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Deja Vu? How This Summer Compares To Six Years Ago

By: Richard Lord
Date: 18/07/2003

WITH Aidan Davison's arrival as the fifth 'new' face at Blundell Park during the summer, it appears that Paul Groves' intentions are similar to that of Alan Buckley's when the Mariners last dropped into the second division.

In 1997 Buckley's return brought in four new players. Our present manager was one of them, Davison was another, Kevin Donovan's signing equalled the club record fee - and of course there was Lee Nogan.

This time around Groves has drafted in Crane, Cas, Anderson, Hamilton and Davison, but the big difference is obviously the transfer fees. None of Groves' signings required a transfer fee (such is the perilous state of football today).

However, Buckley spent close to £1m and inherited a decent enough squad to build on. McDermott, Handyside, Gallimore and Lester were all contracted to the club at the time - but the team were reeling from the departures of Mendonca and Oster.

Today we are looking at who might be able to replace Santos and Coyne, both big players last season. Although Davison is the obvious replacement for Coyne - and a good one at that - has Santos really left that big a void?

He may have been out Player of the Season, but when all's said and done, we had the second worst defensive record in the division and he was part of it.

I believe that when Mendonca left for Charlton six years ago, he left a bigger gap to fill. Lee Nogan was the intended replacement but the goals came from an unexpected source - from a midfielder.

It looks to me as though Groves is aiming for more of the same. He played every game in the promotion season of 97/98 and will know what is ahead. The signings of Cas and Anderson create added importance.

Both players are regarded highly and should be technically advanced for this level of football. After all, Anderson was part of the Preston team that won the second division championship in 99/00.

When looking back at our 97/98 season, the midfield was the key. Donovan created and scored many goals; Burnett entered the scene and had a massive influence on many games, especially the two Wembley matches.

Groves himself grabbed a dozen or so goals from centre midfield. It looks increasingly likely that either Cas or Anderson will be looking to do what Donovan did six years ago.

When you look at our strike force back then, we had Nogan and Lester. Neither set the division alight although both players did a job and got goals here and there to help the team along.

So when you transfer those thoughts to the situation right now, it appears Groves' ploy for the upcoming campaign is simple: have a couple of strikers capable of getting goals here and there, but have a solid midfield supporting them, with a couple of tricky wide players.

This could be a possible explanation for the amount of midfielders Groves currently has at the club. It may also explain why there is no great rush to sign a target-man striker.

However, it does not escape the fact that we need maybe two more defenders. The 97/98 season was also based heavily on a steady back four and it would be nice if we could get one organised in time for the kick-off on August 9.

So far it looks like McDermott, Barnard, Crane and maybe Ford or Chettle, depending on whether the latter is offered a deal. If not, then Groves must be looking for a sixth new face.




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