It has been a quiet summer for Burton Albion fans. Despite new contracts for John Brayford, Michael Mancienne, and a handful of youngsters, only two players have been signed. After just one win in their last 8 matches, many Brewers fans would’ve been expecting more transfer activity as the club looked to progress. The departures of Lucas Akins and Kane Hemmings and the signings of Gassan Ahadme and William Kokolo in January signaled Burton’s intent to build a much younger squad for the future. Following the 1-0 preseason defeat to Nottingham Forest, we go through each player in the Brewers’ squad and evaluate what their aims should be for the season ahead.
Burton Albion 2022/23 Squad Review
After being a vital figure in Burton’s great escape in 2020/21, last season was a much more difficult one for Ben Garratt. In a poor season for The Brewers overall, Garratt’s form gradually dropped and he was eventually replaced by Matej Kovar for the final six matches. Garrett’s poor form could be put down to the constant rotation in Burton’s defence. It was very rare that manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink selected the same backline for two games in a row and this must’ve been unsettling for Garratt as his form declined. With Matej Kovar now back at Manchester United, Garratt should start this season as the number 1 goalkeeper. He will need to start the campaign well however or on-loan Aston Villa goalkeeper Viljami Sinisalo will replace him.
Finland Under-21 goalkeeper Viljami Sinisalo has been brought in to provide some stern competition to Ben Garratt. Last season, the goalkeeper spent the season with Aston Villa’s Under-23s and even appeared on Villa’s bench for games against Chelsea and Manchester City. Sinisalo is also Finland Under-21s number 1 goalkeeper and will be looking for regular playing time with The Brewers so he can keep his place. The Finn also has some experience in first-team football having spent the 2020/21 season on loan at Ayr United.
Callum Hawkins has been a professional with the Brewers since 2018 but is still yet to make a competitive first-team appearance. He was the second-choice goalkeeper in January last season before Matej Kovar arrived on loan. The now 22-year-old then spent time on loan with Leamington in the National League North, keeping five clean sheets in eleven games. This season Hawkins needs game time so finding him another loan similar to Leamington is vital in his development. Hawkins may eventually play for the Brewers and his development this season will be crucial in deciding if he does.
Daniel Moore became a professional last season and spent some time on loan at Belper Town. Moore will probably be the third-choice goalkeeper this season with Hawkins likely to go out on loan. Head of Goalkeeping Jake Kean said “We need to keep Dan close as it’s important he’s in and around the first-team environment and gets that experience.
Captain John Brayford is the club’s longest-serving current player, having been in his second spell with the Brewers since 2016. Last season Brayford, despite being 34, continued to be one of Burton’s most consistent players. In 33 appearances, Brayford scored 6 goals from defense. He was actually the Brewers’ second-highest goalscorer behind only Dan Jebbison, who left in January. Brayford’s top performances earned him a new two-year contract and the club’s player of the year award. This season Brayford will look to repeat his performances but as he turns 35 in December, he will have to be carefully managed. Burton can not afford to lose their captain for an extended spell.
After impressing on trial during last season’s Bass Charity Vase, Ryan Leak signed a two-year contract with The Brewers. Leak made 16 league appearances during his first year with Burton but fell out of favor after a poor defensive performance in an FA cup loss to Port Vale. The Burton-born centre-back was absent for the defeat to Forest but did appear in a win over Stratford Town this preseason. He’ll need to work his way back into Hasselbaink’s plans to win a new contract at the Pirelli Stadium.
Sam Hughes didn’t impress as much last season as he did during a loan spell at Burton in 2020/21. During that season, Hughes formed a solid partnership with Michael Bostwick whereas last season Hughes had numerous partners in the centre of defence. The former Leicester City man was also returning from a serious knee injury and was clearly still regaining form and fitness. With a full preseason behind him, Hughes will be looking to replicate his past performances and give Burton a better defensive base to build on.
Cameron Borthwick-Jackson is a great, versatile squad player who needs to become more consistent to become a key player for The Brewers. The former Manchester United man started the season considered as a backup full-back and ended it starting in Burton’s midfield. Borthwick-Jackson’s versatility makes him an important part of Hasselbaink’s squad and he even played at centre-back during the latter stages of the defeat to Nottingham Forest. This season Borthwick-Jackson needs to nail down a position in Burton’s starting line-up and then he can work on becoming more consistent in that role.
Another key figure in Burton’s great escape who had a much lower profile season last time out. Tom Hamer had a consistent but unspectacular season, playing 45 times at full-back and keeping 10 clean sheets. Hamer’s long throw became ineffective this season as opponents figured Burton out and a younger Brewers team had less aerial prowess. This saw his attacking contributions fade but he was still a key player for Burton defensively. Next season, Hamer needs to kick on and establish himself as one of the division’s best full-backs. A couple of Championship sides have rumored interest in Hamer including Burnley.
An experienced Defender and midfielder, Deji Oshilaja had a frustrating first season at Burton. Oshilaja’s versatility and leadership meant he was always in manager Hasselbaink’s plans but poor performances against Charlton Athletic, Port Vale, and Fleetwood Town stopped him from becoming a fan favourite. While Oshilaja clearly has the quality and determination to be a success, he will need a more consistent second season to be considered a success at the Pirelli Stadium.
Frazer Blake-Tracy was brought to Burton Albion to play back-up to Tom Hamer but in five starts for The Brewers last season, failed to show the quality needed. Burton only won one of the five games Blake-Tracy started and goals The Brewers conceded often came from his side of the pitch. He looked like a player lacking in confidence and fitness and if a suitable offer comes in he may depart this summer.
Latty-Fairweather came through the Burton Albion academy and signed a new one-year contract in June. The full-back looks set to spend the season on loan with Hereford FC after appearing in a preseason game for The Bulls. Hereford plays in the National League North, a division Latty-Fairweather is familiar with after a spell last season on loan with Guiseley.
Michael Mancienne only started 19 league games for The Brewers last season but his leadership and experience mean it was a no-brainer for Hasselbaink to offer him a new one-year deal. Mancienne can play in both midfield and defence which makes him key for a Burton side currently lacking in natural midfielders. This season Mancienne may play even fewer games than the last campaign but his ability to offer guidance to the club’s younger players will be vital in Burton having a successful season.
Connor Shaughnessy had an okay first full season at Burton and should look to kick on and find consistency next season. Shaughnessy is another player who can play in both defence and midfield but may need to settle on one position to find a consistent run of good performances. When played in midfield, Shaughnessy gives Burton an aerial ability they cannot get with their other midfielders and he also offers a threat from set pieces. The former Ireland under-21 international scored 3 goals and registered 2 assists last season. Shaughnessy started the friendly against Forest at centre-back alongside Sam Hughes and that may be Hasselbaink’s preferred pair to start the season.
Burton Needs More Consistency From Their Defence
The main topic in these player reviews is the lack of consistency in Burton’s defense last season. One week it would look very solid and the next it would concede multiple preventable goals. This can not just be blamed on the players but also on the management. Hasselbaink frequently rotated the personnel and the system used in The Brewers’ defense. Burton used a 4-3-3 shape against Nottingham Forest and it’s a system they should start the season with. In terms of personal, at centre-back Burton is fine for numbers and quality but a new full-back to replace Frazer Blake-Tracy may be required.