(by Ramsay Banks)
It’s always disappointing to see players from the youth academy move on to pastures new. Today, 18 year old left back Josh Reid signed for Coventry City on a three and a half year deal, capping about a week of speculation about his future. Reid had only been in the County first team for about 6 months, but has become a fan favourite in a very short period of time. Despite his move he obviously remains loved among the Staggies faithful who will watch his development with only hopes of the very best for him and his new team.
Josh will likely get his chance for the Sky Bet Championship club immediately, as they recently had on loan left back Ryan Giles recalled by Premier League Wolverhampton Wanderers. It will be a huge challenge but I’m sure he’ll relish the opportunity, and everybody who has seen him in a Staggies shirt knows he’s up to the task. As for County, let’s look at the potential candidates to nail down the left back spot.
Iacovitti is a centre back by trade, and this shows in that all but 1 of the games he started in the Premiership were at centre half. However, in the defeat against Livingston he started at left back. While this makes him a possible candidate, this also makes him by far the least likely player on this list to make the position their own- he was very shaky in that game, mistiming tackles, misplacing passes, picking up a yellow and being lucky not to pick up a second. He is also required in his natural position at centre back.
Regardless of being on a slightly poor stretch of form, class is permanent and we’ve seen that Iacovitti at his best is one of the best and most promising central defenders the club have had in recent times. To sum up- Iacovitti is a gem; but a gem at centre half.
Randall is a natural right back, and playing inverted full/ wing backs is very uncommon in the modern game, with Denis Irwin and Phil Neville of Manchester United being the most recent and notable right footed left backs in recent times- Neville moved to Everton in 2005 where he played on his strong side. Despite this Randall, who joined the Staggies in the summer has looked extremely comfortable when called upon to play at left back in games against Aberdeen and Rangers. The latter was a 5-0 drubbing, but Randall made no significant errors aside from failing to close down Joe Aribo for the 3rd goal. Looking very comfortable on his left foot and being a very capable defender in many situations,
Randall will undoubtedly be in the thoughts of John Hughes when he returns from the back injury that kept him out of action against Motherwell. ‘Yogi’ may prefer to have his full backs on their strong side, but I think Connor is a feasible option for a position very much up for grabs.
Having joined from our rivals across the bridge in the summer after his contract ran down, veteran Tremarco has only played a handful of games for the Staggies. He was handed his first start in a 1-0 defeat away to Livingston, in which the Scouser started at left wing back and was sent off after his second booking early in the second half. Since then, he has rarely appeared in the team due to either injury or other players being above him in the pecking order, however when he was started in a 2-0 victory at Easter Road he was surprisingly brilliant- rolling back the years and bombing up and down the left hand side all night long.
Unfortunately he hasn’t had any matches since then to make his case for the spot, again being out injured. I think Tremarco will always be an option while fit, but the question marks over his availability might be a significant hill to climb if he is to make the spot his own.
On loan from Sky Bet Championship side Birmingham City, Lakin has proven a versatile option. He has played in central midfield, on the left wing, and crucially to the discussion at hand- at left back.
The Englishman only played there once, in a 1-1 draw with St Johnstone, but he looked very solid in defence and on the ball. His only shortcoming in that game was that he became predictable as the game went on- he rarely put a cross into the penalty area, preferring to pass to a County player making an overlapping or underlapping run in the final third. Even this habit may have been due to instructions given to him. Watching that game, no football fan watching Lakin for the first time would’ve blinked an eye if you told them he was a left back by trade. This is nothing but a good thing, and I think it’s the main reason why the loanee cannot pin down the left back spot as his own. He is so useful in so many positions which he can play in depending on how John Hughes wants to set the team up that he will not be labelled as having a specific, set position. I expect Lakin to be a stalwart in the team until he returns down south, but in many areas across the Victoria Park pitch.
Onto another loanee now, 17 year old Norweigan Hjelde has been brilliant in the two games he’s played since he joined from parent club Celtic last week. Making his County debut against Rangers on the left of a back three. He drew perhaps inevitable comparisons to Norweigan international Kristoffer Ajer, also of Celtic, with his composure on the ball and willingness to put in a tackle against his adult opponents. Crucially, during the second half he moved to left back when Keith Watson came on to replace the injured Connor Randall. Despite the game already being gone he made several forays into Rangers territory- his confidence at the top level of the Scottish game there for all to see. Against Motherwell, despite the bitterly disappointing defeat against our relegation rivals, Hjelde was probably the best player on the park in the first half, having his area of the pitch on lockdown from ‘Well right winger Chris Long. For the Steelmen’s equaliser, he perhaps showed a bit of inexperience in his positioning, failing to intercept the cross to Tony Watt, but I have full faith he will come on leaps and bounds in his short time at the club. The majority of the time he’s played he’s looked like a seasoned veteran out there and I think if he continues playing like he has been, he will be a shoe in for the left back spot, bar the occasional rest due to his lack of minutes under his belt at this level.
Until we meet again…
Josh Reid’s departure is a sucker punch, if he had stayed I have no doubt he’d have been up there with the best players in this County team. Reid will always be warmly welcomed back to his hometown of Dingwall and until he returns, we can only hope that both he and County flourish.