Burton Albion has become more active in the transfer market as the League One season moves closer. With three signings before the friendly against Birmingham City, The Brewers took their summer transfer tally to five. There was further activity when Bryn Morris and Ryan Leak were sold to Grimsby Town and Salford City respectively. Then Burton’s week got even more productive when key midfielder Joe Powell signed a new two-year contract. After reviewing Burton’s goalkeepers and defenders in part one, we evaluate The Brewers’ midfield and attacking options and assess where they need to improve ahead of the new season.
Burton Albion Squad Review Part 2
Many Brewers fans were relieved when Joe Powell finally put pen to paper on a new two-year contract. Powell has established himself as a key player in his two and a half seasons at the Pirelli Stadium so far. The West Ham academy graduate has passing and dribbling abilities that other midfielders in Burton’s squad lack and has led the club in assists for the past 2 seasons. Powell may struggle to start the season, he has missed all of the preseason so far and only has one more opportunity to get minutes before Burton starts their season away at Wycombe Wanderers. This season Powell needs to aim to reach double figures in goals and assists and establish himself as one of the league’s better-attacking midfielders.
Wales under-21 captain Terry Taylor has great potential but is yet to nail down a place in Burton’s lineup. Taylor started just 12 matches last season as more experienced players were favored in his defensive midfield role. With Callum Butcher joining and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson impressing in midfield during the preseason, it’s hard to see a path to regular starts for Terry Taylor this season. It doesn’t help that most of Burton’s centre-back options are also capable midfielders and Taylor has been linked with a move away which could happen if the Welshman does not get regular playing time.
Ciaran Gilligan didn’t make his first appearance of last season until January but a strong second half of the season saw the academy graduate earn a new two-year contract. The Irish midfielder is highly rated at the Pirelli Stadium and was called up to Ireland’s Under-20 squad in March. After Gilligan signed his new contract in April, Manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink said that Burton hopes the midfielder can play more consecutive games as he builds his body to be more suited to men’s football. This season, Gilligan will look to become a regular starter and break into Ireland’s under-21 squad.
Callum Butcher rejoins The Brewers a completely different player to the one that helped The Brewers to League One promotion in 2015/16. The 31-year-old now plays as a defensive midfielder as opposed to an attacking number 8 and Hasselbaink thinks he could be key in The Brewers stopping counterattacks. Butcher’s last competitive game was in March so he may need a few weeks to get up to speed but once fit he offers experience as a natural defensive midfielder that Burton lack.
Charlie Lakin struggled during his first season with The Brewers and will be looking to contribute much more this season. Lakin arrived at the Pirelli Stadium after an impressive loan spell at Ross County but his inconsistent performances saw him start just one of Burton’s final 10 matches. The former Birmingham City man even fell behind youngster Ciaran Gilligan in the midfield pecking order by the end of the season. Lakin is still only 23 and with 2 years remaining on his contract can still turn his Burton Albion career around with a solid season next time out.
Ben Radcliffe signed his first professional contract this summer after impressing on loan at Mickleover FC last season. The midfielder scored five goals and showed his versatility during his loan and has spent preseason trying to work his way into Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s plans. With Theirry Latty-Fairweather already spending time on loan this season, Radcliffe may stay at Burton as some emergency depth in both midfield and defence.
Charlie Williams signed his first professional contract and made his Brewers debut last season. The young midfielder was named on the bench for three league games last season and with Burton lacking depth in attacking midfield and on the wings, will be looking to make regular appearances this season.
Davis Keillor-Dunn continues Burton’s trend of signing a winger from League Two each season but will be hoping to do better than Omari Patrick and Charles Vernam. Dunn comes with a better reputation than both Patrick and Vernam having scored 15 goals for Oldham Athletic last season. Also with Lucas Akins having left the club in January, there is space for another star winger next to Jonny Smith. Dunn looks to have won the starting spot after some impressive performances during the preseason but will have to perform quickly to avoid losing the spot to the promising William Kokolo.
William Kokolo looks set to play on the wing for The Brewers this season with the switch to a back four. After joining in January, Kokolo impressed as a left-wing-back but the switch to a back four may see him fighting for game time this season. The Frenchman could play left-back but during the home preseason games, he has exclusively played on the left wing and started on the bench. Currently, Tom Hamer, John Brayford, and even Frazer Blake-Tracy are preferred at full-back so the former Middlesbrough man may have to settle for a backup winger job this season.
Quevin De Castro
Quevin De Castro joins on loan from West Brom Looking to establish himself in English football. The Portuguese winger played three times for The Baggies last season after leaving Sporting Lisbon to move to England. Castro is very highly rated at The Hawthorns and will look to break into The Brewers’ starting lineup straight away.
Jonny Smith recovered from a shoulder injury to feature in Burton’s preseason and should be ready to start in The Brewers’ opener against Wycombe Wanderers. Smith only played 29 times last season due to injury and suspension but still showed his quality with four goals and four assists. Smith now needs to avoid injury and replicate performances like his double at home to Accrington Stanley last season more often. After last January, Smith is now Burton’s longest-serving and best attacker. He needs to show that by leading Burton with both his goals and assists this season.
Polish winger Jakub Niemczyk would’ve probably featured heavily in Burton’s preseason if not for a horrific leg injury suffered on loan at Belper Town. Despite the injury, Niemczyk was still offered his first professional deal, and the coaching staff clearly thinks the winger has the potential to feature for The Brewers regualry at some point.
Gassan Ahadme is a classic target man who needs to add more goals to his game to establish himself as Burton’s first-choice striker. The Moroccon striker joined The Brewers last season after an unsuccessful loan spell at Portsmouth. He improved slightly after joining Burton, scoring 3 goals in 14 appearances. Ahadme will probably start the season as Burton’s number 9 but will face stiff competition from Louis Moult and new signing Victor Adeboyejo if he does not hit the ground running.
After returning from injury in January last year, Motherwell hero Louis Moult only managed three starts and one goal. The January signings of Ahadme, Christian Saydee, and Oumar Niasse limited his chances and if Moult can’t impress in the limited chances he’ll get to start this season, a January exit may be on the cards. The striker’s passion and determination have made him a fan favorite even without the goals but he needs to prove he still has what it takes to be a regular scorer for The Brewers.
Victor Adeboyejo is looking to revive his career after only starting 16 games in the past two seasons. The Nigerian striker still scored five goals in those two seasons with Barnsley and will look to both play and score more regularly in his stint with Burton. Adeboyejo will most likely start the season as the backup to Gassan Ahadme but could easily move ahead of the Moroccan if he finds form. Still just 24 years old, Adeboyejo has a chance to become Burton’s long-term number 9 if he can take his chances this season.
With three strikers ahead of him already competing for one spot upfront, Tom Hewlett needs a loan spell this season where he can play regular football. The 21-year-old has only made one league appearance for The Brewers due to injuries that have slowed his progression. Now fit again, Hewlett needs to show management that he has the potential needed to play for Burton and earn himself another new contract.
How Will Burton Lineup For Season Opener.
Hasselbaink currently has 28 players to choose from over the course of this season but injuries have left his options limited for the season’s opener. Preferred centre-back pairing Sam Hughes and Conor Shaughnessy are both fighting muscle injuries and their absences will leave gaps in Burton’s defence. The rest of Burton’s lineup is still up for debate with The Brewers’ attack struggling to score during the preseason. In midfield, appearances for Gilligan, Taylor, and Lakin in a midweek friendly against Belper Town suggest that they’ll only be used from the bench against Wycombe Wanderers.
Predicted Lineup Vs Wycombe
Garratt, Brayford, Oshilaja, Mancienne, Hamer, Butcher, Borthwick-Jackson, Powell, Smith, Keillor-Dunn, Ahadme