Meet the squad - midfield
Updated Friday, 2nd July 2010
The midfield is a key battleground in the SPL and Craig Brown may have some concerns about our squad here. At least one signing would seem required before the season gets properly underway.
We were recently given a huge boost with the news that Tom Hateley had signed a long-term contract but a damper has arrived - Giles Coke has gone. Coke will be a loss given how well he can play but it is not unfair to say his form dipped considerably in the middle of the season. He is far from irreplaceable. Steve Jennings blossomed into an excellent player and is surely first choice in the centre of the park while Keith Lasley seems to have been determined to prove Jim Gannon's assessment wrong. As with the defence, we may rely on people shuffling around when needed – rather than signing an extra central midfielder, we may just move Hateley up from right back when needed.
The merits of Jim O'Brien split the support but even if he did not always produce the goals or assists his talent suggested were possibly, he will still be missed for us. He often gave us a valuable outlet ball when under pressure and, if only because the hype surrounding him, often attracted more than just one defender which created space for others. Chris Humphrey worked hard when given a chance but despite his undoubted pace, his end product failed him all too often. It is hard to see him being anything other than an option for the bench, barring a major improvement. Ross Forbes possibly deserves more indulgence but he too is facing a critical season. After his excellent start to the last campaign, he faded badly and looks a shadow of his former self. Left midfield is obviously not his position but there would be a lot of nervous muttering should he be named in the centre of the park.
Strikers Murphy and Sutton have filled in on the wings, with varying degrees of success, while Marc Fitzpatrick has also been handed a short-term deal to prove his fitness. So, there is no shortage of bodies which can be thrown into the centre of the park even before we look at youngsters coming through. However, there is a big question over our strength in depth in this area and a starting wide player will be the minimum Craig Brown has on his shopping list for this department of the team.