Six Newcomers From The Champo To Watch

Promoting players from the Championship is a hit and miss business, so which ones will sink and which will swim? Nick Miller looks at six making the step up...

Last Updated: 09/08/12 at 10:05 Post Comment

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Garath McCleary - Reading
As much as a free transfer can be a gamble, Reading have taken something of a punt on the winger signed from Nottingham Forest in the summer. Forest originally recruited McCleary from non-league Bromley, and he kicked his heels on the bench for the better part of four years, emerging sporadically to run very fast, do a few stepovers then shank the ball into the crowd. He was one of the most frustrating players you could hope to watch - his ability was plain to see, but demonstrating that ability for longer than 30 seconds proved problematic.

Then something happened about halfway through last season, something that turned him into something close to a world-beater, scoring nine goals, four of which were in Forest's remarkable 7-3 spanking of Leeds. Hell, he even finally learned to cross the ball, which one would think was a fairly basic requirement for a winger. So did he turn a corner for good in January? Or have Reading reacted to the latest Championship flavour of the month and hired a dud show pony who doesn't actually show very much? We shall see.


Rickie Lambert - Southampton
Big, hulking, lower-league former Rochdale journeyman makes his way up the divisions, finds a home, starts scoring for giggles and finally secures a top-flight spot as he reaches his 30s. The comparisons with Grant Holt are frankly inevitable, but they are rather different players. One of the reasons for Holt's success last season was that his touch and close control is unexpectedly deft (yes, that is a roundabout way of saying he has a good touch for a big man), whereas Lambert, while no rubber-booted clodder, isn't quite as nimble. What he lacks in subtlety he makes up for in power and weight of goals. Mull these numbers over if you will; last season he scored 31 goals, the season before he got 37, and in 131 starts over three seasons for Southampton, he has 78 goals. Lumps can thrive in the Premier League, so it will be no surprise to see him do well in the coming campaign.


Ricardo Vaz Te - West Ham
Many of the comments about McCleary could well apply to Vaz Te. At the end of the 2010/11 season the Portuguese winger was released by Hibs (a low point in anyone's career when one is considered not worth keeping in the SPL). He was then given a trial by Barnsley, earned a permanent contract, but only for a year, a clear hedging of bets if ever there was one. But Barnsley did pretty well out of that hedge, with Vaz Te bagging ten goals in 22 and attracting the interest of old Bolton boss Sam Allardyce, who got even more out of him, with another ten strikes in 15, most crucially of all the winner in the play-off final against Blackpool. Whether Allardyce will trust Vaz Te as a Premier League regular is unclear, given the rather...ahem, 'erratic' nature of his talents, but he might surprise a few people who only remember a slightly bumbling sub from Bolton.


Nathaniel Clyne - Southampton
If you believe the whispers in the papers, Southampton signing Clyne from Crystal Palace was something of a coup. Newcastle, Aston Villa and even Manchester United were thought to be rather keen on the right-back, reared in Palace's increasingly productive youth set-up. He's just the sort of full-back that could thrive in the Premier League too, since his pace is a handy tool for covering up some of the mistakes that are inevitable from a player of his age (he's just 21), which is not necessarily a criticism, more a recognition of the problems youngsters encounter. If Clyne gets over these problems fairly quickly, Southampton will have quite a player on their hands.


Adrian Mariappa - Reading
Whenever Mariappa is mentioned, I find myself singing his name in place of 'Ayia Napa' in DJ Pied Piper's seminal 2001 smash 'Do You Really Like It?', which really should be a reason not to welcome his arrival in the Premier League. Still, the similarity of his name to UK garage's crowning moment should not count against him, and Reading succeeded where plenty of other clubs (notably Newcastle) failed in January in bagging the centre-back from Watford. As much as anything it will be interesting to see if signing the better players in the Championship (Chris Gunter followed McCleary from Forest) will work for Reading in the same way it did for Norwich last season.


Robert Snodgrass - Norwich
The sale that made Leeds fans weep. It's not just that their captain and arguably best player was sold, but more that it was the continuation of a theme. If Arsenal fans are frustrated that they allow their best players to run their contracts down to such an extent that the club are over something of a barrel when buyers come calling, their Leeds counterparts must spend 90% of the time punching themselves in the face with frustration. Norwich have taken full advantage of this - firstly bagging Jonny Howson in January, and now snagging Snodgrass for the relatively cheap price of £3million.

Snodgrass is an interesting player, in that if he had any sort of pace he would probably have made the step up to the Premier League long before now. He has a wand of a lef -foot and can play right, left or in the middle in a 4-2-3-1, but one fears about his temperament. On more than one occasion last season, when things weren't going well for Leeds, Snodgrass took to roaming the pitch looking for someone to kick. In a season that many suspect Norwich will find much more difficult than last, one wonders how he will react to such situations again.

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