strong as ever due to the extra work he has had to do. It will take a while to get his match fitness back when he returns but like Hughes said we have the luxury of not having to rush him and can get him fit and strong again to play. If he is anywhere near as effective when playing again as he was during his first spell then I will be happy.
Friday 19th January 07
As usual nothing is straight forward when it comes to Lucas Neill as Hughes has now blocked his move to West Ham and has said he will put him in the squad to face Manchester City tomorrow Click Here for Full Article. It`s like a circus but hopefully something can be sorted soon. We have rejected West Ham's offer of Paul Konchesky in exchange and as far as Hughes is concerned they have not offered an acceptable deal and he is waiting until there is also sufficient cover, which should be next week as we have a foreign trialist coming next month. I don't think Neill will play tomorrow though as he will be going soon and we don't want to risk him getting injured.
People think that we went back in for David Dunn as Steven Reid once again got injured but like Hughes has pointed out Reid has been out nearly all season so far so how can we be replacing him? We got Dunn as we know that he is a great player and it would have been a crime to pass the chance of bringing him back and we would have regretted it if we were to face him come March as a Bolton player should he be fit.
Aaron Mokoena will miss tomorrows game against Manchester City through suspension following his fifth yellow card but David Bentley who was missing against Arsenal last week due to the same fate will be available. Tugay will return as he has not featured the last couple of matches as the conditions have not suited his style of play. Andy Todd is over his groin strain and Nonda has trained all week so he should be available tomorrow. Ryan Nelsen and Francis Jeffers are not deemed fully fit yet despite having a good run about in a friendly against Rangers but this is a good sign and they will hopefully be back soon.
Stoke have finally completed the signing of Dominic Matteo so that is done and dusted. It has been a year since he last played and he was on decent money so at least that will be a cut back in the wages department and this can go towards paying the new boys that come in.
Another of our promising youngsters has gone out on loan to Carlisle United. Youngster Joe Garner will play there until the end of the season and Hughes will take great interest in monitoring his progression since he graduated from the academy. He has made ten reserve team appearances and scored eight goals, which is very impressive. If we were able to repeat this at senior level then he would definitely be one for the future.
Saturday 20th January 07
Just as I thought would happen Lucas Neill was dropped from the squad. West Ham, Everton and Newcastle all want him and he was drawn from training yesterday so that he can sort his immediate future which I am sure will be with West Ham as Hughes has given up trying to keep him. Still, as I thought we would we still managed to win without him.
We put in a fine display today and were worthy winners with our 3-0 victory. It is good to see Gamst returning to form and is even better having him twice on the score sheet. Was also good to see matt Derbyshire score again which will no doubt do the youngster the world of good. He is getting his chance and is making the most of it. The whole team played well and it was entertaining to watch. You could see that Savage was proud to be captain and dedicated the win to Steven Reid, Ryan Nelsen and the most recent casualty to the list during the game Andre Ooijer who looks set to be out from the freak injury which looked very painful judging by his facial expression and I would not be surprised to see him out for a while.
Since the Ooijer incident we have since found out that he will now be out for the rest of the season with a broken leg. Luckily this is not a career ending injury and not as bad as thought but it is bad enough and the last thing we want are further injuries. Hughes has said though that this will not force him into doing more transfer dealings but we'll see. Then again we have always managed but we still have another eleven days until transfer shut off day.
Talking of injured players, one that is set to return soon is Ryan Nelsen Click Here for Full Article who participated in seventy-five minutes worth of a behind closed doors friendly against Rangers. This is fantastic news as it shows that he is nearly there. All he needs now is a full ninety-minutes and another friendly is being organised. Hopefully we will be seeing him during match days very soon, even if only on the bench as part of the squad.
Gamst Pedersen has definitely turned his season around in the last month or two. People were starting to doubt him but he has started to recapture his form that has made him so valuable and important to us. He was a bargain buy back in 2004 before Hughes took charge and Hughes did not even want to play him as he felt he was not physically strong enough for the English game. But he has proved wrong and last year alone he had his hand in everything nearly or should I say foot and was involved in at least fifty percent of the goals. Should we push on for a European finish again and he keeps this rediscovered form then he will be very important to us. It must have been hard for Hughes to stay patient with him at the start of the season as he was not performing but I guess it must have been hard for Pedersen as well as he did have an ankle injury and broke some ribs which he bravely carried on playing with and he is without doubt one of the fittest players in the squad.
We are still being strongly linked with Stephen Warnock and hopefully a deal will be sorted within the weekend Click Here for Full Article. The fee is still set to be £1.5 million and the Lucas Neill deal falling through with Liverpool should hopefully not affect us getting our man. Then once we got him Neill can go and pursue his new challenge and we will finally stop hearing about will he won't he etc.
I'm sure Neill will be leaving us in the next few days yet Hughes has now stated that Neill is not leaving yet until we have a replacement as Hughes does not want us left weaker at the back. I thought this was all sorted but I guess it's fair enough. I still expect tomorrows headlines to be that Neill has finally joined West Ham and hopefully that we have signed Warnock.
Sunday 21st January 07
We had another great result yesterday with a 2-1 win over Manchester United after coming from a goal behind. I can hear you thinking what the hell is he on about as we beat Manchester City 3-0 but I know exactly what I am on about…am talking about the under-18's. I know it is not first team football but you've still got to put your money on Manchester United having some talented youngsters as they pride themselves on nurturing young talent so to beat them our youngsters have got to be fairly decent and it is encouraging for future prospects.
Hughes has again reiterated the fact that he will not let Neill join West ham until we have sufficient cover. Although he did not play yesterday due to speaking with West Ham and undertaking a medical we did not appear to miss him and unless you knew otherwise you would never have known he was missing as we were very strong. I'm not saying that we would not miss him when he has gone as he has been a loyal servant and always gave his all to us. But life goes on and there will always be someone that is able to replace him. He has given his reasons for choosing West Ham and has stated it is not the money which at that is a good £60, 000 a week. He has said it is to do with the fact that they made him feel wanted moving heaven and earth for him where as Liverpool have left it quite a while. So it looks like he won't be joining his boyhood team and hunting medals but it's up to him after all.
Yesterday's great display was well inspired by a leading Robbie Savage. He led us out for the first time in a Premiership match and what great pride he took in doing so. He has stated though that he has no intentions of keeping it though as when Ryan Nelsen returns he would happily hand it to him as he is great leader or should Andy Todd be available then will hand it back to him but I cannot see Todd becoming captain again as he is not as high in the pecking order. He did a good job leading us and the responsibility of the job and leading out quality players probably helped in calming him and he also feels it is a bonus as bookings are not as easily given when you are captain as the referee sees the armband and won't book you for the little challenges. Dream on but it is a nice theory.