Often Partisan

Keep, Sell or Release – Defenders

With the end of the season nearing and with so many players out of contract I thought it would be a good idea to go through the squad and analyse who I think we should keep, who we can get away with selling and who needs to be released. This is the second of five installments of that analysis.

Stephen Carr

Losing Stephen Carr has been a body blow to Blues this season; despite his age he was still one of the best full backs outside the top flight and we’ve missed his presence and his leadership. I have no doubt that he could truly return to peak fitness – so many people proclaim that Carr is like a machine his fitness is so good and therefore the option to extend his contract is one that has to be taken seriously by the club despite his injury woes this season.

That being said, Carr is also getting on. He’s 37 in August and whilst he has good fitness when he’s not injured, it’s not going to be that way forever. I can imagine Clark likes him a lot (and probably knows him well from their shared time at Newcastle) but I’m of the belief that sentiment has no place in football. I’ve said repeatedly on here that Carr has shown no real interest in coaching or management from what I know; he’s got a chain of restaurants he’s built up outside the football world and I suspect when he does hang up his boots that is what he will turn to rather than coaching qualifications. As I don’t think he’s going to stay in football, he’s on high wages and he is one of the few players on the books older than I am, it’s a reluctant Release from me.

David Murphy

Like Carr, losing Murphy has hurt Blues somewhat this season. After a tricky time in Blues colours Murphy really came into things last season, scoring seven times in what was a truly breakout campaign for him. However, knee cartilage damage has kept him out of the team since November 2012 and Blues have been forced to rely on the experience of Paul Robinson and the youth of Mitch Hancox as cover.

Murphy is one of the few Blues players still under contract to Blues when the season is up, with Birmingham having taken a two-year option up on him at the end of last season. I have no doubt he’ll be back towards something like fitness by pre-season in June/July and such he is very likely to be an important part of our squad plans for next season. Whilst I suspect his wages will be in the higher end of the squad, I don’t think they will be necessarily too high to mean that we have to offload and thus he’s very much a Keep.

Steven Caldwell

It’s been a tough year for the Blues vice-captain. He was very much part of the first-choice centre half partnership at Blues last year and for most of this but of late has found himself relegated to the bench after some sub-par displays have seen Paul Robinson given the slot ahead of him. The Scot made some great performances last season but this year they have been more sporadic as his age seems to have caught up with him somewhat – his legs have slowed and his passing has become more erratic as the season has gone on.

That being said, when you listen to Caldwell talk about the game it’s obvious to me that he has got a footballing brain; he’s capable of analysing where play has fallen down and he does have some real tactical nous. Couple that with the leadership that comes with being club vice-captain and I can understand why I hear people in the media say that Caldwell could make a good coach or manager. With Caldwell, it comes down to money and his future; if he’s not on too much dough and he’s willing to work on his coaching badges and passing on his knowledge to the younger squad players, he’s worth exercising the option on his contract. Keep.

Pablo Ibanez

I don’t think Pablo has ever really settled at Blues; in fact, I’ve heard a stat which I have to check out that he has never played more than four first team games in a row in English football. His time at Blues has been stop-start at the best of times and I don’t think he’s ever really impressed the fans much when he has played.

Pablo’s contract runs out at the end of this season and as far as I’m aware there is no option on it in either his or the club’s favour. With this in mind, the fact I know he’s one of the better paid players and his record at Blues being pockmarked with injuries etc, I think Ibanez will be waving adios to Blues. Release

Curtis Davies

Despite a few shaky performances here and there Davies has been one of the better performers this year in a Blues shirt – enough to win my vote for player of the season at any rate. With Carr injured and Caldwell dropped the leadership of the side has rested on Davies’ shoulders and I think the Leytonstone-born defender has done well in that regard – he definitely seems to be one of the players that the younger lads look up to.

Davies is one of the last “crown jewels” left in the squad; a year left on his contract and a year option after that means that he should still command a decent fee in the summer if there is interest – and there was definite interest in the winter window for him with late bids from Stoke and Blackburn rejected by the club. With Davies, it all comes down to money – if we’re desperate we will have to sell him but if there is any way we can hold on to him I would and build a new, younger side around him. Keep.

Mitch Hancox

It’s amazing to think that Blues were close to releasing Mitch at the end of last year such is the impact he’s made this term. He’s steadily improved since coming into the first team and doesn’t look out of place in the lineup whatsoever. His attitude has stood out – you can see he’s a huge bluenose and the scars (and lack of teeth) he has bear evidence of a player who will truly run through brick walls for the club.

Mitch is out of contract at the end of the season but to me this is a no-brainer; get him signed up on a two year deal and tell him that next season he’s got to try to dislodge Murphy from the slot. Mitch is still only 19 which means time is still on his side – and hopefully he’s got a bright future at the club to look forwards to. Keep.

Paul Caddis

I remember when we signed Caddis on loan from Swindon a few people questioned why we’d take on a player from a lower division club on a temporary deal – I remember thinking that it was a strange one that left us a little unbalanced. However, Caddis has been a great signing; an excellent right back who likes to get forward, who can defend and offers his right midfielder both an option on the overlap and support behind.

Blues have already made a couple of bids to take Caddis on permanently; this doesn’t surprise me as he is the right kind of player both in type and in age for a new-look Blues side. I think Blues should continue to do what they can to secure his services for next season. Keep.

Paul Robinson

Robbo has gone from being signed on monthly deals to being a mainstay of the Blues defence, in what has been a good season for him. I did worry when we took him on – especially because of his age (34) and his disciplinary record but I now have nothing but admiration for him because of the way that he has played for us.

Obviously, his contract is up at the end of the season and thus comes the tricky decision as to whether his contract should be extended. I can understand why people would say “thanks and goodbye” to Robbo but looking at the options we have and the money the club doesn’t have makes me inclined to say that I want Blues to keep him.

Tomorrow is the turn of the midfielders.

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23 Responses to “Keep, Sell or Release – Defenders”

  • Glyn rees says:

    Spot Almajir nothing more to say

  • tonyd says:

    There’s one glaring omission here – Will Packwood. Before his broken leg, and the run of injuries that forced Lee Clark to turn to youth, he was already getting games and putting in impressive performances. He’s versatile, too, having played at centre back and right back. I believe -Dan will be able to confirm – that he can also play in midfield in front of the back four. An obvious keep.

  • Blue Steve says:

    Agree with all your choices apart from Caldwell. If we keep Robinson I’m not sure there is room for another CB over 32. Factor in that he is a Hughton player I would guess that LC will jetison him to.

  • tonyd says:

    Didn’t mean to doubt you! I look forward to the next three installments.

  • Agent Mcleish says:

    A well researched and balanced blog IMO. It all comes down to the new ownership and the financial situation next year. Davies for example is a prem player and has expressed his (understandable) desire to play there. I think that one of the newly promoted clubs such as Cardiff may make a move for him in the summer and I can’t see him being at Blues next season.
    Caddis would be a great buy but again I can’t see that happening under the current ownership as they can’t match the current modest asking price.
    Hancox has got to go down as the most improved player this season.

  • bluenosed says:

    If Davies has to be sold (which I think he does) lets hope the deal is done early. There is nothing worse than a player having a pre season, playing the first few games, becoming part of the Managers plans then being sold on the 31st August.

    Caldwell seems a pretty switched on and I think if there is a chance somewhere else he will go.

  • Big Al says:

    Only disagree with one of those – Caldwell. If he declines at the same rate next season he really will be a liability.

  • James says:

    Good article. I’d keep/release all of the players mentioned except Caldwell as per Big A’s commentsl. Shame, as he is a decent pro but another season in the Championship might be a step too far

    KRO

  • The Francis Fake says:

    I have been a big fan of Murphy however if we keep him that means he or Hancox will be on the bench and this scenario I would rather give the no. 3 berth to Hancox who is developing rapidly. Murphy may struggle after along injury also. I would like Murphy to remain a squad player or even possibly slot in on the left wing, but, I’m unsure he would accept this. No doubt Murphy’s wages could have an influence on any decisions.

    • Radavis says:

      I agree that one of the two wouldn’t be at left back, but if Hancox worked on his delivery there is every chance he could play at left midfield in my mind. Especially against bigger teams when we need a more defence minded midfielder. But in terms of Left back you have to play the best available and that would be Murphy.

  • DoctorD says:

    If Curtis Davies is one of our “crown jewels” what’s that saying about the rest of the squad?

  • Macc Lad says:

    I think we’ll see Caldwell and Robinson released, Carr retire and Davis sold. They’ll be replaced with younger players from the lower divisions, or frees from the top two divisions.
    I fully expect most of the older players to leave in the summer, and for the wage bill next year to be substantially lower as a result.

  • Kaje says:

    I would actually argue that I’d rather keep Ibanez over Caldwell, especially following this season’s showings.

    Ibanez hasn’t been anywhere near as bad as some of the performances Caldwell has put in this season. I’d much rather he stay, and we move Caldwell on.

    • Teej says:

      I agree with Kaje, if it was between Caldwell or Ibanez, I’d go with Ibanez. I just don’t think he’s had a good enough run.

    • Ryan Deeney says:

      Caldwell over Ibanez. Neither are great defenders now, exactly, but Caldwell is still a leader in the squad as well as in defence.

  • tmsblues says:

    Retain Murphy, Hancox as left back/left midfield cover since Ferguson may not return. For certain keep Robbo who will provide experienced leadership and cover across the back and I supect is on a sensible wage. A Cadis deal will be done I reckon and is needed. Anyone would want to keep Curtis but suspect he’s due to be on £20k pw next season and so may have to be flogged for budget reasons. His £2m + fee will of course just about cover Ziggy’s wages (what a waste)! Sorry but Caldwell and Ibanez and sadly Carr to go and be replaced by younger new or academy recruits. Just a pity Carr didn’t get to showcase his talents one more time this season but to retain him unless on a pay play basis would be too bigger risk.

  • Bcfc1955 says:

    Hancox has done well this year but he still has much too prove on the defensive side of his game
    Murphy has to be retained and be first choice and Hancox has to dislodge him

    Not to give Robinson a one year contract would be unwise you can only Gauge the players contribution and value based on what he is delivering and Robinson is still delivering constantly

    I would liked to have seen Spector in the defenders assessments as I believe he is the best right back we have and that is where I would play him

  • Luke=blue says:

    Agree with most of them but I think we need to keep Ibanez

  • prewarblue says:

    Murphy I will agree is a good full back but now has dodgy knees, twice in the past two seasons he has been out more often than in due to long term injury,,,,Hancox is the way forward,,,,,Murphy to get a short term contract to prove he has overcome his problems.
    Caldwell MUST Go,,,,,,he,s a liability,,,,Robinson to get a year long contract,,,,Ibanez hasnt been given a real chance to prove himself,,,,he may not be world class but he,s better than Caldwell.
    Carr has basicly retired to run his resturants

  • The Flying Pig says:

    Carr – if he is up for another season, offer him a one-year deal – perhaps on a basic, plus pay-as you play deal if he’ll accept it.
    Ibanez – release – he’s too injury prone and I’m not sure he’s up to the same mark as Carr in terms of his quality/reliability at this level.
    Caldwell – release.
    Murphy – release – I rate Murph at this level, but Hancox has done well and I expect we need to save on his wages.
    Davies – KEEP – but I think it’s inevitable he will go this summer.
    Caddis – depends on Carr’s retention or otherwise. I like Caddis, but I doubt we can afford to have both him and Carr and I think Carr is better.
    Hancox – keep
    Robbo – one of this year’s bright spots, but he’s knocking on and is not the answer at CB. He has earned another year for his commitment, but if we have got a few quid to spend then I’d be tempted to make a really tough decision and let him go.

    If we have Caddis, Robbo and Hancox, our defence is too short for Championship football. As good as Robbo has been, I feel we have to get a young CB in place – perhaps Packwood or one of the others might come through alongside Davies, but if Davies does go, then we have to try and get in an experienced campaigner at CB alongside one of the kids, IMO. I do not believe either Ibanez or Caldwell is good enough to fulfil that role.


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