The Pre-Season 'Is He Still There?' XI

Featuring XI players who have been in pre-season action for Premier League clubs who you might be forgiven for forgetting. Like N'Zogbia, Boyata, Obertan and...

Last Updated: 01/08/14 at 08:59 Post Comment

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Goalkeeper: Richard Wright (Manchester City)
According to the Manchester Evening News, Wright 'has got as much chance of featuring for City this season as he has pitching for the Yankees, but that didn't stop him being the most enthusiastic member of the Blues squad in a coaching session for young New York kids'. Which is nice. What's also nice is that Wright was given a full 45 minutes against Hearts this pre-season and did not let in a single goal. Watch yourselves Joe Hart and Willy Cabellero.


Right-Back: Tony Hibbert (Everton)
Any doubts that Everton's decision to award Tony Hibbert a new two-year contract was largely driven by sentimental reasons were eradicated by Roberto Martinez admitting that the 33-year-old right-back (who played three top-flight minutes last season) "means so much to us". This week he even managed to get on the pitch and was the only outfield Everton player to play 90 minutes in a 1-0 defeat to Leicester this week. Seamus Coleman is injured, obviously.


Centre-Back: Dedryck Boyata (Manchester City)
'Congratulations to Dedryck Boyata for still somehow managing to be a Manchester City player in spite of logic and reason,' was a tweet from one wag on Wednesday night as the Belgian lined up against Liverpool. Never mind him 'somehow managing to be a Manchester City player', he's just signed a new two-year contract. That's the power of a 'homegrown' player at the Etihad this season.


Centre-Back: Sebastian Coates (Liverpool)
"Every player has an opportunity," said Brendan Rodgers after the Uruguayan started alongside Kolo Toure against Manchester City, but you can't help but think that Coates' opportunity is slimmer than most as he is surely behind Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Toure and possibly Martin Kelly in the pecking order at Anfield. Another loan spell back at Nacional surely beckons.


Left-Back: Armand Traore (QPR)
"I'm 24 now - it's time to wake up and do something serious," said the man with the phenomenal beard/hair combo on signing a new two-year deal at QPR despite being very much on the fringes of their promotion campaign last season as Benoit Assou-Ekotto was preferred at left-back. Harry Redknapp tried to sell him in the summer and then again in January but, the fickle bugger that he is, eventually declared him a "changed boy" and gave him a new deal. This week he played as a wing-back against Leyton Orient and looked fully awake.


Right Wing: Gabriel Obertan (Newcastle)
'There he was in the team, put in because there was nobody else available,' was the pithy line in the Newcastle Evening Chronicle as the man with the magnificent forehead lined up against Sheffield Wednesday. He played 33 minutes of Premier League football last season. Special props also go to Mehdi Abeid, who apparently looked handy against the Owls. Just as he did three years ago against Darlington; he has not played a single PL minute betwixt the two.


Central Midfield: Etienne Capoue (Tottenham)
"I'm not surprised. That's the English attitude. They don't know foreign players very well," said Etienne Capoue in January when he was sidelined by Tim Sherwood's inexplicable love for Nabil Bentaleb. "It's tough. I've gone from first-team regular to someone who is putting themselves forward to play. It's the first time I've experienced this." Sherwood and his inexplicable love have since departed and the £10m man was back in Tottenham's midfield for their victory over Chicago Fire - though with interest in Morgan Schneiderlin football's worst-kept secret, he may not be there for much longer.


Central Midfield: Marco van Ginkel (Chelsea)
It's through no fault of Marco van Ginkel that Marco van Ginkel has become the forgotten man at Chelsea as he suffered a serious knee injury last season that limited him to just a handful of appearances. But it was Marco van Ginkel who was given a standing ovation this week when he left the pitch against his old club Vitesse Arnhem. Will he play this season? He must be better than Jon Obi Mikel but we suspect that Nemanja Matic, Cesc Fabregas and Oscar will form Mourinho's first-choice central midfield. Back to Vitesse for first-team footbal, Marco van Ginkel? They love you there.


Left Wing: Charles N'Zogbia (Aston Villa)
"Charles can definitely be a big player," said Paul Lambert recently, while the rest of us said 'bloody hel, Charles N'Zogbia, does he still exist?' To be fair, N'Zogbia was an excellent player on his day, but that day came in May 2011 before a £9.5m move to Aston Villa that can be kindly filed under 'expensive disaster'. N'Zogbia earned close to £60,000 for every week he was missing with an Achilles injury apparently incurred while jogging in Miami last year, while Lambert was playing kids on a tenth of his salary. This week he's mostly been looking pretty sharp in pre-season against Houston Dynamo and Chesterfield. Could he still get that dream move to Arsenal?


Striker: Emmanuel Mayuka (Southampton)
"Emmanuel is a lightning-quick striker who I am sure will excite the fans," said then-Saints manager Nigel Adkins, who is not a man slow to blow his own trumpet or the trumpets of those players he champions. So far, the £3.5m Zambian's Saints career has excited nobody, though his 14-minute cameo against Bournemouth did include one shot that was sort of close to the target. Bodies are thin on the ground at Southampton this season, but not so thin that Mayuka gets to start a pre-season friendly win over Bournemouth. That honour went to Lloyd Isgrove.


Striker: Cameron Jerome (Stoke)
Poor Cameron Jerome. While Stoke's first team were in Germany facing Schalke with new signing Mame Biram Diouf playing as the central striker, poor Cameron Jerome was preparing to face Congleton FC with a bunch of kids. To be fair, he was magnificent as he scored a hat-trick against the North West Counties Football League Premier Division side. Which might get him a loan spell at a Championship club; we can't imagine Crystal Palace being in a massive rush to borrow him again after his two Premier League goals last season.

Sarah Winterburn

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