City set for England and Arsenal legend’s Gabala side

Plus City full-back Smith on trial at Staines

FORMER ENGLAND and Arsenal legend Tony Adams will be the star attraction at Clarence Park this Sunday when he brings his FC Gabala side to the city for a pre-season friendly.

Adams’ Azerbaijani outfit are on a 10-day training camp in England and will provide City boss David Howell with another chance to run the rule over the players aiming to secure a deal with the Saints.

The Arsenal double winner can call on at least two players with Premier League experience from his squad in the shape of ex-Derby striker Deon Burton and Terry Cooke, formerly with Manchester United as well as a trio of south Americans – Bruno dos Anjos, Bruno da Silva Barbosa (both Brazil) and Kristian Torres (Argentina).

It promises to be another interesting afternoon for Howell and his management set up as they edge closer to the opening day of the season. Howell revealed that Monday’s 4-0 defeat to a strong QPR side helped make up his mind on some players with the new City boss singling out exciting winger Sean Shields for special praise.

“I wanted to have a look at all of the players that have been working hard in pre-season and what you have to do is give them a chance in a match situation,” Howell said.

“It was our first game and I wanted to give everyone 15 or 20 minutes at least. In all I think I used 26 outfield players on the day. I had one team for the first half which I thought did quite well considering they hadn’t played together before, there were some promising signs that came out of that. It made up my mind on a few of the decisions I’ve got to make.”

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“In the younger players I thought Sean Shields did well. It’s the first time I’ve seen him in a match situation and I like the look of him.

“I think today you saw young Sean Shields has got a bright future. I’ve probably got to get his enthusiasm and harness it in the right way and get him understanding how I would like him to play once I understand his strengths.”

Looking ahead to Sunday afternoon’s friendly with FC Gabala, Howell revealed he hoped to get to Underhill last night (Wednesday) for a closer look at the Azerbaijanis during their friendly with Barnet in a bid to prepare for the game.

“I have no idea (what to expect from them) but I can go and see them on Wednesday night because they are playing at Barnet so I’ll probably go and see them there,” added Howell.

“I know Deon (Burton) very well and it’ll be very good to catch up with him on Wednesday and again on Sunday. We’ll be back training on Thursday and we’ll train again Saturday morning and then we’ll be prepared for the game on Sunday and we’ll go from there.”

One player who may not feature in a City shirt again is popular left-back Pete Smith.

Smith was due to return from holiday in time for City’s game with QPR on Monday but the former Poole Town man rang Howell to inform him he would be turning out for Staines in their friendly with Darlington, also on Monday, much to the disappointment of the City manager.

“Peter Smith, he left a week ago to go on holiday and he was going to report back for this game today,” explained Howell.

“He was getting back on Sunday, he called me Sunday to say that he’d taken advice from the previous manager, Stevie Castle, he called him and said what should he do.

“I think he wants to stay in the Conference South and I think he’s moved to south London and it was going to be very difficult for him even though I said to him that we’d be able to work around it and be flexible with training arrangements when he’s not coming from work but he made it clear to me that he wanted to go and play at Staines tonight who are playing Darlington.

“I was a bit disappointed because he did say he’d come back and he’d play on the Monday and we could have a look at him and have a chat.

“I haven’t seen him play and he hasn’t seen my style of management, he’s had one training session.

“So I was disappointed with that, especially as I spoke to the Staines manager (Steve Cordrey) and he had no idea about Peter Smith playing.”