At the start of the 2019/20 season, Stevenage were seen as possible ‘dark horses’ for a League Two play-off push this time around, with a resolute and tight-knit squad respected and admired by their rivals.
Things have not worked out this way though as ‘The Boro’ are currently rooted to the bottom of the Football League, having picked up just four points from their ten games to date.
Boss Dino Maamria (now Oldham Athletic manager) was relieved of his duties at the start of September, with former England women’s national team coach Mark Sampson taking up the managerial reins on a caretaker basis.
Stevenage finished tenth last season and will almost certainly have been looking to kick on from that and mount a serious push towards the higher reaches of the League Two table this time around.
However, after their dreadful start – still without a win this campaign – priorities have changed and the need to start picking up results and putting points on the board is now paramount.
We’ve looked at two ways Sampson could address the slide in the short term while looking at a key player from last season who hasn’t been adequately replaced.
1. Start Adam El-Abd alongside Scott Cuthbert in defence
Stevenage brought in the hugely experienced Adam El-Abd earlier this month following the centre back’s departure from Wycombe Wanderers.
The 35-year-old may have been a little short of match sharpness upon arrival, though after starting one match the Egyptian has been left on the bench recently.
El-Abd is a warrior-like defender and a fantastic leader on the pitch. Sharing similar characteristics to fellow central defender Scott Cuthbert, perhaps the two could be partnered up in defence as Stevenage look to stop the rot and get back to basics.
Though neither Cuthbert or El-Abd are particularly quick, they know how to defend their goal and if Stevenage were to setup this way, perhaps playing a little deeper, then losses may turn to draws and victories.
2. Give Craig Mackail-Smith more game time
This goes somewhat hand-in-hand with the aforementioned tactical switch suggested above.
If Stevenage were to play a little deeper, they’d require an intelligent forward to play behind the striker. Mackail-Smith is suited to this role, picking up effective positions and providing a useful foil for the out and out frontman.
The experienced former Peterborough United and Brighton man, currently on loan from Wycombe, could provide a vital link between midfield and striker while helping the side in both offensive and defensive situations.
3. Alex Revell has not been replaced
Veteran striker Alex Revell announced his retirement as a player over the summer, and Stevenage are certainly missing the attacking impetus provided by the former Rotherham United and Leyton Orient man.
Big in stature, Revell was able to use his experience and technique cleverly to effect play, score goals and hold the ball up to get his team on the front foot.
No longer playing, Revell works for the club’s academy – though his attributes and impact on the Stevenage side have not been adequately replaced of yet.