Often Partisan

Keep, Sell or Release – Midfielders

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 third of five installments of that analysis.

Chris Burke

Whilst he didn’t quite hit the highlights of last season Burke has still been a large part of what has been good about Blues this year. There is no doubt in my mind that on his game Burke is one of the best players in the division; a true threat down the right flank who can shoot (and score) with either foot. I do think that it’s possible his head might have been turned in the winter window as he did seem to suffer performance-wise and I wasn’t surprised that in the first game after the transfer window shut he turned on the style once more – ironically against the very team that had tried to buy him.

Burke is out of contract at the end of the season but Blues hold a two-year option on the Scot and as such he is a saleable asset. Burke is 30 in December and I am going to say something that I don’t think people will agree with but I think we should take up the option on his contract and then sell him. It’s not that I don’t like Burke as a player – I do – but I think in Nathan Redmond we have a better prospect who can play in the same position and we could probably get a decent fee for him – maybe a million or so. Should things change drastically – ie we’re taken over in May or June or it looks very imminent by then – then maybe my mind might be swayed but in the current climate it’s the best option I think.

Hayden Mullins

It’s been a hard one for Mullins. He’s been the target for quite a bit of vitriol on social media and the Blues forums online for perceived poor performances but I don’t see that. I will quite happily agree that he is limited as a player – we’re in the Championship after all – but he’s not anywhere near as bad as some want to make out. That being said, I do think that he’s probably not the kind of player who would necessarily have a long-term future at the club.

The problem with Mullins is three-fold. Mullins is contracted to the club until June 2014, which means he couldn’t be released without a pay-off or an agreement. Secondly, his age (34), which puts him as one of the oldest players in the squad means he has no real sell-on value as clubs aren’t going to want to pay much for a player who will be 35 in the next campaign. Thirdly, his wages are probably at the upper end of what Blues pay (barring Zigic), which in the uncertain financial climate Blues are in isn’t going to help. If we can, I’d release him but I think we’ll probably end up with him in the squad next year.

Darren Ambrose

For me, Darren Ambrose has been one of the biggest disappointments this season. I expected much more of the former Charlton and Crystal Palace man and he’s just not lived up to the pre-season hype. I think the Barnet game was indicative of the kind of player we were getting – he scored a pearler of a goal but didn’t do much else. When he has played he’s not looked up to it – and he’s only made three league starts for us this season.

What makes it worse is Ambrose is contracted to us for another twelve months – meaning like Hayden Mullins unless we can agree a settlement for a release, we’re stuck with him – especially as I can’t see another team coming in. With that in mind the onus is on the Blues coaching staff to coax the talent that Ambrose undoubtedly has because if we can keep him fit and playing as well as he can he would be an asset. Keep unless we can release him.

Ravel Morrison

Rumours of him being thrown out of West Ham preceded the former Manchester United player to Blues and for a while it didn’t look like it was going to happen for him at St Andrews either. I think Clark has had to handle Ravel with real kid gloves but the truth is that when he’s on the pitch he can be absolutely magical – the recent game against Leicester being testament with the delicious give and go that led to the goal marked with the absolute arrogance and supreme confidence as he held onto the ball to allow Caddis to get into position.

Again, with Ravel being on loan it’s a tricky one. There are rumours he’s on a massive wage at West Ham and I think this season might have opened their eyes to what Ravel can do when his mind is on the game. If I were in Clark’s position I think I’d say to Big Sam – look, Ravel is only 20, he needs games week in week out to develop, how about we take him for another year and develop him further, keep him on the straight and narrow. I don’t think we’ll be able to but I’d look to keep him if we could.

Morgaro Gomis

One has to feel a bit for Gomis – he’s been a bit part player since he came to the club two years ago and he’s never really been allowed to make a place in midfield his own. His appearance against Leicester City was just his fortieth in a Blues shirt in all competitions and there were rumours that Blues tried to sell Gomis last summer only for the French-born Senegalese to refuse the move.

Despite all this, I do like Gomis. He’s not the most brilliant of players but he does give whatever he can when he plays and he will play anywhere he is asked to – he’s been left midfield and even left back at Blues. He is out of contract at the end of the season but Blues do have an option on it. With Gomis being one of the few members of the squad still in their 20s I’d take up that option – I can’t imagine Morgaro being on a massive amount of wages – and utilise him as a squad player at least next season. Keep

Wade Elliott

Wade is a player who can consider himself unlucky not to the be in the player of the season poll held recently on this site. He’s had a good season, contributing eight goals in forty-three appearances at the time of writing having played in positions across the midfield and behind the striker. His versatility has been key for Blues, allowing them to switch formation between a flat 442 and a counterpunching 4231 with Elliott playing right, left or in the centre as the occasion has demanded.

Elliott is out of contract at the end of the season although there is an option in place. The only thing that makes me think twice about retaining his services is his age; Elliott is 35 in December and whilst it’s wise to keep some old heads in the squad I think Clark will be wondering if he wants to retain a player who is of that age who is on a decent whack at the club. I think we will keep the Southampton-born midfielder but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him released either.

Keith Fahey

It’s a been a very tough season for Fahey. Injury and compassionate leave combined mean that the Dubliner has only made nine appearances in a Blues shirt this season and as such he’s been a big miss. I know that there were a lot of rumours surrounding his compassionate leave and to be honest, most were pretty much untrue – I think Fahey’s subsequent appearances at Middlesbrough and Palace have shown that he does want to play for both Blues and Lee Clark.

Fahey is out of contract in the summer, but Blues do have an option on it. Fahey is 30 now, but I don’t think that should be an issue; I believe when fit he’s probably a first choice in the middle of the park and subsequent he’s a definite keep for me.

Nathan Redmond

Nathan’s second full season in the first team has been difficult for him – he’s not had the same impact as he did last season but after a tough early part of the season he’s come back with a bang and playing on his favoured right side in front of the injured Chris Burke has allowed him to showcase just what he can do.

Nathan enters the last year of his deal next season and it’s my belief Blues need to do what they can to keep him – to the point of selling Chris Burke, as I have previously mentioned. As Nathan develops in this division his value will increase further; I think Redmond is mature enough to know that first team football is what he needs and he will continue to get it at Blues whilst a move to a Premier League club might see him sat on the bench or farmed out on loan somewhere. If we can I’d keep him and try to tie him down for a couple of seasons further – but of course finances dictate. Keep.

Jonathan Spector

Spector has had a tricky season this year; played at right back and in midfield yet he has suffered a few injuries and thus hasn’t had a settled run in the team. However I will admit I like the American; he’s versatile, offering options on the bench and in the squad and that versatility means he can slot in to cover injuries and what not when needed.

Spector is out of contract at the end of the season but Blues do have an option on him and I think it’s one that will be taken up. I think he’s on a decent whack but his age (27) means that he should be at the peak of his career and would make him a better bet in the long term than someone in their mid thirties. Keep

Shane Ferguson

I like Fergie a lot; the on loan Northern Irish midfielder has a cultured left foot, gets forward well, tackles and can defend too. He’s given us a lot of balance on the left flank which was lacking and is also able to support his full back when defending which has been important with Mitch behind him.

It’s not Blues call whether they get to keep him or not but it has been mentioned in the press that they would like to loan him again for next season. I’m not sure of Ferguson’s standing in the Toon pecking order (he’s not French which probably doesn’t help him…) but I’ve been advised that it’s definitely possible and with that in mind he’s a keep if at all possible for me.

Callum Reilly

Reilly has done really well this year; he’s made his way into the squad and become an integral part of Clark’s thinking; he’s also picked up caps for the Irish u21 side which shows that he’s thought of as a talent on a larger scale than just Blues. I think a few people were a bit taken aback when he was first picked but his energy and his tenacity has won him more than a few fans.

Reilly is out of contract at the end of the season but there is an option on that and I fully expect the club to take it up. At 19 Reilly still has a lot of development to do and I think if he can maintain the same levels of consistency and improvement as he has done this year he stands a good chance of making a good career for himself. Keep.

Tomorrow I will look at the strikers

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18 Responses to “Keep, Sell or Release – Midfielders”

  • DoctorD says:

    I hope you’re going to email these excellent synopses to Lee Clark — you should charge him for the information in fact.

  • Rosalino says:

    I’m sure I read re: Burke that we had to write to him before the end of the January transfer window to declare we would take up the option. It hasn’t been published that we have, so I expect he will invoke his right to leave. My guess is that we can’t afford whatever the option would be and therefore would be seeking to renegotiate anyway.

    Burke is a human not a commodity so taking up the option to then sell him seems petty, bearing in mind that he could demand two years pay to leave which would be in excess of any fee we were likely to receive. In the expectation that we will have to sell one of Davies/Redmond this summer if not both, I’d keep Burke if we can get him to stay. I also think that Burke’s effectiveness in comparison to last year says more about Caddis than him, but that’s just my opinion.

    • almajir says:

      I think you may be incorrect about his option works.

      It’s my understanding (and I will check to confirm) that Blues have until the third thursday in May to confirm who they are offering deals to and who they are releasing. Any option would have to be taken up before then – and again, it’s my understanding that it’s in the club’s favour and thus they do not have to negotiate anything to “activate” it.

      Whilst I agree that Burke is a human being etc, his contract is an asset to the club and as such if we can ensure it remains an asset by extending it via the option and then sell it to liquidate the value of it in the best way possible, then that is an avenue I would personally pursue. Yes, it’s a bit harsh and yes, it’s possibly not ethical but football doesn’t seem to be an ethical business.

      • Rosalino says:

        Tatts posted this in Jan:

        Colin Tattum ‏@colintattum 29 Jan
        #bcfc do have option(s) on Chris Burke contract. If he is not sold before window shuts & they not activated, he will be a Bosman in June.

        I would also guess activating the option is likely to include a loyalty bonus and a pay rise too.

        • Kaje says:

          I think that’s more a case of Tattum wording it a little wrongly.

          To my knowledge, there’s no strict deadline that a contract option has to be exercised by, except for a reasonable period prior to the end of the contract. I.E. not just the day before.

  • Ebeneezer says:

    So, keep everyone, with a view to flogging them on unless they are too old to sell. The thing is at this time there is no new owner on the horizon (or at least not yet) and very little financial reserves left at the club.

    What fazes me most is your comments about Chris Burke, last season he was tremendous, sticking over loads of crosses and assists, scoring goals for fun and virtually ever-present. This season hes had a hopeless case of a manager, who knows nothing about geeing up players for the next game, and Burkey has suffered, probably because hes the type of player who needs to be told hes absolutely brilliant week in week out. When there was a transfer bid from Forest, and we rejected it out of hand, that woke him up, made him feel needed, and special again, lo and behold, he scores the winner, and then goes on a nice vein of form, reminding blues fans what its like to have a flying winger again.

    Nathan Redmond is the one I’d choose to sell on, simply because hes worth a lot more money, because hes young and still developing, and supposedly worth “£12M”. Whether that is true, god only knows, but a more realistic figure might be £7M, and I’d snatch yer fingers off for it.

    At the end of the day (grrr I hate that cliché) its all about balancing the books, and blues without a new owner, have many books to balance, to put it mildly.

    Oh and I cannot see a good reason to keep Johnathan Spectre, hes an ok defensive right back but a very poor midfielder, his distribution is generally woeful, and he only passes backwards or sideways. Ideal for getting rid of. If hes on a decent wage, mores the reason to get shut of his useless passing. Give me a Dean Peer type from league 2 anyday!

  • MikeB says:

    You are reading that wrongly. If is not sold before Jan (which he wasn ‘t) and they do not take up their option – it doesn’t say it has to be done in January and they are always taken up at the end of the season – he is a free . Blues have still time to make a decision on Burke.

  • Blue Steve says:

    With the budget being drastically reduced by 8 million next season I think we need to be much more ruthless than you are suggesting. We simply can not afford to have players such as Fahey, Spector on the treatment table and Gomis not even making the bench all earning good money. I would much rather bring one player in who will be a regular starter. As for the likes of Mullins and Ambrose we are pretty much stuck with them. I hope LC thinks very carefully about his summer buys because they have to make an impact on the first team.

  • romanblue says:

    spector mullins ambrose and also get rid of lovenkrands.we wont get ravel,west ham aint no mugs they’ll want him back.redmond will be sold.i wouldnt trust clark to buy me a bag of crisps let alone give him any money left over.

  • Solihullbcfc says:

    Heard a rumour yesterday that Redmonds mom has been saying he’s too big a player for bcfc & will be out the door potentially to Palace as a replacement for Zaha.

    • Staffordshire Blue Nose says:

      is that the same rumour that came from the irish bookmaker for the national…. If Nathan goes it won’t be to another championship team it will be to an established Prem team. Twitter is a maverlous thing you know just look at what comes out of Joey Bartons account…!!!

  • BhamCityJulian says:

    That’s exactly what I’d do with Burke. Nathan has shown that the right wing is his best position and deserved to be first choice there.

    I don’t really think Burke wants to be here and whilst I done think he’s Premier quality it only needs one team to think he is for us to get £1m for him and he’d jump at the chance

  • BhamCityJulian says:

    Blue Steve makes a very good point: some ‘keeps’ need to ‘go’ for financial reasons. The problem is how to get them out of the door

  • BhamCityJulian says:

    Ebenezeer, are we not trying to build a successful team? Selling Redmond won’t do that! Are you a bean counter by profession? :-)

  • Big Al says:

    Spector should be released. His versatility for me just means he play an average game in 3 different positions. Gomez is a tough call. He’s the most inconsistent player I can remember at the Blues. When I reflect on games I’m never usually sure whether he had a good game or a bad one because I can recall so many positive and negatives.

  • jeffwealands says:

    Not a very radical assessment. Surely keeping the same players who Clarke has failed to manage properly this season for another season, will just result in the same series of poor performances next season. All at a cost which will not match end product. Something has to change I feel

  • Ali Duncan says:

    Nicely ties in with last night’s performance. For comfort on the ball and ball retention Ravel is the best I’ve seen in the centre of midfield at the Blues for a long time. Probably in the same mould as Mark Ward and in fact better as his quick feet are a joy to watch. I think LC should move heaven and earth to get him back for another season. If he maintains the right attitude this boy is going to be a real star. He has grown and matured over the season and the last 8 games or so he has been sensational.

    Another one who also impressed me last night was Wade. I know he has taken a bit of flak when we’ve played 4-5-1 but he was stronger in a more central role and behind Ravel and Nathan I think he is probably the most technically gifted player at the club. His goal scoring record is also excellent and he is someone I would offer 1 more year to. He can certainly be an impact player off the bench if the legs aren’t are strong as they once were and the man certainly has an eye for the spectacular (Boro & Leeds)

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