Collins was a bit of a wreck the previous season and looked one of the worst defenders we had seen down at the Lane, making mistakes and looking weak and slow. I was not exactly enamoured that he would be returning as one of our main defenders this season. However, Collins began the season well and looked a different player. Forming a solid partnership with young Maguire, he was solid from day one. He cut out the mistakes; he led well from the back and was commanding. He also showed what a decent footballer he was and was much better on the floor than I ever possibly thought. He brought it out from defence and tried to play it to feet whenever he could. He was one of the constants all season and with a fairly settled defence compared to last season; he showed a completely different side to him and now is probably one of the key men moving forward. You could say there are doubts whether he could carry on such improved performances at a higher level and against better forwards as he has struggled and been dumped by teams when he has played higher. However, next season he will be one of the first names on the team sheet and maybe deserves an additional contract extension for his good performances this season.
Maguire had stood out when he got in the team at the end of the previous season. He clearly lacked pace ad mobility but he had qualities that you rarely see in a youngster. He continued this as he began this season by contributing along with Collins to some solid defensive displays. He would stand out too scouts watching him as he was full of confidence, could read the game and was basically a very good footballer. He always looked to keep the ball, coming out of defence and had a nice first touch. He showed good strength and tackling and despite the lack of speed his ability to get in the right positions was uncanny. He did have some bad spells but the fact that he played so many games; 44 in the league; was superb really for someone who was only 18/19. For the most part he was very good and had many more good games than bad ones. I did feel he maybe should have bee rested at times when he had a few sticky spells but with little options in terms of replacements he remained in the team. He did have a few games where he got bullied a bit (Huddersfield at home) but got better in such situation and the way he handled Agyemang in the semi and then the prolific Rhodes in the final was excellent. If he had any kind of pace then they would be queuing up around the block to sign him and he still seems to be carrying a bit too much timber but he clearly has the ability to at least play Championship and with the right improvements than maybe even the top flight. For now he would be better staying with us rather than moving to a side where he may not be a regular (even in the Championship).
Lowton was another youngster who had done well the back end of the previous campaign scoring a few goals and getting more confident every game he played. He had been moved around positions quite a bit and perhaps the question coming into the season was where would he play and would he pin down ‘one’ position. He started the season right back and made this spot his own. He showed his very good technical ability as he always looked to get the ball down and play. He got forward very well and continued his scoring run with a few excellent finishes as he often was the furthest man forward. He also showed his ability in the air and was a threat from set plays/corners. His raids down the right side as he teamed mostly with Lee Williamson was one of our chief threats as the season began. He always wanted to get on the ball and make things happen. He is not lightning fast nor amazingly tricky but he had a knack of getting past his men and overlapping or coming inside and his crossing for the most part was very good as evidence right at the end of the season when he made goal v Stevenage that put us through to the final. He also scores goals and got 6 for the season which is very good for a full back.
He did have some poor games and a few spells of so-so games and the stupid ill discipline versus Oldham cost us dear. Unfortunately he was involved in another moment that directly cost us promotion when he missed the kick in the shoot out that would have had us on the edge of victory. His defensive work still has to improve massively as against teams who have out and out wingers who attack; he gives them too much space and often gets in poor positions. He needs to concentrate on the basics and stop his man/the cross more. His skill on the ball and drive going the other way will always attract interest from higher clubs. If he gets the other aspect right then he will of course go onto better things than United. At the moment he still needs to improve and like Maguire I hope he stays rather than going to a middling Championship side where he again may be in and out of the team and thus lead to him regressing.
Jean Francois Lescinel
He had a decent game in the opening match at Oldham showing pace and athleticism. He was also quite tall and decent to cover in the air. He did have a few moments in future games that could only be described as ‘Nosworthy-esque’ and his overplay sometimes got us into problems. He had some very good games but then some absolute shockers too and was very inconsistent but then got back into the side just before Xmas and stayed there making the spot his own despite the competition from Marcus Williams. He had started to really show some consistency and recall a few goal saving tackles/blocks (Bury away stood out) but then he got a pretty bad injury against Oldham and we never saw him again. We missed his pace, covering and height. Whilst he was not totally convincing we saw that when we plugged in Williams, Hill, Taylor etc, Francois was easily the best of a poor bunch and we lamented his absence. Hopefully he can come back soon and show some consistency when he does return not miss too much of next season but heard he could be out for up to a year when he did it so we may not see him until Xmas.
Taylor has not really been that successful in the previous two campaigns and indeed missed the final stages of the relegation campaign due to injury. He did not return until March and actually had a decent game versus Oldham and was at no fault for the chuck away defeat. He then was oddly taken out of the side after maybe his best game for the club and only played the odd few games/substitute appearances before returning for the home game against Stevenage when he looked poor. Taylor was often defended by many saying he was not that bad but I disagreed. He is weak in the tackle, gets in awful positions, is quite slow and offers nothing from an attacking sense. He runs in an odd manner and does not look like an athlete at all. His United career was summed up when strangely he was brought on to take a penalty in the final which of course he missed. His contribution as a United player in three seasons was very limited and he will no doubt now return to even lower down the divisions.
Ertl was brought in as a utility man that could play centre back, right back and also in central midfield and had been a mixed bag the previous campaign. He did not exactly convince in any of the positions and was in and out of the side. He began this season on the treatment table and did not really return until after Xmas when he had the odd game here and there but he had a few shockers at right back and a few anonymous games in midfield (Scunthorpe I think where he missed a sitter?) . He then spent the closing stages of the game as a substitute or did not even make the bench which said it all. Another who seemed an affable kind of chap but simply not good enough lacking pace, technique, mobility and touch. He will probably return to Europe and I know he was linked with a few German clubs last season.
Williams was drafted in as cover for Francois whose bookings and minor injuries has started to mount up. Williams began well on loan with a few promising games but quickly his form dipped and he made some poor defensive mistakes, got in bad positions and lacked the ability to control or pass the football consistently. He did get forward more than Francois but even these adventures forward were a bit mixed in their success. I am unsure why he was signed on a permanent basis as even Wilson did not seem totally convinced by him. He lost his place as quickly as he had gained it as Francois came back in. He then got an injury and even when he recovered he completely disappeared from the first team squad for the run in as Hill came in. Next season he has a chance become the starting left back with Francois out but unsure if we see him as the future in this position.
He had always looked a fairly steady player when I had seen him at Bristol City, Preston and Wolves but had seemingly lost his way as he was in the reserves at Blackpool. He seemed a decent loan signing on the face of it, especially needed after the Oldham debacle. However after poor start at Walsall and then being partly at fault for another goal at Colchester, he was mostly appalling in the games I saw. He made mistakes, looked clumsy on the ball and seemed to have his boots on the wrong way round at times. He really did look a poor player and even had some fans crying out for Taylor. He was that bad. Still fair play to him he did well in the two games against Stevenage and actually gave a solid display in the final and hit the best kick of the whole shoot out. He actually ended up playing 12 games. I never felt we would sign him, even if we had gone up and with Blackpool also releasing him; he has to find a new club. He probably is a lower division player now and we may well come up against him somewhere next year.
He played one game against Walsall; a game I did not see but evidently after a decent first half he was culpable in the second half as we threw three goals away. He then had a few sub appearances but never was seen again and I assume he went back even before the end of the season?
Connor Brown Brown was seen as a promising youngster a few years ago but seemed to get a bad injury and lost his way. He never quite got back to the promise he had shown and was not even getting in the reserves by season end. He will probably be best known now for his ill-advised comments after the Evans court case which led to him rightly being suspended by the club; this suspension maybe ran right until his contract ran out?
Terry Kennedy Kennedy was seen as a real talent and came on at Swansea in the final game of the previous campaign but he got quite a few bad injuries and has barely played this season. He has to get fit and push on this season making himself a regular in the reserves early on and showing he can play first team football. His partner from that successful youth cup run, Maguire, has really done well and he must at least capitalise on some of his own promise this year and get some games maybe out on loan in non-league. I did think he was out of contract but maybe I was wrong or they have offered him a rolling contract?
Marc Warren Warren came in from Australia but never threatened the first team in his couple of years at the club and it was no surprise he moved on.
Seamus Connelly Connelly was seen as a promising prospect when he came in from Irish youth football but he never progressed. He ended up at Alfreton on loan at the end of the season and may have to go into non-league to make a living in the game.
Ellian Parrino Parrino was a player I never thought was good enough as he simply could not defend and got routinely skinned by his winger or could not stop crosses. I could not understand why we brought him back this season and it seemed this was not a Wilson signing? Parrino came in against Bradford in the JP Trophy and his performance was embarrassingly bad. He was taken off eventually after an unheard of winger had given him a torrid time. He was released not long after thankfully saving some funds after we had squandered too much already on a player out of his depth.
Player / Position Years remaining (contract expires)
Neil Collins 1 year (2013)
Matthew Lowton 2 years (2014)
Harry Maguire 3 years (2015)
Chris Morgan 1 year (2013)
Marcus Williams 1 year (2013)
Jean Francois Lecsinel 1 year (2013)
Terry Kennedy contract unknown
If we keep Maguire and Lowton and Francois gets fit we have a solid back four and maybe as good as you will get at this level. The two youngsters are improving all the time and with Collins really improving and showing consistency we have a mostly settled and solid back line. They had their moments and made mistakes/had poor games as individuals and as a collective but those 3 for the most part had good seasons. Left back it seems the man who would get the start (Francois) is not going to be back until well into the season which means we may have to sign a left back as Wilson does not seem to trust Williams, which is odd as he signed him! Maybe Williams will be given another chance to start there but it is the weakest position going into the season if they all stay.
Of course if we lose Maguire and Lowton then we have problems and need to sign maybe 2/3 brand new defenders and that is without backups as we do not have any. The cover we currently have is non-existent with Morgan/Kennedy both at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of experience/careers. Morgan seems no closer to first team action and I believe an announcement on his future (or lack of it as a player) will be on the way soon. He has been out for 18 months now and I cannot see he is ever going to come back.
In an ideal world we keep Maguire/Lowton, sign a new left back and maybe a centre back for cover but I feel we may lose at least one, maybe both of the aforementioned players. Then we are in trouble and will have to really rely on scouting network to completely rebuild the defence.