Thursday, 31 January 2008

Late Night Shopping

That expression normally makes me think of Christmas Eve in a jewellers buying way over the top gifts for the wife that seem like a good idea because you've been in a pub all day and daren't go home without that little bit extra. These days most shopping centres are open until late, and many supermarkets are still scanning at midnight.

The mad rush to get that last Christmas Pressie is nothing compared to the panic to signthat one player that is going to make all the difference to your team. That one bright light that is going to transform your season and secure you promotion, save you from relegation or win you that place in Europe.

The excitement with bringing in that new player is potentially off set by the team that is having to let him go. Over all Charlton have suffered more of the latter than the former in Januarys. Last season we brought in ZZ, Thatcher and Song. All of whom made an immediate impact, even though we were still relegated. The season before we signed Marcus Bent. A bit of business that I would be happy to remove from the history books. The player was ok, but he was injured (as Curbishley later admitted) and was way over price at £2.5m. Even thought we signed Jerome Thomas for £100k in January it was the following season before we saw much of him.

Thus I would suggest that we haven't actually improved our fortunes from our signings in the winter transfer window up to now. Last season was probably our best, but ZZ and Song were loans - and ZZ only came to us in the summer because his agent couldn't get him a deal with a Premier League team. Thatcher (through no fault of his own) has not been fit enough to play more than 14 games in a year. So I have to say that from a recruitment point of view the January transfer window has been bad news for Charlton.

The other aspect of this window of opportunity is that you can offload players you no longer want, or have 'bigger teams' raid your squad for your much needed players. Last January we refused to sell Darren Bent to West Ham which I for one had mixed feelings about. We nearly avoided relegation and sold him for almost as much in the summer so no great loss there, but if the player had made the appropriate noises about refusing to play in The Championship the fee could well have been lower. The two other significant sales in January had a huge impact on the rest of our seasons.

The Murphy sale left a real bitter taste in my mouth. He left for less than we'd paid for him eighteen months earlier. The fact that he was older aside, he had produced some of the best football of his career during that time. He made it clear that he would not stay and forced the issue by going public. The interview with him at just after midnight said it all. He was sulking because he couldn't get his own way and he let that be known. I'm not sure the club had much say in that transfer, and to be fair he had fallen out of first team contention and hardly played for Spurs before they moved him on to Fulham for less than they paid us. The worst thing about that deal was that it happened so late on that there was no time for us to replace him. More about that later.

The most 'in'famous January sale was that of Scott Parker to Chelsea. Now I have to confess that despite how they behave I always have a soft spot for any player that comes through our youth system and breaks into the first team - Darren Pitcher aside. It's like having a child that turns out bad, you always find yourself making excuses for their behaviour. Even in Darren Pitcher's case there was never any secret about his agent's involvement in 'advising' him to demand a transfer. To be fair he did play at a higher level than Charlton for a few years so you could argue that his agent was right, but I shed no tears when I saw him interviewed on tv and he was working on a building site following a career finishing injury.

Anyway I digress. Scott Parker! I love my job, and I have never, ever disagreed with anything that my current employer has said, however, if I was offered a pay rise, particularly three times my current salary, I'd be off in a shot. To be fair I can probably say that with ease as I'm convinced that I am already paid far more than I'm worth, but you understand my sentiments. Add to that the fact that if he'd made it he would have expected to win trophies. I really struggle to have a problem with a player that wants to do that. His methods were not very professional as I understand it, but as I've already said if my employer tried to stop me from tripling my earnings and winning the medals that millions of people desire I'd probably do more than take a few sickies. Besides he was one of us. He was with the club for years. However, the sale (which I'm convinced was agreed to because Parker demanded it - not for money) destroyed our season. It literally destroyed our season.

On reflection Chelsea were the only team that were ever going to pay £10m for Scott Parker, and, indeed, they sold him for £6m - the fee I think we would have got for him if he'd left for any other club.

So overall I believe that Charlton's on the field activities would have been better served if FIFA has not had a transfer window in January. Financially I believe that we have done ok out of it. We paid too much for Marcus Bent, and potentially sole Murphy for a little bit less than we might have done, but the huge Parker fee more than balances it out.

That brings us to this season, well nearly. I am a massive admirer of Alan Curbishley, but I think some of his transfer dealings have been questionable. Clive Mendonca was proven, and we paid a high price for him. Darren Bent was a gamble for an unproven player at the top level, and we paid Ipswich best part of £3m for him. Both were, with hindsight, inspired but many of the other signings were safe rather than inspiring, or down right poor. Many of the players that were successes during Curbs time came through the youth side. Lee Bowyer, Scott Parker, Richard Rufus, Scott Minto, Paul Konchesky, Robert Lee, Jon Fortune, Sean Newton and others. There were some major successes, Danny Mills (the first time) was a massive signing bearing in mind the profit we made on him, Mark Kinsella was a great player and also left for more than we paid for him. There are a number of players that we signed that performed well that didn't make us a profit, Dean Kiely being one of the most popular. However, Pardew has a reputation as being able to sign players for a lot less than he signs them on for.

Reo Coker and Hareward moved to Villa for a combined fee of £12.5m, Dean Aston seems like a snip now at £7m, despite his freak accident that caused him to miss a whole season. Thus I am more confident of Pardew's transfer dealings that I was of Curbishley's. I'm not even going to mention either of those names in the same sentence as Dowie!

Thus I was confident that, despite some of last summers signings not making too many starts this season, we would end this month with a stronger squad than we started it. Despite the fact that I believe Danny Mills has a lot to offer, his absence has allowed Moutaouakil to show us why Mills is no longer the answer for us. From what I've seen of Andy Gray he offers us just what we have been missing in recent weeks. There is still talk of a loan player or two. Presumably from a top team after the African Nations Cup has finished. So on the whole good news. Then there is the issue of Andy Reid.

Reid's move to Sunderland (assuming he doesn't fail a medical) will split the Charlton fans. I personally fall into the same camp as New York Addick. I also agree with his logic and his reasoning. Doesn't mean to say that I wouldn't have preferred to keep him, but then I'd have liked to sign Rooney and Ronaldo too, but we have to cut our cloth blah, blah, blah.

The signing of Halford looks like a decent addition to the squad even if he doesn't play. However, there is a weird rule that ensures that your best players will not get injured if you have cover for them, but will if you don't!

It is a shame that this has happened so late in the window, but I guess we could have done a deal a week ago for £2.5m which is what we had apparently been offered. The very nature of the transfer window is that you have to wait until the death to screw every last pound of the buyer, because that's when they are most desperate. A bit like that drunk husband buying diamonds he can't afford at ten to five on Christmas Eve.

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