In Part 1 of our season preview Ed Dominic Roman and Matty Hayward give their verdicts on the guys at the back who will be hoping to keep the TUFC ‘goals against’ column down this season (for a change):
GOALKEEPERS – Alex Bass, Shaun MacDonald
LEFT BACKS – Liam Davis, Ryan Dickson
RIGHT BACKS – Bobson Bawling, Ben Wynter
CENTRE BACKS – Kyle Cameron, George Essuman, Josh Gowling, Jean-Yves Koue Niate, Jacob Sokolik
I always maintain that Goalkeeper is one of the most important positions in any football team, and it appears that in Pompey’s Alex Bass we have recruited a bright young talent this summer. His performances in the friendlies boosted confidence and then the TUFC injury curse struck! Still, assuming it’s not going to affect his season majorly we should be ok with Bass between the sticks (no choppy waters…). Shaun MacDonald stepped in for the Bristol City friendly and made some decent saves, but stature and build-wise looked like a back-up! He’ll get his chance early to put pressure on Bass, so good luck to him.
At Left Wing-Back Gary Owers must have counted himself very lucky to secure Liam Davis for another season. Liam was not perfect last season, far from it – and his attacking play was often let down by the final ball or shot (he loves to shoot). However, he is ideal for the left wing-back role with his ability to get up and down the pitch, whilst also being pretty solid defensively. I doubt they’ll be many better defenders in the division. Liam better stay out of injury trouble, as the current back-up at the moment is midfielder Ryan Dickson – and we don’t want any more square pegs in round holes this season.
Ben Wynter and Bobson Bawling are locked in a battle for the Right Wing-Back spot (I’m assuming we play 3-5-2). Wynter is a natural right back, whilst Bobson is a winger – so Owers will have to decide between Ben’s better defensive instincts and BB’s attacking prowess going forward. Either way I’m not particularly confident! Our right back position has been an ongoing problem for numerous years and it could easily end up being a weakness again in 2018-19.
The success of our Centre-Backs is a difficult one to predict! It looks like (Big) George Essuman and Kyle Cameron are favourites to make up two of the back three, whilst Jacob Sokolik could join them. Essuman and Cameron have looked decent in the PSFs, but if it’s those three in tandem then I am concerned about the lack of leadership again; something that cropped up for much of last season when Josh Gowling was injured. Gowling is still one of our best three centre backs, but is his current mindset right to actually contribute in our first team again? Going by the City game I doubt it. Meanwhile journeyman defender Jean-Yves Koue Niate will surely get some game time before long and could be a valuable man to have in the squad.
The jury is very much out for me on Goalkeepers and Defence. I wouldn’t be surprised if we leak some silly goals as the players struggle to develop an understanding and lose concentration, and there could be early frustration from the Yellow Army to boot as nerves kick in. Who is going to take charge at the back is a question for me? Also can the likes of Essuman and Cameron take their early career promise and make it count at Plainmoor? We’ll soon find out.
DR RATING: 7/10
It is hard to tell whether our Gravy Loving Gaffer will set up with four or five at the back this season. It seems he has built a squad that can accommodate either, with full backs who can both play as wing backs and decent depth in the middle.
In goal, Alex Bass looks a very decent acquisition. We can’t expect a pitch-perfect goalie at this level but he seems to be very alert and eager to kickstart counter attacks which I always like. I know less about Shaun MacDonald, but Owers’ justification for signing him – that he drove a long way – is hardly fulfilling.
Of our five centre backs, three are new signings and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is those three who start the first game. From what I’ve seen, Cameron and Essuman are both decent on the ball, while Jean-Yves Koue-Niate is more of a no-nonsense, physical centre back. To me, Cameron seems the pick of the three and I think the former Toon man can be a seriously good left-sided centre back and is probably an upgrade on our previous occupant of that position. We know a lot more about one of the remaining centre backs than the other.
Jakub Sokolik remains a relative unknown to us Yellows, but I’d consider myself generally underwhelmed with his previous performances and subsequent re-signing. On the other hand, I think we’re very fortunate to still have Josh Gowling with us. While Owers and a considerable section of Torquay fans clearly dislike him, I think his experience will be valuable and – as last season’s stats show – we were far more successful with him in the team than without him.
In terms of full-backs, I’m neither excited nor disappointed by Liam Davis and Ben Wynter. I think they’re both competent without being amazing, but I hope most Gulls fans are proved right and Davis will become one of the best left-backs in the league. We’re quite light on the right-hand side I feel: Bawling and Nabi can both fill in but I have confidence in neither. Dickson can certainly do a job should Davis’ orthopaedic problems reoccur.