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Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Sam Baldock: A Hammers' view

Tuesday night wasn't your typical Ashton Gate night.  Opening the home campaign on a Tuesday night seemed strange enough, and that perhaps provided part of the reason for a relatively disappointing crowd of a little over 12,000.

For those that were there however, the night is one they'll never forget.  It began with rumours buzzing around that another new player - to add to that of Steven Davies the previous day - was about to sign.  When Derek McInnes failed to present himself to the press pre-match and local journalists began tweeting about 'something going on', the rumour mill really picked up pace.

Who had been seen around the ground? Who was that sitting in the Director's box?  Perhaps it was even a double signing, with both Sam Baldock and DJ Campbell reportedly interesting our young Scottish manager.  It soon became clear that whoever it was, there was an on-pitch half-time presentation planned to announce the new signing.

The major risk to all of this of course, was that it would cause a distraction to on-field activities.  There was to be no such worry.  Bizarrely, and remarkably un-City-like, the Robins started the game like Usain Bolt coming out of the blocks in London a few short weeks ago.  Two early goals and chances galore, with the front four of Woolford, Stead, Taylor and Adomah playing out of their skin, slicing and dicing the Palace backline seemingly at will.

And then an official club text, around 25 minutes in, that Sam Baldock had signed.  The game went on in fantastic style, City eventually wrapping up a 4-1 win against a side who have become rivals ove the past few seasons, but much of the talk during and after was of this new, young, exciting signing.

Tom Victor is a qualified journalist, a West Ham fan, and the editor of the quite fine general football website Pele Confidential and can be followed on Twitter here.  I'm immensely grateful to Tom for providing this profile of City's newest signing.

"When Sam Baldock arrived at Upton Park there was an unfortunate sense of apathy over which he had little control.

His move from MK Dons last August came just two days before Scott Parker’s omission from the squad to play Nottingham Forest signalled his imminent departure to Tottenham, and those fans not merely unmoved by the new arrival saw the juxtaposition of the signing of a League 1 striker, and the exit of the club’s captain in all but name, as the moment that relegation from the Premier League truly began to sink in.

When West Ham plied their trade in the Premier League, Baldock’s name was one which barely registered, save for the knowledge that he had scored freely in the lower reaches of the league and was being looked at by those at Championship level.

However soon after his arrival it became evident that the then-22-year-old’s instincts had every chance of bringing him success at a higher level than that to which he was accustomed.

The 3-2 win against Leicester and the 4-0 triumph over Blackpool stood out, with Baldock finding the net twice in each and proving near-impossible to play against, but a spell on the sidelines with injury going into the new year was among a combination of factors which saw his opportunities limited thereafter.

Aside from the injuries and lack of goalscoring form, the signings of Nicky Maynard and Ricardo Vaz Tê - coupled with Sam Allardyce’s increased preference for 4-5-1 - suggested Baldock’s time in East London was limited.

Seemingly regarded as too lightweight to lead the line alone, and two direct and attack-minded to fill the wide roles occupied on occasion by Vaz Tê and Maynard (either side of Carlton Cole), Baldock was limited to substitute appearances, coming off the bench more often than he started over the course of the season.

Still, even then - as the brief cameo against Crystal Palace in February illustrated - he never stopped working on his fitness and hunger to succeed.

Bristol City fans might have dreamed of a return for Maynard - still the club’s top scorer in 2011-12 despite his January departure - but his former team-mate ought to have a similar impact if given the chance.

Four goals in the shop-window of pre-season killed any doubts some might have had about match-sharpness, and a proper run of games in a traditional front two ought to be all Baldock needs to reach 15 goals or more."

Baldock's signing caps a tremendous recruitment drive on the part of the manager McInnes, who surely now has finalised his attacking options.  Pace has been missing from the forward line since the previously-mentioned Maynard departed acrimoniously, but in Baldock, McInnes appears to have signed that player who can stretch defences and take advantage of tired and the slower legs. 

Last season's Playerof the Year Jon Stead will be batting hard to stay a part of the plans, whilst youngster Ryan Taylor proved he remains at the forefront of McInnes' mind despite the new additions.  Brett Pitman looks the most at risk, a goal poacher whose workrate is oft-questioned, looks the least natural fit into McInnes' way of going about things.

With Steve Davies and now Baldock in the mix, City can either attack sides physically, with pace or with skill, and that will make them dangerous opposition for anyone, something that was certainly not the case last time out.

A commanding centre-half is still required, and then the dreaming can truly start, but whatever goes on behind them, the forward line City now possess would be the envy of many other sides in the Championship's 24.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog mate.

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