Look and learn

Date published: 05 July 2013

ATHLETIC manager Lee Johnson will run the rule over a host of trialists in tonight’s clash with Dinamo Bucharest.

Goalkeeper Robbie Thomson, recently released by Celtic, will play at Leigh Sports Village, along with first-year professional Luke Simpson.

New loan signing Mark Oxley, who completed his season-long loan from Hull City to Boundary Park yesterday, will be warmed up by goalkeeping coach Bobby Mimms. But without yet having had a training session with Athletic, the new number one’s brief will be a watching one tonight.

Muscular former Toulouse defender Issoumaïla Dao will feature and so will Anton Rodgers — son of Liverpool boss Brendan — who operates in midfield and was released by Brighton after last season.

Danny Racchi, a right-back or midfielder recently let go by Johnson’s former club Kilmarnock, also plays and Senegalese free agent Momar N’Diaye gets a chance to impress up front.

The remaining trialist is the tall Latvia under-21 international centre-back whose identity is being kept under wraps. Johnson believes he has potential.

“If we do take him, it will be a bit of a project for us and we would see him as a development player,” Athletic’s manager said of the mystery man, who plays for his national team football under the guidance of ex-Southampton forward Marian Pahars. “He is a very good passer of the ball for a player so tall at 6ft 5in.

“He wants to do well, too, and he has the frame and the raw attributes for that to be the case.”

Striker target Charlie MacDonald could also get a run-out, though at the time of going to print a decision had not yet been made on whether he would be involved.

Johnson was keen to state the case that all the above players on trial have a genuine chance of claiming contracts.

And he is also adamant that tonight’s game against the Romanian outfit is not simply a fitness exercise.

“I am looking at everything,” he said. “Mentality, fitness, where people are.

“The lads know tonight that they are getting 45 minutes. So rather than putting in 70-per-cent over 90 minutes, I want them to put everything into it.”

Athletic (from): Thomson, Simpson, Brown, Dao, Belezika, Cooper, Byrne, Trialist, Grounds, Tarkowski, Truelove, Schmeltz, Rodgers, Racchi, Winchester, Gosset, Smith, Wesolowski, Sutherland, Mellor, Dayton, Montano, Millar, Baxter, N’Diaye, Clarke-Harris, MacDonald.