Will they Go or will they Stay?
Owen Coyle has confirmed he will talk to the players today before announcing which players will leave Turf Moor and which will remain Clarets players. There are five players out of contract in the close season and we have already released Garreth O` Connor. The gaffer also made it clear a few weeks back that all his players, both of contract and in contract were fighting for their right to remain on the books. Coyle was looking for commitment and passion in the last few matches of the season and nobody was safe. In all honesty it has been a pretty dire last couple of months, so it will be interesting to see if any of the in-contract players are up for the chop. Question marks have been raised in all departments, most notably in defence.
Coyle last week said:
'I'll speak to the players individually next week, but in general I've know for a while who I would like to keep.
'It's difficult when players leave the club because you do get emotionally attached to them.
'It's a horrible feeling having to tell someone they no longer have a future at the club, but it's part of the job and you have to make those decisions
'All you can do is do it with honesty and that's the way I'll go about it.'
The five Clarets players out-of-contract are Jon Harley, Brian Jensen, James O'Connor, John Spicer and David Unsworth. Technically speaking Jay Rodriguez is also out of contract but the gaffer has made it clear already he will be retaining the player.
The one player most Clarets fans would definitely want to retain is Jon Harley, a vastly improved player this season. Many fans were surprised he didn`t feature in the Club`s Player of the Year awards raising suspicions he could be allowed to leave the club with the rumour going round that Leeds United could be interested.
Brian Jensen has already let slip on Radio Lancashire that he believes he will get a new contract for 2008-9 which raises doubts about in-contract keeper, Gabor Kiraly.
Both keepers have had a few mares this season, spilling shots that have led to goals and points lost. It will be a surprise if we retain both keepers but if we do, we definitely need a new keeper, something which Coyle appears to be aware of having trialled James Beasant, the nephew of the more famous Dave, in a reserve game back in April. Nothing appears to have come about from that trial but it suggests Coyle is looking for new blood between the sticks.
James O`Connor is a player I actually like a lot although many criticise him. His commitment and energy is second to none and he gets his fair share of goals in a season. Rumoured to be off to his former club, Stoke City in the close season last year under Cotterill, I can`t see the newly promoted club coming back in for him this time and I hope we keep him on the books.
John Spicer has found it difficult to break into the team this season, especially in the second half of the season. He has even in recent times not been able to consistently make the sixteen. He could be a strong candidate to miss out.
David Unsworth is also getting somewhat long in the tooth but he has been pretty solid in the matches he has played. Clarke Carlisle has been forthcoming in wanting him to continue playing for the Clarets and he would still be a useful squad addition in my opinion
As mentioned Garreth O'Connor has already been released and our loan player, Stanislav Varga has returned to Sunderland.
Another Sunderland player, Andrew Cole is out of contract at the Stadium of Light this summer and is currently deciding whether to continue his professional career for at least another season. Although now 36, he would still be a valuable, experienced squad player for the Clarets and could teach the young lads a few tricks behind the scenes. Both Owen Coyle and Clarke Carlisle have also recently sung Cole`s praises so hopefully he will decide to carry on for a bit longer yet.
Our other loan, Mark Randall has found it tough in the Championship and maybe the Arsenal Academy schooling has not really taught him about the harshness and crudity of the lower leagues. Nevertheless it will be a good learning curve for the young midfielder and there was some talk that Coyle might be interested in bringing the player back on a season-long loan for 2008-9.
What about the players currently in contract? Will Coyle be ruthless and axe a few? Kiraly could be one and Steve Jones is another obvious one. Jonah has made it plain he would like to end his playing days at his former club, Crewe where he has enjoyed a loan spell there this season. The statement does raise doubts about his loyalty and commitment to the Clarets and Coyle might give him his wish sooner than later. Poor Stephen Jordan has also had a pretty poor season and although playing in a few of the last games has not been too convincing. Could he be one to be shown the door?
I think it is important to also state that in my opinion all our current players are good squad players and whoever we let go, they will need to be replaced in numbers plus more to boot if we are ever going to have depth in the squad both in terms of quantity and quality.
So who will stay and who will go? Hopefully we will find out soon this week.