Two Minute Warning
Pogrebnyak, Kalou and Woodgate: hit or miss?
Clubs don’t always have to spend big to add some quality to their squads: there’s plenty of top-notch talent available in the free-transfer market. Three of the latest free deals to catch the eye are newly promoted Reading bringing Pavel Pogrebnyak (pictured) to the Madejski Stadium, Salomon Kalou swapping Champions League-winning Chelsea for French side Lille and Jonathan Woodgate going back to his old club Middlesbrough. But will these freebies prove to be a hit, like Andrea Pirlo at Juventus, or a miss, like Andrei Voronin at Liverpool? The Life’s a Pitch panel takes a look.
The Sunday Mirror’s David Walker thinks Reading have got a hit on their hands with Pogrebnyak. “He’s a big, rangy striker and he’s had a taste of the Premier League with the Fulham loan last season,” he says. “I think the key for teams coming up – and [Reading boss] Brian McDermott will know this – is that you need a cutting edge from a regular goalscorer. For all the good football you play, if you’ve not got that regular goalscoring machine – epitomised by Grant Holt at Norwich – it transforms the level that you’re playing at. I can see him being a hit.”
Kalou could always be relied upon to contribute a goal or two from the bench for Chelsea, but journalist and author Ian Ridley thinks his success in France depends on how Lille are going to use him. “He’s been a good squad player for Chelsea,” he says. “They’ve had good service out of him. He’s scored some big goals for them down the years, and he probably deserves to cash in on his contract running down. The thing with Lille is that he’s taken on the No10 shirt of Eden Hazard, and that’s a big shirt to fill. If they’re expecting another Hazard he could be a miss, but given his pedigree and his Premier League quality, I think he’ll probably be a hit.”
You might be able to pick up some goalscorers for free, but what about defensive stoppers? Middlesbrough may have struck gold with one of their old boys, the injury-prone defender Woodgate. “First things first, his agent deserves a standing ovation for getting him a three-year contract,” says footballer-turned-journalist Adrian Clarke. “He struggled a bit last year at Stoke but I felt sorry for him because [Stoke boss] Tony Pulis often used him as a right-back and Woodgate is no right-back. I rate him very, very highly. When he’s fit and healthy, he’s a classy player who should be playing in the Premier League and it’s a shame that he’s having to drop down to the Championship where, if he’s fit, he will shine. I’ll say he’ll be a hit for the first year, but whether he’ll last three years, I’m not so sure.”
Watch the full video discussion by clicking on the play button in the image above.
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