Monday, 20 June 2011

Love and Haiti - Lescinel Jean-Francois

It was announced this morning that Danny Wilson had made his first signing as Sheffield United manager. Recent rumours were now confirmed, as Haitian international defender Lescinel Jean-Francois signed a two year deal with an option of a third. 

Defensive recruitment had to be a priority for Wilson; with no fit left backs at the club and central defence decidedly light, with Chris Morgan and Johnnie Ertl missing the start of the season - leaving the haphazard Neil Collins and youthful promise in Matt Lowton and Harry Maguire. Given the youthful look of the back four towards the end of the season, perhaps a more experienced signing might have been expected, and that may still happen, but for now it appears that United have continued their recent strategy of signing relatively young players who have shown promise.

As a fellow Blade (David Cooper) said to me on twitter this morning, "This is the pond we need to be fishing in. Young with potential to improve. We've spent too much on players who are not going to get any better". A sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with. So who have we signed? Are our assumptions correct? Ron - editor of Swindon Town site "The Wash Bag"  told me a bit more about our new signing.

"When Lescinel Jean-Francois (LJF) joined the club back in January 2009 it was expected that his short term deal would be only that. Danny Wilson was impressed enough, particularly with Lescinel’s performance in his second start at Peterborough on the final day, to offer him a new contract."

"2009/2010 saw LJF play more than a supporting role in our near promotion campaign. A regular starter at first, including a magnificent match at left back against Southampton in the August, he eventually lost out to Alan Sheehan (The ex-Leeds player has recently signed for Notts County)."

What worries me slightly is Ron's next comment. We've had enough scary moments this season, with Nyron Nosworthy and Neil Collins providing a near-weekly horror story, and maybe this suggests that he will be utilised at left back rather than centre back, particularly until Andy Taylor returns from injury.

"Thrust into the middle, a position he’s more than familiar with, hasn’t always worked out for the best. Whilst LJF is very competent on the ball, distributes well and isn’t bad at whipping in a cross from the wing, in the middle at the back there’s no space to hide from your mistakes. His concentration goes, however he does often have a knack for chasing back onto the striker and pulling off an excellent recovery."
"He’s often been unfairly singled out by some Town fans as contributing to our relegation, despite making only 18 appearances this season, however that just isn’t the case as I pointed out in a recent blog."

The blog is well worth a read as Ron looks at the impact on results and defensive performances with/without LJF.

Ron describes him as "A player that will ultimately divide opinion, however you just can’t fault his professionalism and attitude." We have known a few players like that at Bramall Lane over the years and the Blades support will always recognise a hard working committed player, despite their technical limitations. The danger is that his mistakes, particularly if costly, outweigh the positives.

"Nothing more demonstrates this than the tragedy that shook his home nation of Haiti in 2010 and playing for months knowing his sister was missing, somewhere in the rubble left by the earthquake. LJF only found out that her body had been recovered just before the second leg of the play-off semi-final and he was adamant he’d play the game. After returning home for the week before the Wembley final he played the whole ninety minutes and gave it his all in the toughest circumstances."

A situation that few ,if any, of us can imagine dealing with, yet he demonstrated a maturity and mental fortitude that suggests he is capable of dealing with the minor tribulations that football can bring.

So with a new contract in the offing at the County Ground, LJF has chosen to remain in League One with the Blades. But will he be missed by Town fans?

"For me, Swindon should’ve done everything to have kept LJF at Swindon, however I can think of no better place than Sheffield United and linking up with Wilson again to allow him to fulfil his real potential." Let's hope so!

So who next for the Blades, as Wilson continues to re-shape his squad? More Swindon Town links will inevitably be made. Last week the papers made great play of a move for John Paul McGovern, a winger Blades fans know a lot about from his loan spell 8 years ago. This was played down by local radio and I for one am relieved. Although width has been something the Blades have lacked for a couple of seasons and is a requirement acknowledged by Wilson, I would like to see pace in the wide positions, something JP cannot provide.

Further links with Billy Paynter (currently at Leeds) have emerged and I can see this as a real possibility, particularly with the potential loss of a combination (or all) of Henderson, Bogdanovic and Evans. A player to lead the line and have width and pace playing off him. He has scored goals in League One (including under Wilson in Swindon's play off season) and I can see how he would potentially fit in with our plans.

The one player, with a Swindon connection, that I would like to see the Blades move for is Danny Ward of Bolton Wanderers. Signed on loan in the Play Off final season, he contributed 9 goals in 31 games and, to me, looked equally comfortable out wide or down the middle. However, Ron tells me that down the middle was definitely his best position. Injury curtailed a loan at Coventry early last season and he finished the season on loan at Huddersfield where he scored 3 in 9 appearances, including a great finish against Bournemouth in the second leg of the Play Off semi-final. Still 20 and with great pace, he could give us something we have only sporadically had with the injury prone Jamie Ward.

Time will tell, who we next move for, but I cannot help feeling I might be asking for Ron's opinions again before pre-season is out. Until then I thank him for his help and here's hoping LJF makes as positive impact on Blades fans as he did on Ron.  

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