New skin for the old ceremony

Whilst ex-President Yahya Jammeh created Atlantic breakers for refusing to leave power in Gambia, our very own Jamma news has caused little more than a minor diplomatic ripple.

In a week of action and re-action Rovers have another young, unproven goalkeeper in on loan, whilst Mark McChrystal, Jermaine Easter, Will Puddy, Liam Lawrence, Jay Malpas and Tyler Lyttle have been told they don’t have a future at Rovers.

To weaken the ship further Jake Gosling has been sent for a post-Christmas vegan detox staycation at our hillbilly friends Forest Green Rovers. Given that he’s not been afforded even a single morsel of League One action this season and his contract will be up in the summer it seems safe to say that this is ‘goodbye’ to Jake, or as the Gibraltarians say ‘hasta la vista’.

Within three weeks Rovers have gone from probably the biggest squad we’ve had in our history to one resembling the early Twerton years when money was so tight that Devon White was rescued from the Glue Factory melting pot at Shepshed Charterhouse, and Geoff Twentyman and Ian Alexander were signed within a day of each other via the combination of a BOGOF offer and a generous EU subsidy for players with huge moustaches. Note – The above are not quite true…

The six actual names on DC’s list of doom didn’t offer up too much surprise, especially given the ages of the most senior players involved, but the wording used has.

As football supporters we are well used to manager/player fall outs (one that always sticks in my mind is an incident outside a Heathrow hotel between Gerry Francis and Paul ‘Release the Beast’ Nixon back in 1990 as a Gas fanzine joked that the spat was over a homing pigeon), discipline problems, motivational ploys, and various methods to move people on, buck them up, or give them a chance to shine elsewhere, but never before have I read the phrase “will no longer be considered for selection for the first team” when no disciplinary issues are implied or suspected and five loanees have recently departed.

I can totally understand a manager circulating the names of six players who have no longer term future at the club, and then doing the best the club can to find them chances elsewhere, but I currently fail to see the logic of saying they won’t be picked, especially when three of them featured in the last League game, and the squad is presently thinner than a scruffy waif with ringworm. I use the word ‘currently’ because several injuries should be clearing up soon and there are still 10 days left of the transfer window. In general I heartily trust in DC to do the best for the team and for the club and I am prepared to make judgement after the door has closed and after I’ve hopefully seen any new recruits play.

Speculation is already rife as to whether it really means they will never feature again for Rovers under any circumstances, or if, like Steve Mildenhall last season, can be brought back in from the cold if necessary. The wording obviously suggests the former, but with the loan system the way it is now, emergency gaps cannot just be plugged like before and the chances of all six finding new clubs or having their contracts paid up seem slim.

So is it a psychological ploy, or… er… is it simply not?

Given the nature of DC’s mind I really couldn’t say but it does seem to leave us a bit short at the moment especially until Leadbitter, Mildenhall & Jake Clarke-Salter return from injury. What 18 players could we even put on the team sheet at Walsall?

Well, it could be along these lines – Lumley; Partington, J Clarke, Lockyer, Brown; Bodin, Lines, O Clarke, Monty; Harrison, Taylor. Subs – Hodges (GK), Mansell, Sinclair, Moore, Gaffney, James, Lucas or Broom (both of whom have received high accolades for some while now).

That is not actually a bad team at all, nor the subs bench, although the latter is light and worryingly has no defensive cover what-so-ever. A few more injuries or suspensions and it could be squeaky bum time, but on the other hand there are only 19 games left, and only four weeks where a brace of matches are played.

I say roll on the 1st of February and an end to the speculation. Well, at least for a day or two until people start trawling the lists of free agents. I bet Abdulai Bell-Baggie is on there, or is he ambulance chasing for cheap winter sun in the Gambia?

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