Barnsley

Swindon Town have found their ideal captain in Nathan Thompson

At 23-years-old, Nathan Thompson is the second youngest captain in League One leading the youngest side in the division, Swindon Town – a team with an average age of just 22, but while experience at the County Ground may be low, the ambitions are high.

“I look at the talent and potential we have in our team and I think the Championship is where we belong”, Thompson insists.

“The ethos of football we play is different to any team in League One, and arguably the Championship and Premier League too. In my opinion it is the way ‘the beautiful game’ should be played and, when we are in form, the opposition can’t compete with us.”

It is big talk from the sprightly Swindon skipper who seems completely unfazed at the task of captaining such a youthful side.

“The fact I’m the longest serving player (at the club) helped me take to the role and my team mates have been extremely supportive of me, so I’m grateful they’ve helped make the transition a smooth one”.

His team mates may well be the secret to his success but it was Thompson that took the plaudits after Town’s 0-3 win at Chesterfield last Tuesday night.

Swindon’s two games previous had ended in a 2-3 loss and a 2-2 draw on their own patch to Rochdale and Colchester respectively in what were disappointing results considering the Robins were the fourth best team at home in League One last season.

Thompson missed those two games due to a suspension but his return match ended with Swindon securing their first clean sheet since September 27 where they beat Barnsley by the same score at Oakwell.

This is even more impressive given the fact that Thompson is now playing a sweeper role in a three man defence instead of his favoured full-back position.

Nathan Byrne, arguably Town’s stand out performer so far this season, is occupying Thompson’s right wing-back spot while the left has been covered by former loanee from Liverpool Brad Smith and now Amari’i Bell who has joined temporarily from Birmingham City.

“Throughout pre season I trained in the wing-back position and I only switched to centre back a couple of training sessions before our first game”, Town’s back-to-back Player of the Year explains.

“It was a shock but I didn’t have time to dwell on it – which I think has helped me. As time’s gone on and I’m learning more about the position, my confidence has grown and I enjoy the new role I play during games”.

This attitude is a testament to Thompson’s character who genuinely gives his all for the club he has been at since the age of 12.

When asked how he felt about being awarded Swindon’s Player of the Year award for two years running he responded:

“What makes this award so special is that it’s voted for by the fans, and each game I try to give 100% for them and the club, so to be recognised in this way is very humbling indeed.

Top of the Tree: Rockin' Robin Thompson with the first of his Player of the Year awards

Top of the Tree: Rockin’ Robin Thompson with the first of his Player of the Year awards

“It goes without saying I’m immensely proud to captain a club that I’ve been at not just for my professional career, but for my Centre of Excellence years and youth development too. I take the role extremely seriously – working hard to ensure the team morale is high – so that this team gives back to the fans and the club.”

Giving back, as he puts it, is clearly very much at the forefront of the man’s mind as he is also an ambassador for the girls’ Centre of Excellence as he “feel(s) it’s important to show them I was in a similar position once, and with perseverance they could be in my boots one day too”.

Said perseverance and more importantly hard work have reaped the awards for “Thommo”, something he did not forget as he recalled the time he first put pen to paper on a professional deal for the Wiltshire side in 2009.

“When I think back to to when I first signed my professional deal this club had a very different ethos in developing young players. The average age of the first team was around 26 and not many players remained at the club past their scholar.

“While there were occasions of concern and anxiety (that he would never get his chance at Swindon), I had a very strong support network around me and that helped me to keep focused and determined to break into the Swindon Town first team.

Interest from Premier League teams Arsenal, Everton, Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur around that time did not distract him either.

“One thing I have learned is to keep attention focused on my game and, at that point in particular, leave off-field discussions to my parents and third parties.

“It’s often seen where youngsters leave lower league teams to join top flight clubs and too often it’s unsuccessful. Therefore, while it’s always flattering to have interest from these sorts of clubs, the last thing I wanted to do was get carried away so I was committed to establishing myself at Swindon.”

That sort of attitude will be music to the ears of many a Swindon Town fan I’m sure. The future of SN1 is in a safe pair of feet with Nathan Thompson with a wise and selfless head on those young shoulders too.

Follow me on Twitter: @BenjaminWillsSJ

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Colchester return for Fox

Midfielder David Fox has re-signed for League One side Colchester United, four years after departing.

He had been a free agent since his contract expired at Norwich City in the summer and has signed a three month long contract at Colchester.

The Manchester United youth graduate left Colchester for the Canaries in 2010 after making 18 appearances and scoring three goals in his one season at the Colchester Community Stadium.

Fox, 30, featured 61 times for Norwich, scoring once and was loaned out to Barnsley in 2013.

 

2014/15 League 1 Prediction

1) Bristol City
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2) Sheffield United
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3) Barnsley
4) Preston North End
5) Peterborough United
6) Doncaster Rovers
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7) Leyton Orient
8) Swindon Town
9) Yeovil Town
10) MK Dons
11) Notts County
12) Chesterfield
13) Bradford City
14) Fleetwood Town
15) Coventry City
16) Scunthorpe United
17) Port Vale
18) Rochdale
19) Walsall
20) Gillingham
——————————————–
21) Crawley Town
22) Oldham Athletic
23) Colchester United
24) Crewe Alexandra

Bury sign Kelvin Etuhu

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League 2 side Bury have announced the acquisition of Kelvin Etuhu following his departure from Barnsley.

The 26-year-old made 10 appearances for Premier League Manchester City between 2006 and 2011, scoring one goal against Bolton Wanderers in December of 2007.

Nigerian born Midfielder Etuhu has also spent time at the likes of Rochdale, Leicester and Cardiff as well as a brief spell at Portsmouth in 2012.

Etuhu featured 46 times for Barnsley in his two years at the club but following relegation to League 1 last season, the Tykes deemed him surplus to requirements.

Bury have added Etuhu to an increasing list of summer transfers with the likes of Pablo Mills, Ryan Lowe and Shwan Jalal all joining from Rotherham, Tranmere and Bournemouth respectively as the Shakers aim to get promoted back to the third tier.

Top 10: Best young Championship players

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In yet another Championship season that has seen thrills, spills, excitement and drama, here’s a look at some of the young players who made an impact and could be destined for bright things in the future.

10: Jamaal Lascelles (Nottingham Forest)

The first of three Nottingham Forest players to make an appearance in this list, Jamaal Lascelles is hot property. The 20-year-old Centre Back has already attracted interested from the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal in the Premiership with the latter submitting a £5 million pound bid for the Forest man when he was just 17. Everton are also keeping an eye on his progress.

The Derby born defender spent time at League 1 Stevenage last season, scoring one goal in seven games with his first start for the club coming in a 6-0 away win over Yeovil Town, who would of course go on to earn promotion via the play offs.

Lascelles has made 31 appearances this campaign, scoring two goals and has also made two caps for the England Under 20 squad.

9: Karl Darlow (Nottingham Forest)

Karl Darlow is the second member of the Forest contingent to appear in the top 10 and the only goalkeeper. Darlow began his career at Aston Villa as an eight-year-old but found himself without a club by age 16.

Weeks after his release he was snapped up by Nottingham Forest on recommendation by Villa goalkeeping coach Eric Steele and the Englishman hasn’t looked back since.

Darlow is eligible to play for Wales through his Grandfather Ken Leek who was a former pro himself, netting 49 goals in 104 games for Birmingham City, and representing Wales in the 1958 World Cup. Darlow however has rejected a call up from the Red Dragons in hope that he’ll one day attract interest from England.

The 23-year-old has had to be patient for his Forest chance, having been at the club since 2010 and being away from the club twice on loan in 2012 (Newport and Walsall) but he has now established himself as the number one at the City Ground following Lee Camp’s departure.

We could well be seeing Darlow in the Premier League soon, either with Forest who came close to promotion this season, or via another route with Liverpool and Tottenham keen on the youngster.

8: Rohan Ince (Brighton)

Rohan Ince, third cousin of Manchester United legend Paul and second cousin of Crystal Palace winger Tom, has made a big impression since joining the AMEX after his release from Chelsea.

Liam Bridcutt’s January move to Sunderland had Seagulls fans on edge, fearing a big gap had been left in the midfield but Ince has filled it admirably as Brighton push to finish in the final play off place.

The former Centre Back, now defensive midfielder, has looked solid in a Brighton shirt, making 28 appearances this season, including a number of man of the match performances as he looks to emulate both his cousins with Paul and Tom both gracing the Premier League in their careers.

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7: Anthony Knockaert (Leicester)

Villain turned hero. Knockaert was the man who missed “that penalty” against Watford that led to Troy Deeney’s magnificent counter attack goal that took Watford to Wembley instead of Leicester as the Hornets stung the Foxes at Vicarage Road.

Leicester’s Frenchman has redeemed himself however scoring five goals in 38 games as they have stormed to the Championship title.

The cunning Fox will have to be kept at arm’s length by Premiership defences next season as this tricky wide man will be keen to ensure Leicester do a lot more than just compete in England’s top tier.

6: Jamie Paterson (Nottingham Forest)

The third and final Forest man to feature is winger-cum-striker Jamie Paterson who has made a real impression in Nottingham since his hat trick in a 5-0 demolition of West Ham, his first three goals for the club.

He scored his first league goal in the following game, a 1-1 away draw at Bolton and then he scored in his third successive game in a 4-1 trouncing of Blackburn back at the City Ground.

Paterson would go onto score another five in the season as the Tricky Trees went on a terrible run of form leading up to Billy Davies’ sacking.

5: Matt Phillips (QPR)

In what has been a disappointing season by all accounts, Matt Phillips has been a rare top performer in a Rangers shirt this season.

The pacey winger who has also previously spent time at Wycombe and Blackpool has contributed two assists and three goals during the R’s stuttering season which has seen no-one score more than five goals apart from Charlie Austin, who spent a large chunk of the year out injured, and Ravel Morrision who only joined in January on loan.

Scotland International Phillips, 23, was voted Wycombe’s Young Player of the Year in 2009 (aged 19), and also picked up the prestigious Football League Two ‘Apprentice of the Year’ award the same year.

Phillips was also a regular for Blackpool when they graced the Premier League and following their relegation was subject to a £5 million bid from Southampton, which was turned down. Phillips handed in a transfer request soon after.

4: Patrick Bamford (Derby County, on loan from Chelsea)

Bamford is quickly establishing himself as one of the most talented young strikers England has to offer after firstly impressing at League 1 MK Dons and then a level higher at Championship’s Derby County.

Lincolnshire lad Bamford, 20, netted 18 goals in 37 League 1 games at Stadium:MK over two seasons before Steve McClaren invited the young forward to upgrade to the Championship which he took to like a duck to water scoring 8 in 20 in Derby colours.

Chelsea’s latest prospect will be hoping he is a Premier League player next season, either with Derby County who have guaranteed themselves a play off spot or with his parent club who are having a well documented problem with their forward line.

His International future is as open in the air as his club career with Bamford having featured for the Republic of Ireland under 18’s as well as England’s development squads (Under 18, 19 and 21 level) but it looks like he has opted for the three Lions, to the delight of many.

3: Will Hughes (Derby County)

When the phrase “top young talents in the Championship” is ever mentioned, Will Hughes springs to the mind of most football fans, none more so to those who watch him week in week out at Pride Park.

“Pride” is the operative word around the Derby area when talking about this young man, making his first team debut aged just 17 years of age.

He was immediately on the radar of Manchester United and City, as well as Chelsea and even Barcelona.

It’s Liverpool fans though who are most confident of the midfielder’s signature with Hughes being a fan of the club.

The midfielder’s development hasn’t slowed down, despite all the hype surrounding him at such a young age and the now 19 year old is firmly focused on getting Derby County, where he is now a regular, back into the Premier League.

Hughes is not much of a goal scorer, having only been on the score-sheet five times for County in 73 games but it’s his flair that excites clubs and fans alike with him. Hughes has assisted five goals this season and was voted the 10th best player of the season in the Championship.

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2: Kieran Trippier (Burnley)

Burnley Right Back Kieran Trippier has been a key cog in the Clarets doing so surprisingly well this season but hasn’t had the headlines he perhaps deserves with Sam Vokes and Danny Ings’ strike partnership stealing most of the attention.

The Manchester City Youth Graduate (who captained the side to 2008 Youth Cup glory) has plenty of Championship experience under his belt already with two loan spells at Barnsley followed by one at Burnley before Sean Dyche brought him to Turf Moor on a permanent deal.

Trippier is one of the league’s top assisters this season with 14 and also finds himself in the division’s meanest defence, Burnley have conceded just 35 goals in 45 games this season. He was also voted the Championship’s 8th best player this season.

1: Danny Ings (Burnley)

The Championship’s best young player, the Championship’s best player.

Danny Ings, aged just 21 was voted the player of the season this year as Sean Dyche’s cash-strapped Clarets, who many were backing for relegation to League 1, were promoted to the Premiership as runners up.

20 goals in 45 games makes Danny Ings the joint fifth top scorer with Derby’s Chris Martin and Sam Vokes who he’s enjoyed a fruitful goalscoring relationship with this season.

Just last season, Ings only managed three goals in 32 games which highlights his vast improvement this season.

Following his successful campaign he is now touted as a transfer target for title chasing Liverpool as they look to bolster their thin squad ahead of their first Champions League campaign in five years.

If Ings signs the dotted line at Anfield this Summer, it will be a far cry from 2010 when he found himself on loan at Dorchester Town.

Wherever Ings finds himself next season, we know it will be in the Premier League where he will be hoping to make a big impression and who knows, he may even find himself in Roy Hodgson’s plans.

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Diamond in the rough or just rough? The curious case of Nile Ranger

(Originally posted November 15th 2013)
Nile Ranger, 22, was tipped for great things in his Newcastle days when he joined the club in 2009, aged 18, but four years down the line he finds himself in League 1 and in danger of people remembering him more for his off the field antics than his football ability.

Ranger’s problems off the field are nothing new however, back in the days when he was on Southampton’s books as a 15-year-old he showed promise but found himself imprisoned in a Young Offender’s institute for 11 Weeks following an armed robbery. He returned to The Saints after, briefly, before being released due to his behaviour.

He was somewhat fortunate to be signed up by Premiership outfit Newcastle United then but he earned his place, scoring 15 goals for the Under 18’s and 7 for the Reserve team and was rewarded with a 3 and a half year deal by Alan Shearer as Newcastle prepared their assault on The Championship following their unexpected Relegation.

Ranger was awarded his Magpies début in the season opener against West Brom as an injury time substitute  for Shola Ameobi before winning his first start, getting the Man of the Match award in a 1-0 victory over Leicester City three weeks later. Ranger proved he could get goals in tier two after netting in the 2-0 wins over Coventry and Crystal Palace.

Ranger wouldn’t make much more of an impact as Newcastle romped to The Championship title and didn’t feature much in the following Premiership season either, mostly limited to Carling Cup games. He took whatever chance he got however and managed to score in two of those fixtures in wins over Accrington Stanley and Chelsea. Ranger made his Premiership début as an 89th minute substitute vs Wigan and went on to make a number of sub appearances, most notably against Arsenal where he turned past Laurent Koscielny who fouled him and got sent off, maintaining a 0-1 win for Newcastle. Bad-Boy Nile also started a few games that season following injuries to Andy Carroll and Leon Best, failing to add to his goals tally but he was still awarded a 5 and a half year deal by Chris Hughton.

Whilst 2010 was a good year for Nile Ranger on the field, his behaviour in 2011 would cause him problems off it. On 27 August he was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a man in Newcastle city centre leaving the victim unconscious in the street, but was found not guilty in October 2012 and then in October 2011 he was charged with being drunk and disorderly in Newcastle’s Cathedral Square. The charge came only days after Ranger had been reinstated to Newcastle United’s first-team training after a three-month exile in the club’s reserves. Prior to this, in May 2011 Ranger was questioned by Newcastle after posing with a gun in a photograph. The gun was later handed in.

Striker Ranger in Shooting training...of sorts.

Striker Ranger in Shooting training…of sorts.

 

In what was an eventful 2011 for him, Ranger joined Championship side Barnsley to try and get his mind in football gear again, however it didn’t work out for him, five appearances, no goals and a foot injury had his loan cut short and back to Newcastle he went. He would try again in March 2012, this time opting for Sheffield Wednesday, then in League One.  Two goals in eight games was satisfactory as Wednesday won Promotion back to The Championship, however Ranger was still getting into trouble. Firstly making a homophobic comment on Twitter for which he was fined, then he was arrested again for breaching bail whilst awaiting trial for four assault charges. Then in September, Ranger was accused of criminal damage to a front door of someone else’s property, the charges were dropped 2 Months later however after the Court agreed that the Newcastle Front-man had damaged the door fearing his Girlfriend was being kidnapped.

Despite all of this however the Newcastle man still continued to get in the papers for all the wrong reasons. The 25th of January would prove to be the day that Ranger’s reputation would hit rock bottom. Ranger was arrested on suspicion of rape in a Newcastle hotel room and was charged for this on the 8th July and is due in court again in the New Year. His 2013 didn’t end there though, he was convicted of assault in March and hit the headlines again in July after getting “Ranger” tattooed on his forehead, coinciding with a Smiley face on his bottom lip which he isn’t shy on showing.

Smile for the Camera. Ranger's tattoo
Smile for the Camera. Ranger’s tattoo

Newcastle had got fed up with Ranger’s behaviour and released him by Mutual Consent in September. Two goals in 51 league games was not enough to justify his behaviour and Ranger was temporarily unemployed.

That was until League 1 outfit Swindon Town decided to take the risk. Despite negative press and an understandable annoyance from supporters, Ranger signed a 1 year deal on the dotted line in Wiltshire with the option of a second depending on his Court Case outcome. At the beginning it looked like a master-stroke by new boss Mark Cooper, Ranger repaid the faith shown in him, scoring 6 goals in 15 games including an 87th winner against West Country rivals Bristol City. However, now, Ranger seems to be showing his true colours. He’s missed several training sessions in the last Month, some from Swindon giving him time off for his court case, some for unknown reasons. Ranger has now gone AWOL and shows no signs of being in Cooper’s plans for the time being.

And this is what ultimately lets Nile Ranger down. He’s proved he has talent, he’s been capped for the England U-19’s 11 times, scoring 6 goals and although he may not be cut out for The Premiership, he may have been if he concentrated on his football more than his life of crime. One level he looks to have found himself at is League One with Championship chasing Swindon where he could really prove himself.

If Ranger is found innocent in January and Swindon forgive him for his missed training sessions and he finally learns to keep his head down and get on with his Football he could become the good player everyone expected back in 2009. However, it could all be too late for Nile if he gets found guilty in Court and then he’ll be added to the never ending “what might have been” list.