TTU Go Predicting: Best Free Agent
A look at the Professional Footballers’ Association list of out of contract and available players becomes more depressing by the year, even if there are Premier League outcasts aplenty whose current availability is often more a consequence of protracted contract negotiations and a choice of suitors. Hence, Chris Baird, Thomas Hitzlsperger, Carlton Cole and the like will end up somewhere eventually.
Of those, the pick of the list is perhaps Hitzlsperger and whilst ‘The Hammer’ may well find interest from a top tier team in Europe, his recent injury record and failure to last more than a year at any of his recent clubs may prove a deterrent. Assuming wages are not an issue, he could be an astute free signing for an ambitious Championship outfit willing to offer him a short contract. Technically gifted, strong running and with infamous shooting power, a prolonged injury free spell could see him lift a team into the promotion running.
Similarly, QPR’s double acquisition of Danny Simpson and Richard Dunne looks extremely shrewd for a second tier side (albeit one with a bountiful chest of parachute payments to spend on wages), but Football League clubs could do worse than succumb to the charms of Mr Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. His injury record in recent years has admittedly been poor – and his Premier League credentials are questionable – but he is a proven Championship striker, and it wasn’t so long ago that he won consecutive Golden Boots whilst helping Wolves to promotion. At only 27, he would be a fantastic signing for any Football League club. Conversely, one sincerely hopes that Ricardo Gardner is left on the shelf and somehow ends up back at Bolton come the start of the season; if only because any other outcome seems inherently wrong.
Then there are those contract eels – at the time of writing, Gary Taylor-Fletcher is still without an employer after rejecting Blackpool’s latest offer. GTF, as he is more succinctly known, is a player who can be hard to fathom, given his appearance makes him the sort of person you’d expect delivering your post or serving you a pint. Underneath that exterior though is an exceptionally talented and versatile footballer with deceptively quick feet. Most Championship squads would benefit from his presence.
If teams are after a goalkeeper, Ross Turnbull was a touch unlucky to be released by Chelsea, just as Lee Camp was to be forced out of Forest and then dumped by Norwich. In defence, the much-maligned Titus Bramble might flourish at a level where the pace and intensity isn’t quite so high – he can genuinely be a very accomplished defender on his day, but those lapses in concentration invariably cost him at higher up; while experienced ex-Fulham man Simon Davies could be just the ticket for steeling up a Championship midfield, even if it didn’t quite work out that way last season for Danny Murphy.
If it’s goals you want, they would be practically guaranteed at any level from the Championship down not only from the likes of the aforementioned Cole and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, but Ricardo Fuller and Darius Vassell, one-time England forward and blogging footballer. Equally, Davide Somma had a couple of hot streaks for Leeds, while even at 35 Heiðar Helguson might be worth a punt, having performed well for Cardiff as they won promotion to the Premier League. Indeed, Championship participants may want to take a punt on Simeon Jackson, who never quite adjusted to the EPL with Norwich but is still a fine striker outside of the top flight.
Perhaps lower down the pyramid, a club could do worse than tenacious winger Jon-Paul McGovern. 32 he may be, but he’s not been one of those players who exists eternally on the fringes of a host of lower division clubs, playing a major role throughout four years at Swindon and 85 appearances for Carlisle, while ex-Reading striker Simon Church seems better thought of by international coaches than those in charge at the Madejski. Out of favour under Nigel Adkins, you can’t help feeling he lacks goals for a striker, but after such a long time at Reading, maybe he will benefit from a prolonged spell elsewhere.
After a contractual issue has seemingly scuppered Adam Rooney’s move from Birmingham City to Swindon Town, it is surprising that other League 1 clubs haven’t moved in for the striker, who still has plenty of time on his side and a decent scoring record while for now, both Michael Duberry and Darren Purse are out of contract. The stage is surely set for a League Two club to unite them in the centre of defence and form an impregnable wall of bulk and shoutiness while surely another club will find good use of Alan Lee’s elbows before the season kicks off?
More seriously, Matt Taylor was an absolute rock for Exeter City and although there’s fitness doubts with him, our Grecians-supporting colleague Gary Andrews would have him back in a heartbeat – any League One or Two team looking for an intelligent, non-nonsense centre half should be on the phone to his agent immediately. Similarly, Ryan Dickson, previously of Southampton, is still without a club after trials at Plymouth and Yeovil didn’t come off, most probably because of wage demands in regards to the former. But he’s certainly far too young to drop out of the Football League, despite his trouble with injuries.
Others to mention: ex-Charlton and Millwall playmaker Thierry Racon is a class act on his day, Marcos Painter was a League 1 winner with Brighton comparatively recently, Darryl Duffy wasn’t so long ago one of the better strikers in League 2 and ex-Franchise player Peter Leven is a string-puller who could be used to good effect in the same competition if he can clear up his injury problems
Lastly, Lateef Elford-Alliyu scored a load of goals on trial at Northampton, albeit against rubbish opposition, but wasn’t offered a contract in the end. He looks like he could be a player though while Jo Anyinsah has always had good potential but yet again finds himself without a club. Attitude issues?
All this said, the best free agent will almost inevitably turn out to be one of the numerous Premier League academy rejects – we may not have heard of them yet, but that can soon change.