Burton Albion Season Preview: uncertain times

With the 2018-19 League One season coming up, The Football Lab spoke to Burton Albion fan Jack Stout (@BrewersTV); check out his excellent YouTube channel.

It feels from the outside that when Burton have upset the odds in the past, you’ve had a strong competitive spirit. Do you put last season’s relegation solely down to the budgetary disadvantage, or did the club lose touch with its core values?

Regarding last seasons relegation, I think it was down to a number of reasons. Over the summer we lost key players like Jackson Irvine, John Mousinho and Jon McLaughlin and struggled to replace them. This was partially because of the financial disadvantage that we have as a club. For example, Wolves spent £22million, whereas we spent £500k

Lucas Akins and Lloyd Dyer were excellent with their direct runs down the flanks in your first season in the Championship. Now 29 and 35 respectively, do they possess the pace to have that same influence?

I think all burton fans were shocked when burton Albion announced that Lloyd Dyer wouldn’t be playing for us in the upcoming season. However, Lucas Akins, at the age of 29, was arguably one of our best players last season and I can only see him continuing to excel. Although he doesn’t have the pace that Dyer had, he’s strong and technically gifted.

New winger David Templeton has a handy goal record with Rangers and Hamilton while Marcus Harness had a decent loan spell at Port Vale. Could they shake things up out wide?

I thought we looked quite confident on the wings last season but I feel that both Templeton and Harness will compete to replace Dyer on the team sheet. They’ll have some tough competition from young Joe Sbarra though, who’s looked good so far in pre season.

Tom Naylor appeared to be one of your more adaptable players last season. Are you disappointed to lose him to Portsmouth, or can Scott Fraser replace him?

You’re always going to be disappointed to lose a top player like Tom Naylor. He had an incredible season for us, possibly one of his best in a Brewers shirt. Because of this, Scott Fraser has got some big boots to fill, but I hope he will step up to the plate. He looked good at Dundee last season so hopefully he can carry that through with us.

Marcus Dinanga and Ben Fox have had two positive spells in non-league while Joe Sbarra showed flashes of what he can do from the bench. Is now the time to introduce academy graduates?

I think that because of the finances of the club, our academy has always been one of the best places for us to find affordable talent. As previously mentioned, Sbarra has looked very good in pre-season. Dinanga has stepped up a league again and we’ll have to keep an eye on how he gets on at Hartlepool. Ben Fox has also looked quite solid and I’d expect him to be making some appearances off the bench this season.

Liam Boyce found a mini-purple patch towards the end of last season. Having been the 2016-17 SPL top scorer prior to injury, could he pose a threat at League One level? And is this last chance saloon for Marvin Sordell?

We were unfortunate to have Liam Boyce out for the majority of last season. Based on how he played towards the end of the season, I think that if he hadn’t have suffered his injury, we would have looked more clinical up front. Hopefully he can continue that form into this coming season.

I think last season, Marvin Sordell was very hit and miss – he struggled in some games and excelled in others. I’m not sure how this season’s going to play out for him.

Ex-Rochdale midfielders Jamie Allen and Matty Lund perhaps struggled to step up to the Championship last season. How do you see them faring back in the third-tier?

I thought, last season at times, you could see sparks of excellence in both Matty Lund and Jamie Allen. They’re both already proven League One players and have looked good in pre season games, so hopefully this form will continue for them.

A lot of people felt Ben Turner’s aerial prowess was key to your better defensive performances last season. Will it be important to keep him fit?

Ben Turner was a threat to our opponents at both ends of the pitch last season. He scored some wonderful goals, most notably his looping header against Ipswich. It’s crucial to us to keep him fit, no one else in the team has his aerial ability.

Do you need a quick centre-back to partner Turner? If so, can Kyle McFadzean be that man, or will Tomas Egert get an opportunity?

It was quite a curious decision not to offer Tomas Egert a contract with us, but I still feel that Kyle McFadzean can so a good defensive job alongside Ben Turner.

You look a tad short on left-backs at present, especially given that Damian McCrory’s doesn’t have the best track record with injuries. Is cover needed?

It would be nice to have another left back in the squad but we’ve already seen that John Brayford, Ben Turner and Lucas Akins can all drop into that left-back role if need be.

Brewers aside, what are your thoughts ahead of the League One season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

I think league one is definitely going to be an interesting league overall. There are some teams who could be seen as both promotion and relegation candidates. I think if there’s going to be a dark horse in the league, Oxford could be the team to watch!

Where will you finish?

I think predicting where Burton will finish is almost impossible at this stage. We finished last season on a very good run, but have looked very shaky during pre season matches. I personally think that us achieving a play off place could be pretty realistic.

Thanks to Jack for his answers. The Football Lab’s verdict on Burton can be found on We Love Betting.