Well I'm not sure what I prefer, Premier League clubs raiding our squad for our players (Marcus Bent, Madjid Bougherra and previously Andy Reid) or no Premier League teams being interested in any of them.
The latter confirms to some degree that we have no players that are good enough to play at the top level, which I find unlikely, and depressing. I would accept it if Man Utd and Chelsea wanted none of them, but I'd like to think that all of the bottom six (or those that expect to be) would be interested in something that we have.
The reverse is, of course, that teams like Wigan raid our squad for players that we could do with keeping, and as they are in such a strong financial position, and as the players (or their agents) really make all the decisions in football these days, they go for a lot less than we want. We can't really complain as we have benefited from this over the last decade, and we have left several managers whinging in the wake of us helping ourselves to their best player, for a lot less than they believed (or claimed) he was worth. In fact, we have even done this since we were relegated, Andy Gray was clearly 'advised' what we would, sorry could, be earning at Charlton before a transfer fee was agreed with Burnley.
It is just sad that we have grown the club (specifically the support) to the best level for many years and we now have to convince players that they are better with us than Wigan. No disrespect to Wigan, but their average home gate this season was 18,165 and they managed just 14,007 against Middlesborough in their first home game of the season. They are not as big a club as us, but with the Premier League money that makes them a bigger business than us, and in the end all players will tend (just like the rest of us) to move to the employer that offers the most. It's not always about money, but normally it is.
It comes as no surprise to me that we haven't yet signed anyone. It was just unrealistic that we would sign any players before the end of the season, and now all players (and agents) thinking about moving to a team challenging for promotion to the Premier League, is looking at Reading, Birmingham and Derby. Those three teams have benefited from the massive payday from the new and improved Sky deal that started in August 2007, and they have two parachute payments to come. I have no idea if the parachute payments have gone up for teams that were relegated this season, but I'm sure they won't have gone down. Last summer we could have convinced just about any player outside of the Premier League to join us, and we probably could have afforded them too, this year is somewhat different.
Having said that Pardew has made some very astute signings at clubs where expectations were a lot lower, so I have no doubt that he will be able to source some decent players at the right price, it just might take a little longer this summer than last. I also doubt that with the parachute money due to finish next summer we can afford to offer high wages to any players on long term contracts.
My personal preference (even though I have little, or no, information on the actual financial status of the club) would be to hold on to any player that can do a job for us next season. Clearly I mean regular starters, not squad members, unless we receive a massive offer for them. Bougherra for £1.5m for example would be a definite no for me. I would expect that with the tv money having gone up so much he would be worth at least what we paid for him if not more. Either way I would be reluctant to sell him at a loss. Marcus Bent, however, has, in my view, demonstrated that he has little or nothing to offer to us, and for that reason, especially as he only has one year left on his contract, I would be more than happy for him to stay at Wigan. I have no axe to grind, but I genuinely expect him to under perform next season compared to this one, and would probably not help our promotion challenge if he came back.
There are times when I would like to be involved in the day to day running of the club. Not especially in a decision making role, just involved with what's going on. However, this season has taken it's toll on me, and as such I have little interest is what's going on at Sparrows Lane. The Coventry game was like something out of a dream. I deliberately didn't post a match report as, for me, it was more about a personal experience than a football result. There is nothing more I need to add to that, except to say that I imagine that a lot of people went away from The Valley happier than they had done since we beat Palace in February, and if we ignore that game, the whole season. This, I think, bodes well for the season ticket sales, as does the clubs new pricing policy. My ticket on the half way line in the East Stand is the same price as last season, but then I am happy to pay more for a better view, and to 'subsidise' the reduction in prices for the parts of the ground that we need full, both for revenue and atmosphere purposes. Let's also not forget that at a time when prices of food and energy bills are rising so sharply a nil increase in the price of my ticket is, in fact, good news.
The Coventry game aside, however, I am feeling dis-interested in Charlton and football in general at the moment. The FA Cup Final, for all the pundits celebrating the 'Magic of the Cup' was the least inspiring since I have been watching football. I don't particularly like, or hate, either of the teams involved, and as predicted Portsmouth won with no flair or danger of not doing so. Despite the whole point of knock-out competitions, a one sided match, or more specifically a predictable result, is no good for anyone.
The all English Champions League Final? Well you can keep it. It says a lot about our football in this country when you consider that Liverpool put Chelsea out last season, and this season no English team will have been knocked out of the competition by a team outside of our own league. We clearly have enough strength to compete (and obviously win) in this competition, but I remember the New Wembley showpiece last spring when Man Utd and Chelsea fought out one of the worst games of football in living memory. European games are supposed to involve European teams, or have I missed the point entirely? I may still have the game on, but I really don't think I can be bothered.
That only leaves Euro 2008. In June 2006 I went with a couple of friends to Germany to see England play Ecuador. The whole weekend was an experience, and I loved every minute of it. I vowed to attend every championship in the future that I could get to, i.e. Europe. It is going to be devastating to not be involved this summer. "Which team will you support?" Oh go away. I'm English, I don't have a favourite country when we fail to qualify. I just wish it would all go away.
Thus, not unlike New York Addick and Chicago Addick our form and performances since Christmas have left me feeling so dis-interested in Charlton that it has taken me over two weeks to post following our last game of the season. To be fair I offer little in the way of interesting material to offer other than a preview of the game ahead and a summary of the match afterwards. For this reason I will probably not have much to say now until the start of next season, save the the odd comment on signings in or out.
I will be back in August, however, when I expect to have a renewed optimism and enthusiasm for the battles ahead.
Have a great summer.
Up the Addicks!