Often Partisan

Keep, Sell or Release – the Kids

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 fifth of five installments of that analysis.

Koby Arthur

Seventeen-year-old Koby only came to the club at the back-end of last season and after impressing hugely whilst with the Academy and Community Trust has found himself signed to a two year pro deal and making his first team debut at home to Wolves as a substitute.

Big things are expected of the young Ghanaian; indeed, everyone I’ve spoken to at the club are unanimous in their praise for the kid and have high expectations for where his future will take him. From what I’ve seen I think he’ll be a wide player, a tricky winger who can play on either side with either foot. Time will tell just how far Arthur progresses. Keep.

Akwasi Asante

Asante has missed a large portion of this season due to injury and thus it’s been a tough one for him; had he been fit in December/January I suspect he’d have made first team starts over Jake Jervis but a troublesome niggle kept him out for a few months. Subsequently he’s been loaned to Shrewsbury of League One to give him some match practice and he’s made four sub appearances for the Shrews without scoring.

The Dutchman is out of contract at the end of the season and no option is in place for him. He’s 20 now and I suspect that time is rapidly running out for him to make it with Blues. I can see him being offered a six month contract with Blues with the onus being put on him to turn it into a full season; I would like him to make it but he’s had a few big injuries now and I think he’s got to step up and show that he can do it. Keep

Will Packwood

You’ve got to feel for Will. Just as he was breaking into the side on a prolonged basis he’s out injured on a prolonged basis, having broken both his tibia and fibula against Leeds United. It was a shame as the young American had really made good strides into this professional career this season and it did look like he was going to push on to becoming a fully fledged first teamer like Mitch Hancox and Callum Reilly.

Packwood is out of contract at the end of the season and there is no option on his deal. I sincerely hope that Blues offer him another year to prove himself rather than releasing him because of his injury. Packwood offers some real versatility as a defender or defensive midfielder and I think he’s worth a year more – especially as he won’t be on much dough. Keep.

Jack Deaman

Whilst the former Wrexham trainee has done well in getting first a six-month contract extension in October and a first team squad number, he’s not really pushed on from there. Still yet to make a first team appearance, Deaman has gone on loan at Cheltenham where he has also not yet made his first team bow. Deaman turns 20 in May, and he really needs to be pushing towards first team football now.

With the financial climes not being brilliant at the club, I think we will keep Deaman but maybe only on a six month deal for him to prove himself. I like him; he’s got a mean right foot and the height to be a decent centre half but he needs game time. Keep.

Oliver Lee

I am truly at a loss as to why we signed Olly Lee on loan. From what I’ve seen he doesn’t seem to be as good as our reserve midfielders, and with him being in 22 in July he’s an overage player for the reserve team next year.

Lee is out of contract at Barnet at the end of the season, and I don’t think Blues should even consider thinking of offering him a deal – in truth, this deal had the same whiff of nepotism about it that the Cian Hughton one did. Release.

Emmitt Delfouneso

Nineteen-year-old centre-back Delfouneso has done well this year, impressing in the development squad and nearing a first team debut when he unfortunately succumbed to injury. He’s since returned to fitness and has appeared for the development squad again as he looks to return to the level he was at before.

Emmitt faces an uncertain time. He’s at an age now where he needs to be offered a new pro deal or he will join the ranks of the young players who didn’t make it and as yet there has been no confirmation whether he will make it or not. I’m inclined to say that I’d keep him – mainly because I don’t personally think Blues should be as quick to release players as they have been but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him released.

Josh Hawker

After being called from the Tilton to sit on the bench in one game this season, it’s all gone a bit quiet for Josh. He played in the pre-season friendly against Shrewsbury in a short cameo role as a sub and looked quite useful but I can’t recall seeing much of him since the win in the Birmingham Senior Cup over Continental Star – whether this is down to injury or loss of form I don’t know.

Hawker is the final member of a quartet of players to have been with the team since they were 7/8 years old and are now 19 – Hancox, Reilly and Redmond have all made their bows and are integral parts of the squad but Josh has been somewhat left behind. If it’s injury that has kept him out then maybe he is worth keeping but if it’s loss of form he will probably find himself released.

Reece Hales

It’s been a meteoric year for the young striker and one that has been capped with a pro deal into the bargain. I will confess to not knowing much about young Reece at the start of the campaign but he has impressed the coaching staff at Blues with his workrate and his application and thus it’s no surprise he’s found himself on the fringes of the first team squad.

Next year it will start all over again and it will be a test of his temperament as he will have to kick on and improve further to earn himself a further new deal and more chances in the first team setup. I think from what I’ve seen he can do it – I’ll be interested to find out. Keep.

James Fry

For young defensive prospect Fry, this has been a good year. Skippering the u18 team in the FA Youth Cup, on the fringes of the development squad side, first team number and now a professional contract offered in the last month. Having see Fry play a few times I’m not surprised he’s been offered a deal as I’ve always been impressed whenever I’ve seen him play.

At 18 he now knows he has to push on in the Development Squad and prove that he’s sufficient backup to the first team that they can go to him in the event of injuries; it’s going to demand continued improvements and consistency but I think he can do it. Keep

Marcel Henry-Francis

A young striker who has played for the under 21 side on a non-contract basis, Henry-Francis was given a squad number when the numbers were massively depleted back in January

However, his stock hasn’t risen much further since then and of late he’s not been in the u21 side, which only leads me to believe that he will be released come the end of the season.

Eddy Gnahoré

Whilst some of his age group compatriots have gone on to bigger and better things this year has been a bit of a standstill for Gnahoré. He’s been injured at times and in and out of favour; whilst he undoubtedly has talent I think there are question marks over his temperament and I do wonder if he has what it takes to make the final step up to the first team.

Gnahoré has a contract until 2014, so he doesn’t have to worry about getting a new deal in the summer but next season promises to be a make or a break one for the 19-year-old Frenchman. If he can showcase his skill and keep his head, then he will make it – if he can’t, he will find himself completely left behind. Keep.

Ryan Higgins

One of two non-contract players regularly playing in the u21 side, Higgins has been impressive at both right back and right midfield. Released by Everton at the end of the 2011-12 season, he’s been at Blues since the start of the season and I will have to admit to being impressed by the young scouser on several occasions.

Higgins has now been offered a pro deal, which is of no surprise but there is more that can come from him next season. Should Carr and/or Caddis not be retained, Higgins is good enough in my opinion to make the step up to the first team and I think that has to be his aim for the new season. Keep.

Fraser Kerr

Fraser has been on loan at Motherwell this season, and the 20-year-old has made eleven league appearances for the Steelmen. He’s also progressed to the Scottish u21 side, making three appearances at that level.

Kerr is out of contract at the end of the season and there is no option on his deal; unfortunately I think his career at Blues has probably come to an end because I don’t think he has done enough to merit another year as an understudy. That being said, if the cuts are as deep as they potentially could be, he could still be kept. Release.

Graham Hutchison

20-year-old Scot Graham Hutchison has spent most of this season out on loan with spells at Lincoln City and Worcester City to his name. However, he didn’t really settle into the first team at either club and on his return has had to be content with being a sub at u21 level.

Hutchison is out of contract at the end of the season and I don’t see him being offered another deal; he really needed to impose himself on loan and get himself action week in week out. Release.


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41 Responses to “Keep, Sell or Release – the Kids”

  • Dan H says:

    Is the Keeper Callum Preston a good player? How do you rate him in comparison to Nick Townsend and Butland. I’ve not seen him play yet

  • tonyd says:

    How’s Nabay been doing since he signed his Academy deal?

  • mark says:

    We will find out shortly from clark in the coming months who will be in the final shake up, again like you said in your summary Dan this was a great chance for some of younger players to prove clark wrong…. It going to be what always happen at blues, Full surprises, shocks, disappointments, and finally horror, hey that’s what being a blue fan is all about….gosh it better than x-factor…………only joking…Kro

  • Big Al says:

    I’ve never seen most of these guys play before but surely if Asante and Deaman can’t make the first team of league two clubs, they are perhaps not ready for our first team.

    The other dynamic to this ‘stick or twist’ debate is whether there is talent out there that is better than what we’ve got for the right price.

  • zenzero says:

    Think people forget how much of an impact Terry Westley had at this club. It’s safe to say he transformed our academy whilst he was here.

    Al, any news on a potential takeover? It seems to have gone very quiet on that front just recently.

  • Bcfc1955 says:

    Packwood is a must for me to be retained on at least a two year contract with option

    I see him above Hancox and Reilly in the urgency to be tied up

    I also see him being a natural central defender alongside Curtis

  • mark says:

    If davis does go in the summer… Will Packwood and Jack Deaman both stand at 6ft 3ins possible pairing
    in Defense.??

  • Ali Duncan says:

    Packwood – I have high hopes for him.

    I’m also hopeful that assuming Blackburn is an end of season game with nothing to play for that we see a few cameos from some of the young guns mentioned above.

  • Paul Carter the visionary he says:

    No better man than Lee to make the call on these kids. I love the fact that he attends games at all levels of the club unlike the judases McLeish and Hughton. I also admire the way he brings them through at the right rate for the player. Lee obviously knows we we probably need many of these to step up next season so is planning ahead. Thanks for all your hard work Lee, you are the leader of our club in the absence of Pannu and you don’t buckle when things get tough.

    • roskoe says:

      Hi Paul, it always gets me that you call both Eck and CH judases. Big Eck i get, i mean he did go to the vile, although I would put money on you being in the “Mcleish’s football at blues was dire” camp so i felt it was more of a good riddance situation rather than a “lets get bitter” situation. CH had a great season for us and went to a more stable (financially) club than us who still have a good chance of staying in the Prem. I for one don’t blame CH at all, just as I don’t hate Craig Gardener. If you were employed by a company with dodgy owners, not releasing accounts with such an uncertain future wouldn’t you look for stability for you and yours?


      • bluenose08 says:

        well said totally agree !! k.r.o.

      • Marky mark says:

        No I wouldn’t !

        As a footballer my money would be guaranteed, so I would stay and fight for the club until my contract runs out or the club want to sell me, unfortunately CH and McLeish were not man enough for the fight cowards, I know LC won’t run away when things get tough.

        • Staffordshire Blue Nose says:

          Do you really know that…. and would you turn down more money and a stable future, I know I wouldn’t. CH had a decision to make and if it was right for him then thats fine, a judas he isn’t and Paul you should grow up, didn’t see yo today with you ego????

  • Alex T says:

    I’ve not always been the biggest fan of Clark, especially his use of tactics at home.

    However, he deserves credit for the amount of effort he is putting in with the kids, because IMO developing our own talent is the only way a medium size club like ours will ever go on to big things.

    Im hoping that in a couple of years we will have 6 or 7 1st team regulars that have come up from our academy, heck it might even be next year, but I suspect that may be a bit too soo. KRO

    • Staffordshire Blue Nose says:

      I’m with you on this one, LC saving grace for me this year is how he has brought the kids on. Well done for that and well don for finally getting the formation right today, only taken 22 home game to do it….. With the speedy wingewrs we have we should have been playiing 4-5-1 all season.

  • Atahualpa is a BlueNose says:

    Thank you almajir for giving a really good insight into our younger players – most of them we do not really get to see unless they make an appearance for the first team. It is very heartening to know that real strides have been made to try and create a true opportunity for local talent to try and make the grade.

    It’s ironic that it took a shitty situation like at present for some of the younger players, ie Hancox, Butland, Reilly etc to be given the chance to get experience in the first team and squad, but here’s hoping many more make the step-up and we really do get the opportunity to see much more of our ‘own’ players in action. It could also be said that it provides a base for what LC is trying to plan and it also takes the heat off the wage bill when we are in such straits with the BIH/CY situation.

    Even if we do get new owners in the near future, I hope that they have the foresight to try and further develop the academy as oppose to trying to buy their way to success – we’ve been there and done that with mixed results.

    A serious summer ahead for BCFC, both on and off the pitch.

  • mark says:

    Alex T- I would rather be where we are than the wolves mate, old roger should enjoy the 1st Divison….lol what a fall from grace that would be……”I want to play in the premiership” looks good for season on his cv. Bet he’s glad he achieved so much with blues..same with hughton good chance norwich could go down….IMO Clark will make the right choices for blues he stated lots of times in his interviews how passionate he is about our club( more (than our own fans) , and he personally want to succeed, and be successful at our big club….So the home was not good this season..but the away from was excellent.. hopefully he get the both mix right for next season, and we be in the money……premiership here we come….kro.

    • Staffordshire Blue Nose says:

      broken record….. so we have a top six away record and until today we had a bottom six home record…. You rekon LC has had a good season, I think he is starting to get it right but it’s been staring us in the face since Burnley taht 4-5-1 home and away was the way forward, he does it today and we look almost secure, well apart from Mcwhatevey his name was….anyway I’m fed up of arguing with you. And CH is keeping Norwich up and well done to him

  • Tony says:

    Wish the idiot would buckle and go

  • StaffsBlue says:

    There will always be some who will criticise Lee Clark, no matter how successful he may be. Considering the circumstances and conditions that Clark has had to work with, I’d like to know who could have done a better job? Ferguson? Mourhino? Wenger? DiMatteo? Don’t make me laugh!

    Lee Clark has done an excellent job imo. I hope to see him in the manager’s chair next season and to see his blueprint for a young, vibrant squad take shape.

    • roskoe says:

      Well said, LC has had to deal with so much this season and his hard work finally seems to be paying off. I’m going to the Blackburn game and will be singing his name… Maybe i’ll be on my own but hopefully others will join in.


    • BhamCityJulian says:

      F W DiM M wouldn’t probably not have brought in Mullins, Ambrose and Lovenkrands

    • Staffordshire Blue Nose says:

      Totally agree with you, have you noticed his three signings Mullins, Ambrose and Lovenkrands
      are all in the championship side of the year…. His only good signings have been the loans, Fergie, Morrison (when he finally gave him his chance) and Caddis. I would trust LC with my money. He got lucky with the injuries so he had to play the kids who had the passion and desire the players he bought didn’t have.

  • The Flying Pig says:

    Thanks, Almajir, for the info on some of the players who I’ve not yet seen – as a kid I can remeber the likes of TF, Kenny Burns, Mark Dennis, PVDH, Joe Gallagher etc all coming through the ranks and there’s certainly a warmer glow that seems to come to fans for each of the kids that makes it. Some credit must be due to LC for this.

    I have to say that for me, the jury is still out on LC. However, if you’d have asked me at Christmas then I would have said he didn’t seem to know what he was doing and his signings had been uninspiring [even allowing for the dearth of transfer cash to spend]. What’s changed? Well, he has done extremely well in integrating the youngsters into the team and in dealing with a set of injuries to key players that would have upset any side in this division. Even in the darker days pre-Christmas, he always came across to me as a fully committed and hard-working bloke and I must say that the reports in respect of the time he gives to the kids have certainly improved his stock with me.

    I want nothing more than to be on here early next season commenting on the great job he’s doing and enjoying attractive football – especially with a marked improvement in home form.

  • bluenoseneil says:

    On a separate topic, isn’t it intriguing that mathematically we can still both be relegated AND be in the Play-offs?!!!

    Shows you how crazy this season has been for all teams except Cardiff, really…..


  • Marky mark says:

    Thanks for the insight Dan, most of us haven’t seen anything of these kids so we should trust your judgment, mind you I suspect we may see plenty of them next season keys hope they all step up.

    No coincidence our Manager puts in the time and effort withe the youth and the results are coming through, shame Mcjudas and CH didn’t get of the arses and spend some time with them.

  • Tony says:

    Mcleish was best manager we have had

  • Mark says:

    These manager. lea Clark/Richard beal
    Can not be trusted .if marlon kings
    Gone what chance as a young striker got
    Henry-francis been at Birmingham for seven months
    Plus been on the bench 2 times 4 FIRST TEAM only 18 years old
    But never given the chance TO PLAY.if you asK me ,ALL BULL
    MIND UP.

  • Marky mark says:

    No he wasn’t

    Harry Storer Arthur Turner Lou Macari Barry Fry

    All won trophies for BCFC and had far better win percentage

    And not one of them was ginger !

  • Mark says:

    You must be very following
    A different football club
    Have you seen marlon king ,mhf play?
    You must be on the Charlie !!!!!!!!!!!
    And cooking sherry.

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