Date:Sunday January 8 2012
League One splits. There comes a point when squad size and quality begins to tell, and the table divides. When 'the split' has come over the last few years, Town have found themselves in the island of teams who are adrift at the top of the third tier.
Last season it was four teams. The season before it was eight. This season, it looks to be five - Charlton, Sheffield U, Sheffield W, Town and MK Dons. When the break is made (and normally, we only really see it develop in around February-time), it is generally very difficult to breach. This January Transfer Window has begun, it seems, with the breach made already - six points back to the 6th placed team. It will be interesting to see what happens to the five teams in the top group - whether they strengthen, in order to push on for the top two spots, or if they decide not to, of the thinking that playoffs would be 'enough`. I don`t think there`s any amongst the five who won`t add players to the squads, and there`s not one amongst the five who have any reason not to believe they could end up in the top two, though of course three of them won`t.
Charlton, despite the mammoth 21 new signings Chris Powell had made up to January, started early, swapping potential Town target Leon Clarke with Swindon for Paul Benson; Bradley Wright-Phillips (14) and Yann Kermorgant (7) aside, Paul Hayes (3) and Jason Euell (0) hadn`t been tearing up trees, so an extra option up front will be helpful for them - Clarke being the 19th player to join Charlton since May. I wouldn`t expect to see the Addicks changing their squad much in January, but theirs is a squad that has been 5 points (at time of writing) better than anyone else`s anyway.
Expected action - 3/10 unless any squad players move on; Tamer Tuna?
Sheffield Wednesday, next up, are being linked with many, many players - of course, they have signed a few on already - Steven Bywater during the window, but the doors at Hillsborough have been revolving pretty regularly throughout - Sanchez Watt (23/11) and Llera (23/11 - likely to be extended) have both come in, and James Tavernier. I wouldn`t be surprised to see Wednesday add another striker to their squad - Gary Madine`s (currently injured) 11 league goals is 6 clear of the next best (winger Ben Marshall and centre-back Reda Johnson); there`s been talk- since gone to Barnsley - of Chris Dagnall joining the Owls, and now Lewis Grabban is on the rumours hit list. Sheffield Wednesday don't have a lot of money to spend, but are being linked with a lot of players - I expect them to do some dealing to ensure their squad stays as strong as it has been with Marshall, Tavernier and Watt in it - a winger, a defender and a striker, then - possibly on loan.
Expected action - 10/10 - bringing players in already, and we know they're looking to strengthen.
FOCUS ON BEN MARSHALL
One position Wednesday are certainly looking to strengthen, we know, is on the wing. Having had Ben Marshall there all season, scoring 5 goals - including a belter against Town - and getting six assists, he would undoubtedly be a big miss if he went back to Stoke. A week or so ago, it seemed he was a shoo-in to stay at Wednesday until at least the end of the season, but recent developments suggest there may be more than meets the eye to this story. Gary Megson is regularly linked with Gary Roberts, having made an enquiry in the summer of 2011, but this came to nothing. We enter this January with Gary not having signed a contract extension, thus being a free agent at the end of the season. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Huddersfield 'cash in' on Roberts, and use that money to buy Ben Marshall from Stoke (both figures are being quoted at around £500,000 - though I'd imagine Roberts would be a little less). I would assume Wednesday get some sort of first refusal on the deal, but the delay in it all makes me think there may be something going on that we're not all aware of. Certainly, I would be surprised to see Roberts leave Town, but if it enables us to sign Ben Marshall, that option might be worth considering. It is, of course, all speculation at the moment.
On the other side of the city, at Bramall Lane, we've seen James Beattie resign for the Blades for nothing, and I think it might well be a month of loan deals (at best) for the Steel City. There's been rumblings of Rangers players coming down to them for a good while now, so don't be surprised if United end up with John Fleck or Kyle Hutton - they would be earning low enough wages that they could be covered in South Yorkshire, and Rangers do need as many wages as they can off the books. Again, as with Wednesday, its difficult to see through the haze of gubbins to get at what Sheffield Utd might want to do in January; Mehdi Kerrouche of Swindon seems one of the more plausible options, but there's always going to be a financial stumbling block at the minute.
Expected action - 5/10 - not a lot of money to do much, but looking to improve.
MK Dons, meanwhile, have put their cards on the table early. They want two wingers and a striker. Which sounds straightforward enough. One of those strikers won't be Angelo Balanta - who has always impressed me when I've seen him - but seems to be heading to Wycombe. I would, at this point, expect the Dons to be looking at young players from higher level teams; looking back through previous January windows, the last player they signed permanently during the month was Lee Harper (4.1.2007) - everybody since then has joined on loan - the pick being, probably, Jason Puncheon.
Puncheon has been mentioned on message boards as the 'marquee' signing Karl Robinson talked of, but seems a stretch too far in my opinion.
More likely, for me, is that the striker might be Aaron Wilbraham, who spent six years at the Dons, and has played only twice for Norwich this season (coincidentally including the 0-4 defeat by MK Dons). He may have only left Stadium:MK a year ago, but a Premiership striker (albeit only of one appearance) would count as a marquee signing for any team in the third tier. The flip side of MK's reputation for bringing in young players from above means that if they're going to do that again, there's about 150 possibilities moving around the scenes of the top flight. Oliver Norwood, of Manchester Utd has been mentioned, he was at Scunthorpe in the Autumn, and seems to be on his way out on loan again.
Expected action 6/10 - as much as Karl Robinson might want to bring players in, it seems history is against him - the way MK fans greeted his announcement was telling, very much we've heard this before'.
So much so speculative. Huddersfield Town are why you're here, so let`s have a look at the Terriers thinking for the window.
It`s been obvious Lee Clark is looking to improve at centre-back - as far back as Trotman, Pearce, we've now seen Cooper and Bruce pass through - I think we can safely say that there'll be more come in, even if only on loan, before the end of the window. That is, of course, assuming that Jamie McCombe isn't viewed as being a new signing. Boom Boom has always borne the brunt of disappointments, but maybe his spell at Preston has shown he knows what he's doing.
Likelihood of a CB coming in? 6/10. Possible names? Damion Stewart went elsewhere; Alex Bruce was recalled for a reason - either to play or to sell, so it won't be him. Maybe another move for Sean Morrison, who warmed the bench last season.
Liam Ridehalgh was recalled (hurrah!) but let go to Chesterfield, so we can assume that there's no fullbacks in the offing - personally, I'm not convinced by Gary Naysmith; his pace makes him a little suspect going backwards, and he doesn't offer that much going forwards - particularly important if we're playing one forward in a 4-2-3-1 as seemed to be the change at Wycombe.
Likelihood of a FB coming in? 1/10 - Don't expect anything in this department until the summer.
Ben Marshall has been discussed above, and Town's name being mentioned won't be purely speculative. It doesn't mean Town have made an approach but using the logic above, there may be some smoke with the fire. Clark does have a history of bringing in wingers in the new year; Ward, Ainsworth Pilkington all joined after the half-way stage, and there's not a great deal of back-up to Gary, Danny and Donal (Jack Hunt pushed forward?) - so a fourth pair of legs - probably right footed - would go very well for that.
Likelihood of a WG coming in? 6/10 - Don't be surprised, if somebody like Ben Marshall DOES come in.
The central midfield is a busy area for Town. Robinson, Gobern, Johnson, Miller and there's even Crooks or Atkinson to be used. As much as Lee Clark like signing midfielders, he'll find it difficult to justify another one coming in.
Likelihood of a CM coming in? 0/10 - Are there any left?
As for up front? Well, provided Jordan Rhodes isn't for sale, we've got Lee, Novak and Rhodes. Three players. Jimmy Spencer has been let go again, so he isn't in the plans, which does make me wonder if there'll be a fourth member coming in (taking over the Jon Parkin role, if you will) to the fray.
Likelihood of a CF coming in 4/10 - Maybe we'll put in a bid to bring Benik back, now he's fit again, or perhaps the long-rumoured Steve Howard or Kevin Phillips deals will come off.
In short, then, I expect Wednesday to do the most business in January, with the other five teams doing a lot less. If Town bring somebody in, I imagine it will be in central defence or up front, though there may be something going on out wide.
It`s also worth mentioning that Alex Smithies is a far better distributor of the ball than Ian Bennett, so it would pay to have full backs who can run with it if Alex gets back into the team - Hunt and Woods, for me, the pick of that position - and maybe another name could be added to that, but that would be a luxury.
I mean no disrespect to the other 19 teams in League One (Bournemouth started the window well - bringing in the likes of Charlie Daniels permanently, for example) but they will need to trade considerably well over the next month to get across the gap that is opening up. That's not to say they can't do it, but it would be a futile task to predict how every team in the division might try.
Personally, I'd like to see Town sign a striker on loan (Benik would do for me), a centre-back (preferably a younger, quicker head from a Premiership club) and a left-back with a bit of range going forward. I see the distribution of the goalkeeper as fundamental to building attacks, so assume Smithies will play when 100% - he needs options both sides.
Article written by Huddersfield Town fan Marco Jackson, you can follow him on twitter @Marco4J.
If you would like to write anything Huddersfield Town related please get in touch on Twitter @VitalHuddsTown or drop me an e-mail at Huddersfield@Vitalfootball.co.uk
Keep The Faith
Date:Sunday January 8 2012
Huddersfield announce Retained Players List (Monday May 6 2013)
Town will move heaven and earth for James Vaughan (Monday May 6 2013)
Huddersfield release Lee, Arfield & Tom Clarke (Monday May 6 2013)
Stats: Huddersfield Town v Barnsley (Saturday May 4 2013)
Terriers Vs Tykes (Saturday May 4 2013)
Match Officials: Huddersfield vs Barnsley (Saturday May 4 2013)
Barnsley manager stokes Robins ahead of Game (Saturday May 4 2013)
James Vaughan is the BWF Player of the Year (Saturday May 4 2013)
Huddersfield v Barnsley Ticket Sales pass 21,000 (Saturday May 4 2013)
Vaughan hoping for Jamaican Call Up (Saturday May 4 2013)
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