I awoke this morning with a funny feeling inside.
At first I wondered.....was it an effect from the 5-a-side game I had yesterday? No, that was just stiffness because I'm shockingly unfit - was it an effect from the BBQ chicken I had for lunch? No, I've had that before and been fine since.
Then it hit me - it was excitement. Excitement and anticipation ahead of the Bolton game on Saturday. It had been so long since I had felt those butterflies and nerves before a match.
The departure of Owen Coyle and his staff has led to Jimmy Phillips and Sammy Lee stepping up from the Academy to take charge of first team affairs - fans are excited to see how this new approach will affect the side, and considering both the track record of Phillips and Lee alongside the abundance of youth teamers of promise I think it's prudent to look at who could be making the step up soon and rate their chances of being involved:
- Rob Lainton - Always been a solid if unspectacular performer for the reserves but seems injury prone. Still, it's nice to see him enjoying Twitter - Chance of being involved - more chance of me getting a game.
- Jay Lynch - I'm a big fan of Jay, he is athletic and capable of making excellent saves on a consistent basis. Gets some criticism for being a little short but the ability is definitely there - Chance of being involved - slim, but definitely one for the future.
- Joe Riley - Joe made a great impression on his debut against Stoke, marauding up and down the wing in the mould of Steinsson, but in contrast he was actually defensively sound and able to put in a tough tackle when needed. Little bird tells me he'll be starting on Saturday - Chance of being involved - nailed on.
- Andy Kellett - One to keep an eye on. An attacking left back of great promise, he has been kicking up a storm at youth level and he's ace on Football Manager 2013 so that's absolutely certain then - Chance of being involved - slim, but definitely one for the future.
- Adam Blakeman - I've included him here in the defenders list but realistically he could also be a midfielder to watch. Great energy and an eye for a set-piece. So highly regarded that we rejected £1m from Liverpool for him in 2010. Chance of being involved - get him on the bench!
- Josh Vela - A dynamic midfielder of great promise, sadly struck down by an ankle injury in pre-season. Made his debut at a tough time for Wanderers but showed maturity and presence in a midfield of headless chickens Chance of being involved - get him on the bench (when fit)!
- Michael O'Halloran - Signed for big money from Celtic, O'Halloran has been highly thought-of amongst the youth and reserve setup since his arrival. Spent a portion of last season being underwhelming at Sheffield United where reviews included "about eight stone wet through" and "he's a lazy sod". Curtailed a loan spell at Carlisle earlier this season. Chance of being involved - Slim to none.
- Tom Eaves - Signed for the club following a dominating performance in a pre-season friendly against Oldham where he hit a hat-trick. Since then a mixture of injury and poor form has restricted his development. Offers a more direct threat than the likes of David Ngog, Marvin Sordell, or Benik Afobe, but doubt remain over his ability to stay fit. Chance of being involved - Slim to none.
Of all the likely prospects listed above, Vela, Riley and Blakeman stand out, with honourable mentions to Lynch and Kellett. The progress being made behind the scenes with the kids is one that doesn't often bring much by way of recognition, but the infrastructure and changes made by the previous manager could well have a knock-on effect into the future as the game becomes more about bringing through your own players and developing future talents.
The same goes for the manager - Jimmy Phillips may only be an interim appointment but he is well-placed to know the relative strengths and weaknesses of the squad, and with the new approach to integrate youth with experience who better to take charge?
The Bristol City game comes hot on the heels of Coyle's departure, with, seemingly, few tears shed among the playing staff. Training has been described as ‘fresh' and the return to the more scientific methods employed by Allardyce and co is a pleasing one. The game against Wolverhampton will pose a sterner test, but surely a caretaker manager with two or three wins under his belt has to be considered for the permanent post - and if that also helps shepherd in the next generation of players then I'm all for it.