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How Good Were They Really?


An assessment of the 2002/03 squad that was too good to go down.


Too good to go down? Obviously not, but many people thought they were at the time. Indeed the season started full of optimism that the club could build on it's seventh place finish the previous season, and challenge for a European place. It wasn't to be, and the club suffered relegation to the Nationwide League. It's interesting to look at how the players from that squad are faring now that the 2003/04 season is drawing to a close, and realise how many of them may not have been as good as was thought.

Those who moved on:

Joe ColeJoe Cole - been collecting splinters in his backside by spending more time on the substitute's bench than on the pitch, and hardly pulled up any trees when he's played. If he doesn't make the Euro 2004 squad, it's a move he'll regret.

Glenn Johnson - made a good start to his Chelsea career, but seemed to be fading a bit before injury spoiled the latter part of the season. Difficult to judge his progress so far.

Trevor Sinclair - Patchy form, and not able to command a regular place in a poor Manchester City side that narrowly avoided relegation.

David James - Established as England's no 1, but none of the top Premier sides came in for him, and has spent his time back in the Premier fighting a relegation battle again. Made a couple of crucial penalty saves lately that have helped them survive. Kicking still exceedingly dodgy, and worryingly seems to have passed this trait on to young Bywater.

Fredi KanouteFredi Kanoute - Made a flying start to his Spurs career, scoring a number of goals. Season fell apart when he decided to switch his international allegiances to Mali, preferring to go play in Africa for a month, rather than help his club's struggles. Unable to recreate his early season form when he came back from the African tournament, and has not been a regular in the Spurs team since.

Jermain Defoe - Scored a fair few goals while still with us, but perhaps not as many as we thought he might at this level. Disciplinary problems, coupled with the ill-timed transfer request, meant he was not a popular figure at UP. We all expected the bids to roll in during the transfer window, but in fact it was only the North London minnows that actually made an offer. Got off to a great start in his first few games, but then a run of just one goal in eight games saw him being left out of the starting line up last week.

Les Ferdinand - Relegated again!

Seb Schemmel - Err....what can one say? He's a nutter!

Lee Bowyer - Failed to live up to expectations while with us, and has been a flop at the Barcodes.

Paolo Di CanioPaulo di Canio - Has done well at Charlton. Not been played every week by Curbs, who seems (at the moment at least) to be able to handle the temperamental Italian, and make use of his talents when required.

Edouard Cisse - Could be playing in the Chumps League Final soon. An exception to the majority that left us, in that he's found real success. Many thought he was very underused by Roeder last season.

Ian Pearce - Looked well past his best while still with us, and frankly I was stunned when Fulham came in for him. Seems to be a regular in their team since he joined, and the team has been doing OK, but I don't know anything about Pearce's contribution to that.

Gary Breen - Been fairly impressive for the Mackems this year. One wonders how much playing alongside the loose cannon that is Repka affected him last season, or is it a case - like Dailly - that he's found his level?

Now for those that stayed:

Repka - Can be outstanding on his day, which is unfortunately all too rare, and his temperament and stupidity continued to cost us dear this year as it did last season.

Dailly - Found his level in this division. Still prone to the odd silly error, but looks far more composed without the dud Czech alongside him, as witnessed by recent performances.

Michael Carrick - Lack of fitness (and IMO motivation) saw him struggling to find form in the early part of the season, but in the second half of the season he has certainly improved, with some quality performances at times. Is it a coincidence that this improvement occurred at the time the club brought in more competition for midfield places?

Rufus Brevett - Injury wrecked his season, and judging by his performances when he joined us last year, he has been sorely missed this term. We've been very weak at left back all year.

Don Hutchison - Been hit by injury problems for most of the season, but has chipped in with some vital goals when he's played. Played very well - and scored - in his first start for a while against Watford.

Steve Lomas - Also plagued by injuries, but now seems to be getting back to full fitness, and his return has helped the team to put in some good performances at a vital stage of the season. I wonder with so many of last years' remaining squad plagued by injuries, just how poor the training and fitness regimes have been in the past at UP. It's been an ongoing problem for many years, and I'm hoping that Pardew's new outlook will sort this out.

Looking back at that list of players, only a couple can be said to have done well at the top level, most of the others have found themselves at the wrong end of the table again, or unable to get a regular place in their new teams. Of those that stayed, it's been a rather mixed season. Which says to me that the squad many of us thought should be one that challenged for a place in Europe was in fact nowhere near as good as that.

Maybe Glen Roeder wasn't such a bad manager after all, and the players he had to work with were just grossly over-rated.