It's time for a round-up of all confirmed transfers thus far!
DF Kosuke Ota (Transferred from Yokohama FC)
DF Toshihide Saito (Returned from Shonan Bellmare loan)
FW Frode Johnsen (Transferred from Nagoya Grampus)
FW Yu Kijima (Drafted from Tsukuba University)
MF Ryo Takeuchi (Drafted from Yokomatsu Kaiseikan High School)
Firstly then, welcome back Saito! I'd be lying if I said I'd be expecting to see too much of him in the starting 11 next season, but the former Young Player of the Year will turn 36 next April, so there's no shame in that! Johnsen and his proven goal scoring record we already know all about. At 34, he too is no spring chicken, but I'm sure he's still got another good season or two left in him.
Yu Kijima and Ryo Takeuchi I'm not ashamed to say I as yet know nothing about, but Kosuke Ota is an interesting prospect. Signed from J2 Yokohama FC, who finished in a not especially impressive 10th, Ota made 31 league appearances this year. Still only 21, he was a member of the Under 20 Japan National team which topped it's group at the U20 World Cup last year, so I'm looking forward to seeing what he's made of over the next season or two.
DF Takahiro Yamanishi (Released)
FW Mitsuhiro Toda (Released)
FW Marcos Aurélio (Released)
FW Akinori Nishizawa (Released)
MF Fernandinho (Released)
No real surprises in those released, and a huge sigh of relief will accompany Aurelio's burden on the wage list being lifted. Fernandinho is currently club-less after Kyoto failed to offer him a contract. With him being set on staying in Kansai, and with his old club Gamba not likely to bring him back to the fold, he may have to look to J2 for a team. Cerezo Osaka might be interested, and they could do far worse for a creative midfielder.
After Nishizawa and Aurelio, Toda is the third striker to be released, and it isn't unexpected. With only 12 appearances and one goal in the last two years, it's hard to see where the 31 year old can muscle into our increasingly well stocked front line. With Okazaki, Johnsen, Hara, Omae, and Yajima (who may or may not be off - watch this space), we're looking scarily well equipped up front.
Omae only got a few substitute run outs this season, but expect to see more of him in 2009. After the step up from high school football last year, Kenta focussed mainly on having him acclimatise and find his feet in the Satellite League. In the full team, most recently he came on for the final 15 minutes of the JEF United Emperor's Cup tie. His shot which thundered back off the crossbar, not to mention his assist for Okazaki's winner, both bode well for next season.
That's all so far for us, but expect more before the start of the new season in March. We still have one more foreigner spot available if needed, or maybe two depending on whether Kim Dong-Sub is given a full pro contract or not. I'm expecting one or two more university or high school signings, but who knows what Kenta and his band of excellent scouts have up their sleeves? I'm looking forward to finding out.
One singing which has caught the sight of many orange fans was that of S-Pulse legend Cho Jae-Jin by Gamba Osaka. It'll be great to see him back at 'Daira next year, even if it is in the colours of the Asian Champions! It'll add a little extra spice to the game I don't doubt, but 41 goals in 79 games will ensure Cho's always welcome round these parts! These parts, being beautiful Shizuoka:
BARRY WRITES... I really should have thought of doing this as soon as highlights became available officially on YouTube a while back. Be...