Date:Tuesday February 19 2008
In recent times, even our Captain, Steven Caldwell has struggled to get back in the side and play in the back four. He has been on the bench in recent matches but due to David Unsworth picking up a lurgy was able to claim a place in the starting eleven for our last match away to QPR.
Clarke Carlisle sidelined with an hamstring injury for a number of matches has not played a League match now since December 29th when we were defeated at home by Bristol City.
However, he now sounds raring to go after coming through 90 minutes in the Friendly against the Bohemians in Ireland last Friday night.
Speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph he had this to say:
'I wouldn't go as far as saying I eased through the 90 minutes, because that was a big old pitch! But it was excellent,' he smiled.
'It is always good to get 90 minutes under your belt after you've been out for a period of time, and I think, in the last five or 10 minutes, it was a good job I wasn't overly tested, because I could have been found wanting!
'It was great to get through it though, I'm delighted, and we kept a clean sheet as well, which is always good.'
So that's one player that now looks available for selection in the back four in our next match away to Plymouth this Saturday.
The Official site also announced that Michael Duff may also be close to a return following his long-term cruciate injury. Duff last played for the Clarets against Crystal Palace back in September last year and Clarets fans then heard the disturbing news that he could be out injured for the rest of the season.
Thnakfully good progress has been made and but for his family reasons with his wife expecting the birth of their first child anytime now, may well have been played in the Friendly last Friday night.
It's clear therefore that Coyle may well have options soon to play Duff either at right back or as a central defender.
One player that has come on leaps & bounds since the arrival of Owen Coyle has been Jon Harley at left back. Often criticised in the past, he now appears to have secured his place in the team at the expense of Stephen Jordan. He also brings with him the ability to play in left-side midfield, providing further options for Coyle.
Before we come on to the current back four, it is worth also reflecting that both Chris McCann and Wade Elliott have played in the back four, but nobody would expect them to take up these roles in the starting eleven unless we really had far too many problems with injuries and suspensions.
You would think we had enough cover in the back four, but Owen Coyle even experimented with Joey Gudjonsson back in defence against Bohemians.
Our current back four have been played on a fairly regular basis and until the bug affected Unsworth we played the following in the last three matches before QPR:
Most Clarets fans probably thought Varga at 35 would be a stop gap for Carlisle but our loan from Sunderland has hardly put a foot wrong and fought to keep his place. A little bit suspect in terms of pace sometimes but generally quite solid and literally a tower of strength at 6ft4.
Another veteran defender, David Unsworth continues to earn his place and recently played in his 500th professional game of his career.
Possibly the most vulnerable at the moment could be Graham Alexander at right back. He has looked a little underpar in the last few games but we know he too can put in impressive perfomances.
So Owen Coyle will have a headache soon in deciding which to choose for his back four.
Not a bad headache to have maybe, but someone is bound to be disappointed and it looks impossible to drop anybody solely on poor performance.
Duff & Carlisle may well be tried via the bench in the first instance but at the moment the back four could well remain the same with probably Caldwell keeping his place for the time being:
Competition for places is going to be hot and all the defenders will be dreading any loss of form.
On paper, I would think the following back four represents our best option if all are fully fit and performing to the levels that we know they can:
That would leave Unsworth,Varga and Alexander, not to mention Jordan fighting for at least one place on the bench.
What a position to be in. So who would you select as the best back four option? Discuss below or in our forums>
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Date:Tuesday February 19 2008
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