September 12th 2020. The day the footballing world has been waiting for. The Premier League and the EFL announced in July that the 2020/21 season will be underway very shortly. Ahead of the new season, I have decided to take a look into the future of the 24 teams making up League One for the new campaign, with an in depth look at what each team has to offer for the coming year. Fifth on the list, is Jake Buxton’s Burton Albion.
The 2020/21 season will be Burton Albion’s 71st in their history, and the third consecutive in League One. Their last venture outside of League One was their relegation campaign from the Championship in the 2017/18 season, being the first side analysed so far whose last season outside of League One was a relegation one rather than a promotion. Burton fell into League One after finishing 23rd in the Championship, settling above Sunderland and just below Barnsley. With the Brewers exceeding expectations of ever being in the championship, they were not considered favourites in their first season back in League One, finishing in 9th place. Last season, the Brewers ended the season in 12th place after PPG was initiated. With Burton fans not expecting dominant campaigns, the club will be looking for another season of mid-table to hopeful play off contenders next year.
Jake Buxton is heading into his first season as manager of Burton Albion, having been appointed as the club’s new head coach after the selfless resignation of Nigel Clough to save the club a lot of money. This is Buxton’s first stint on the sideline, but is still registered as a player for the new season. The defender started his career with Mansfield Town, and after spending eight years with them he took up his first stint with Burton for a year. His stellar performances in Burton’s promotion campaign led to him joining up with Nigel Clough at Derby County. The 35-year-old spent 7 years with the Midlands side before heading to Wigan for a year. He made his return to Burton Albion in 2017, and has been with the club ever since. In an interview with the club website, Buxton revealed that he hopes to bring more memorable moments to the club after taking over the role of manager in June.
Since the start of the 2019/20 season, Burton Albion have used eight separate formations across four competitions this season. The most used one of those was the 4-3-3, which was the set-up for 27 of the 46 games. The second most used formation was the 4-2-3-1, but for the squad set up section, I will be focusing primarily on the 4-3-3 formation. All of the formations were found using Transfermarkt.
24-year-old Kieran O’Hara was Burton’s first choice goalkeeper for the whole season, with the Manchester United loanee making 42 appearances for them this season, with 12 clean sheets to his name. Supporting O’Hara for the final few months of the season was Ben Garratt, an October signing after his release from Crewe Alexandra. Garratt only played 4 games this season for Burton, being used only if O’Hara was injured or suspended. Club veteran Stephen Bywater was used only once this season, in a 2-0 defeat against the Everton U21’s in the leasing.com trophy.
All stats are supplied by WhoScored. The only goalkeeper we can look at for realistic stats analyse is Kieran O’Hara. The Irishman made 95 saves for the Brewers this season, with 57 of those coming from inside the area.
On the right-side, 32-year-old John Brayford was the first choice right back when the club was playing with a four-back. Brayford made 40 appearances for Burton this season, scoring three goals with one assist. With Ben Hart being out on loan with Tamworth for the season, Brayford was the only first-team right back that the club had, with Akins deputising. Stats wise, Brayford made 31 tackles and 35 interceptions from his 32 league games. Brayford’s 6.6 average rating wasn’t the greatest this season, and will look to be improved on next year.
At left back, 32-year-old Colin Daniel was the first choice full back on the left-hand side, making 31 appearances without scoring a goal. However, he did pick up four assists so was dangerous on the left flank. Back up to Daniel was Reece Hutchinson who was promoted from the academy a few years back. He made 23 appearances this season and also got three assists. Seems to have been a good area for assists for Burton. Also in the squad was Kieran Wallace, who started the season as a full back but spent the majority of the year in the middle of midfield, making 36 appearances in all competitions, scoring once in the league.
Stats wise, Daniel made 45 tackles and 23 interceptions. Compared to John Brayford, Colin Daniel was seemingly a better tackler of the ball, with Brayford being the better intercepter. In Hutchinson’s 17 league games, he made 16 tackles and 18 interceptions, with a 6.4 average rating. With Wallace’s venture in the midfield, he made 36 tackles and 37 interceptions in a very good season with Burton.
In the centre of defence, the Brewers had a fair few options to work with. 31-year-old John-Joe O’Toole was the first choice centre half, despite being brought in as a recognised midfielder. O’Toole made 36 appearances last season, but wasn’t able to score a goal in that time. Working alongside him is the current manager Jake Buxton, who made 30 appearances for Burton last season and was able to score once in the league. Pushing those two for a start was Chelsea loanee Richard Nartey who made 29 appearances last season but like O’Toole he was also unable to find the net. Playing back up to those three was winter loan signing Conor Shaughnessy, who had spent the first half of the season with Mansfield. Shaughnessy played eight times for Burton in the league, and was able to get two assists. Also in the squad was 20-year-old Jevan Anderson, who played three times for them this season.
Stats wise, O’Toole made only 30 tackles, but also made 38 interceptions in the centre back spot this season. In Buxton’s 24 league appearances, he made 17 tackles and 40 interceptions, showing that he was a very good defender when it came to stepping out of the defence.
In the centre of the park, Burton Albion had five options to choose from, not including Kieran Wallace who started as a full back. Summer signing Ryan Edwards made 44 appearances for the club this season, scoring seven goals and getting four assists along the way. Alongside him was Burton’s star man Scott Fraser, who performed incredibly well last season getting nine goals and 14 assists in 41 games. Incredible return for the Scotsman. With 38 appearances to his name, Stephen Quinn was instrumental in the middle of the park in the defensive end. One goal and two assists for the Irishman. Battling with them for the season was youngster Joe Sbarra, who made 33 appearances for the club and scored once along the way. A lot of games for the youngster last season. Forcing some more rotation in January, Burton brought in Joe Powell from West Ham. The midfielder scored three goals in 10 games as he made his mark in the final few months of the season.
When it came down to the statistics, Ryan Edwards was only successful in just over 50% of his dribbles, but he had 77% pass accuracy last season, whilst also completing 28 key passes in the attacking third. For Scott Fraser, he was instrumental in front of goal this season, having 52 shots on goal in the season. A very dangerous attacking midfielder for any team. Stephen Quinn made 55 tackles and 63 interceptions as a holding midfielder for Burton this season, being very assured in front of the backline all year.
On the wing, Burton had a host of options throughout the season to work with. 31-year-old Lucas Akins was Burton’s most capped player this season with 45 appearances, scoring 10 times and getting five assists as well. Akins has been a very key player for Burton in both attack and defence. David Templeton spent the first six months of the season with Burton, making 27 appearances and scoring five times. Predominantly played on the left wing, Templeton was also valuable across the attacking third. Nathan Broadhead joined the Brewers on loan from Everton in the summer, making 22 appearances with three goals and three assists. Broadhead was utilised across the front three like Templeton.
Jamie Murphy was an incredible loan signing in the winter, joining from Rangers for six months. Murphy played 10 games, scoring seven times with two assists. A class winger in 2020. Lloyd Dyer was picked up in the summer on a free, but only played in nine games before being released in January. Struggled to make an impact. Stats wise, it was Lucas Akins that had a really big impact across the eight months of football. Akins had 66 shots on goal this season, whilst also completing 62% of his dribbles. He got a 7.03 rating across his 35 league games, a very good record the winger.
Going forward, Burton had two options to choose from for the first half of the season. Liam Boyce was Burton’s go to striker for a fair few years, scoring 14 goals in 33 appearances for the Brewers this season before making the move north of the border to join Hearts. In support of Boyce, and then taking his position was Oliver Sarkic. Sarkic played 37 appearances for the club last season, scoring five goals and getting 10 assists playing all across the frontline.
Stats wise, Liam Boyce had 65 shots on goal from his 25 league appearances, with eight goals coming from them. Aerially Boyce wasn’t the strongest, but he did make 32 key passes in the final third. Compare that to Oliver Sarkic, who had only 43 shots from his 28 league appearances this season. Another player he struggled in the air, Sarkic relied on his footwork with 31 key passes to his name.
In a similar vain to previous seasons, Burton Albion have a lot of work to be done in the transfer window with a limited budget and a very small squad. With this being Jake Buxton’s first ever season as a manager, bringing in players was always going to be an interesting situation as no one knows who his connections are with. Buxton’s first signing of the season was 29-year-old winger Steven Lawless from Scottish Premiership side Livingston. Lawless was excellent last season, with 11 goals and nine assists for Livingston in all competitions, and could be exactly what Burton need this summer with limitations in the width of the team. The second signing of the summer was Charles Vernam, a free transfer after his release by Grimsby in League Two. Vernam scored 7 goals in his 27 league appearances last year, and rejected a new deal with Grimsby to join up with Burton Albion.
In the last few days, Burton have announced two new signings, both from Lincoln City. The first of those is experiences full back Neal Eardley, with the 31-year-old making 39 appearances for the League One side last year. Joining back up with Neal Eardley is 32-year-old Michael Bostwick, who has signed on a free transfer on a one-year deal. A couple of experienced players brought in to help develop the youngsters at the club.
With four players coming in, there was also movement on the way out. Young striker Oliver Sarkic has made the switch across League One and has signed for Blackpool on a three-year deal. It is a bitterly disappointing loss for Burton to take, as Sarkic was a very adaptable player last season for Burton all across the front line. In terms of released players, the biggest casualty is Scott Fraser, who is destined for the Championship. A truly brutal loss for the Brewers.
Goalkeeper Stephen Bywater has officially retired from football, taking up a staff position alongside Jake Buxton. Also leaving the club is midfielder Joe Sbarra, who has just been announced as a new signing for Solihull Moors. Kwame Thomas and Ethan Vale were also part of the ‘unretained’ list, and have been released from the club and are yet to be picked up. Burton also had loan players leaving the club this summer, with Kieran O’Hara, Nathan Broadhead, Jamie Murphy, Richard Nartey and Conor Shaugnessy all departing.
The Problem Areas?
Despite four new players into the club, there are still areas of the Burton squad that need working on. In goal, Ben Garratt is the only senior goalkeeper with the club at the moment after O’Hara’s loan spell ended, and Bywater’s retirement. With Garratt having first team games last season, he could be trusted with the first team position, whilst Callum Hawkins could play back up to him. On the right, Neal Eardley has joined John Brayford in the full back spot for the new campaign. Shouldn’t be any transfer movement on this side. At left back, Burton have given Colin Daniel a new deal to stay at the club, with Kieran Wallace and Sam Hutchinson still with the club. Left back shouldn’t be a big area of concern for Buxton.
In the centre of defence, Burton are looking a little light. With Buxton’s promotion to player-manager, it would be interesting to see how much he plays this year. Michael Bostwick has been signed, with John-Joe O’Toole and Jevan Anderson still with the club. However, three of the centre backs are 32-years-old or older, and Anderson has very little first team experience. Richard Nartey and Conor Shaughnessy have departed after their loans, so the centre back spot should be a big area to work on. In the middle of midfield, the club still has Stephen Quinn, Joe Powell and Ryan Edwards, and have Kieran Wallace to deputise there. Bostwick can also play in the midfield, but with the loss of Scott Fraser and the release of Joe Sbarra they are a little light in the midfield. Could be an area to work on.
Going forward is coming together for the Brewers, with Lucas Akins, Stephen Lawless and Charles Vernam being first choice starters for the new season. However, they don’t have any players to push them this year. Will need at least one more attacker.
I’m not suggesting by any means that I am a scouting guru who has an extensive knowledge of the world of football, but I do like the process of the transfer windows, and trying to be someone who can identify talent when it becomes available. For each team, after identifying the problem areas, I want to try and see if I can find any players for a specific set of positions who could be suited to each club, based on previous transfer years and the club’s reputation surrounding incomings:
- Centre Back –
Richard Nartey – Chelsea – 21 y/o – Free Agent
Spent last season on loan with Burton, so knows the club and Buxton very well. Could be the ideal free agent to pick up on the cheap.
Conor Shaughnessy – Leeds – 24 y/o – Loan Deal
Spent last six months of the season on loan with Burton, and make a very good impact in his short spell. He won’t play in the Premier League, so will need first team football somewhere.
Alex Baptiste – Doncaster – 34 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Doncaster in the summer. Could be a back up option for Burton as an experienced head is always good for a team. Last resort option at best.
Robbie McKenzie – Hull – 21 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Hull City in the summer, but would go straight into so many League One teams next season. Would be a very good signing for Burton.
Donervan Daniels – Luton – 26 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Luton in the summer. Could be a very good player for a bottom end or mid table League One side. Burton need bodies, this could be one of them.
Lloyd Jones – Luton – 24 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Luton in the summer. Spent last six months on loan with League Two Northampton. Would be a cheap option who could transition from rotation to first team.
- Winger –
Nathan Broadhead – Everton – 22 y/o – Loan Deal
Spent last season on loan with Burton. I know I’m recommending the same players, but Burton don’t have the luxury of an expansive scouting system. Bring in players who know the club.
Jordan Graham – Wolves – 25 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Wolves in the summer. Wanted by Gillingham currently, so is considered a very good League One winger. Could be the perfect battler for Lawless on the left, or fighting Akins on the right.
Nathan Thomas – Sheffield United – 25 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Sheffield United in the summer. Spent last season on loan with League Two Carlisle. 9 goals and 8 assists in all competitions last year. Excellent winger who deserves step up to League One.
Danny Rowe – Ipswich – 28 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Ipswich in the summer. On his day, a brilliant League One winner. Injury halted his career at Ipswich, but he can be so good on his day. A release that Lambert will rue, trust me.
Tom Walsh – Inverness – 24 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Inverness in the summer. 3 goals and 6 assists in 25 games. Could be a cheap, solid Scottish option which Burton love picking up.
Blair Alston – Hamilton – 28 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Hamilton in the summer. 2 goals and 3 assists in 25 appearances, 19 of which were in the Scottish Prem. Another very good option.
- Striker –
Joe Mason – MK Dons – 29 y/o – Free Agent
Released by MK Dons in the summer. Could be a good back up forward if Clarke-Harris was to stay with the club.
Jordan Roberts – Ipswich – 26 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Ipswich in the summer. Linked with Gillingham, Doncaster, Rochdale and Salford. Would be a very good backup option or occasional starter for Burton.
Danny Loader – Reading – 19 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Reading in the summer. Previously been linked with Premier League teams a few years back. Needs a career revival, and Burton could be the team to do it.
Alex Jones – Partick Thistle – 25 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Patrick Thistle in the summer. A very cheap option from across the border, but were probably only be a back up. Cheap, but not a fully fledged starter.
Oliver Hawkins – Portsmouth – 28 y/o – Free Agent
Linked with a whole host of League One and Two teams after his release from Portsmouth, and could find a new home with Burton.
Devante Cole – Doncaster – 25 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Doncaster in the summer. A workhorse who will give everything for the team. Needs to regroup in League Two most likely, but as a cheap option could be a good second fiddle to the front three.
It’s always difficult to tell how each team is going to fair in the new season, because we haven’t seen many signings nor the influence of pre-season friendlies. Just by going off how each team is expected to deal with the current COVID-19 financial troubles, and what each team is capable of doing under much greater restraint right now, I think that Burton might have another season of mid-table football. With it Buxton’s first season as a manager, I can’t see him pulling up trees and shocking other teams, but I think the squad will have enough in them to keep away from the relegation zone. Losing Fraser is massive, they will need to replace him with someone soon.
What do you guys think? How do you think Burton Albion will fair in the new season? Will it be too much for Buxton to handle in his first senior management position, or will he take to it like a duck to water? Let me know in the comments below, and make sure to follow All Out Football on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.