You might think it is a strange time to start thinking about who has been the most impressive signing of the season, but the PFA Player of the Year awards are voted for already by this stage of the season so its not early at all really.
Darren Ward, Toby Hysen, Arnau, Mocquet, Varga, Yorke, Kavanagh, Connelly, Wallace, Miller, Edwards, Stokes, John etc are all on the list, and there’s definitely one or two of those that you would say certainly stand out amongst the crowd (and its quite a crowd that we’ve brought in this season), but the “signing” that I am talking about is not on that list. A signing that we have made quietly behind the scenes without any headlines has only recently really came to light and that is the signing of ProZone by the club. For me that is the most important deal of the season and one that shows the steps forward that the club are making finally on the pitch but also off the pitch.
The use of ProZone is certainly not cheap (around about £150k per season) and you have to think that its something the previous regime would’ve have turned their noses up at and declared it as an unnecessary cost that could be saved, and like with the appointment of Roy Keane as manager and with the signing of players this is another good indication of the club now placing the first team results as being its number one priority. Mr Keane himself actually played down the use of ProZone when asked about it (and for good reasons I may add) but when we have been used to the likes of Peter Reid and Mick McCarthy in recent years who were loathe to haul themselves into the 21st century it’s not something that should be played down from our perspective.
Sam Allardyce is one of the many managers who have talked highly of ProZone and despite the Panorama “allegations” , whether true or untrue, the one thing that cannot be disputed with him is that he has done a superb job in taking Bolton from being a yo-yo club to one that has now established itself in the top echelons of the Premiership and are currently being talked of as challengers for a Champions League spot. Its one thing bringing in good quality players but its another thing being able to manage those players effectively and by using the likes of ProZone to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of your team and the individual players then it can only benefit the team and the players. It also sends out the right signals to the players that the club means business so they know they have to be at their best if they want to be in the side.
It’s also showing another string to the bow of Keane. If you have read his autobiography then it may come as know surprise really, but many a manager have fallen by the wayside due to their “pig headed” attitude and overblown self confidence, but Keane is showing that not only is he aware that the team needs to develop but that he himself needs to move with the times and also develop.
The fact that are starting to hit some form at this stage of the season, and in particular finishing games strongly tends to show that we are developing as a result of embracing the more scientific areas of the game now that help to keep players in peak fitness so that they can play to the best of the ability for a full 90 minutes.
Let’s hope that this improvement and development of the team continues over the coming weeks as I am sure you are all aware the coming month is going to be very significant to our chances of promotion be it automatically or via the play offs.
Finally, in an earlier article I tipped Valencia as a good outside bet for the Champions League. Well if you didn’t back them then, then do so now. They are available at prices of around 25/1 and if they beat Inter Milan in the next round then that price will tumble. David Villa is one of the best strikers in Europe and will lead the way for them.