With the first week of training over, its interesting to see how Pards has planned our pre-season. There's only one game against first-class opposition, Sporting Braga, whereas last season we faced teams from the Tier 1 of Scotland, Spain, Belgium and Holland as well as the New Zealand international team.
Seems that Monica was keen to test himself against more quality opposition, while failing completely to understand the history of the Welling fixture, and impress with results. That said, while Monica's pre-season had the likes of Millwall, Welling, Hibs, Germinal Bersholt, FC Utrecht, Valencia and New Zealand all but the last were far away from the prying eyes of home fans.
Perhaps we are acclimatizing to life further down the ladder but there does seem this year a conscious decision to avoid the stiff test in front of the pubic and concentrate on more basic things than just getting results and pleasing the fans. This season we have the more down-market Welling, Tooting, Gillingham, Marbella (Tier 3 regional, 2006/07 - 7th out of 20), Bromley, Ebbsfleet and Aldershot, and then the only real test against Jorge Costa's Sporting Braga, who finished 4th in Portugal last season, in the last fixture.
Behind doors we also face a Chelski eleven and a Malaga ( Spanish Tier 2, 2006/07 - 15th out of 22) team. Pards is clearly placing more emphasis on getting them fit, already impressing new boy Varney and seeing who is his best eleven rather than getting results on the board.
So what else have we learned so far? Apparently, there's a couple more signings to come but already the predictions are being made as to who will be on the field come the Iron. All of the new boys featured against Welling and Tooting, along with long-term absentees Reid and Gibbs, so perhaps we'll have another American full-back after all. And in marked contrast to last season, it looks clear that the first eleven will be from those that played at Welling with the notable exception of Andy Reid who played at T & M, while even Pards maybe doesn't know the first choice goalie.
Also worth noting was that several of last seasons regulars were strangely missing. With the sparkling performance of Martin Christensen on the right-wing, it obviously won't be long before one missing face leaves. Goodbye Rommers. Faye was also missing, although he's not off to Birmingham, apparently. Surprisingly, after no transfer talk all summer, we all expected Ambrose to appear but he again was strangely missing. On the other hand Jerry Thomas was on hand and is staying, or so says Pards.
And after all the reports of moves to Borussia, there was Souley Diawara doing his stuff as if nothing has happened, could the money and the fact that he actually likes it here persuade him to stay? Cory Gibbs was also seen although Mark ( alright, Ben) Thatcher was another missing face. We've got ourselves a new promising right-back so it won't be long before Luke Y moves on but only if the price is right apparently but where was Sankofa?
There was also the appearance of several trialists in the two games with Jody Morris, although he appears to have done well, getting almost as much stick as Weaver. Perhaps he should take a few lessons from the god-like Chrissie Powell, back as if he'd never been away. There was also midfielder 22 year old Dean Sinclair (released by Barnet) and striker 19 year old Nicholas Pedersen (from our Danish connection, Herfolge ).
So what have we got? The fight for the number one will probably go to Weaver, despite all our reservations, while the defence looks settled if Souley stays around as being Moutaouakil, McCarthy, Diawara and Gibbs.
Bearing in mind Pardew's remarks about Varney, the betting on the two strikers looks like being a choice between Todorov(?), Dickson or Iwelumo to partner Luke Varney, and no I haven't forgotten M. Bent.
Purely guesswork here but Pards seems to be one of those optimists that leave the biggest problem till the end of day to sort out. The midfield. It would come as no surprise to see his two remaining buys being at long last, midfielders. Several names are in the hat with everyone's non-favorite Jody Morris in there as well. The talk on Hayden Mullens seems to have gone very quiet and there's now speculation about the Norwich midfielder Youssef Safri while it seems that Birmingham's clemence has been snapped up by Leicester.
So at the moment we can only guess that the two new boys are likely to fight with Holland, Ambrose and Thomas for the two remaining midfield places and join Andy Reid and Martin Christensen in the middle of the park.