Well it's hardly a six pointer is it?
I had Reading down the win the league this season, and despite their start, including a 4-2 defeat to us (the only club that has conceded three goals in one game to the league's bottom team) they have looked every bit the Champions in the making to me. I didn't expect them to run away with the league like they did when they were last here, but I did expect them to win it.
Interestingly that got me thinking. The main reason (in my opinion) for their significant weakness to then is the loss of Steve Sidwell. On reflection it may well have been a masterstroke to keep him for the last year of his contract and lose him for nothing. I think he made a massive difference to them. I'm more than willing at this point to admit that I have no real interest in Reading, so my observations are really quite remote, but from what I read Sidwell was a major force in their side. His wife was on 'Wags Boutique' which Mrs KHA liked and watched. I have to confess that I did not need to be forced to watch it. Anyway Krystall Sidwell was my favourite from the start, and she eventually went on to win it. When I say favourite I don't mean the bookies tip to win it, if you know what I mean.
Anyway, as I went on thinking I could find several examples of teams that we've had where one player was especially significant. I'm more than happy for readers to point out any that I don't mention, but for me the stand out candidates were (in no particular order) Scott Parker, Richard Rufuss, Mark Kinsella, Peter Shirtliff, Darren Bent and more recently Andy Reid and ZZ. I know there have been other special players, but all of that list were, in my view, at one time or other, the pivotal cog in the wheel that is Charlton Athletic. Interestingly three of them were in the same squad for a while, but all had individual periods when their presence lifted the side a disproportional amount.
I have probably always been a little more supportive of the board than I need to have been, but I still back them their decision to let Andy Reid go. I do now think that our future could be so much rosier had we kept him, but he was a bit of an injury worry, and it's all water under the bridge now anyway. The interesting one is ZZ. I think he was very instrumental in our success last season, and even though he was in the same side as Andy Reid I think had his form not dropped so drastically towards the end of last season we could have still made the lottery that is the playoffs. The real loss, however, is both the fact that we didn't realise c.£2.5m for him last August, and that he didn't play any real part in this season.
My Dad (ever the cynic and conspiracy theorist) believes that the failure to secure a more lucrative contract in the summer prompted the decision to have that foot operation. I'm not quite so convinced, all be it that I find it unnatural (genetically perhaps) to contemplate that my Dad is wrong. Either way his absence from the first team this season has been a major factor in our current plight.
This is made worse when you consider that he was signed for a lot of money, has earned a lot of money, and will leave for nothing at the end of the season. He is in that class of player that is just not good enough for an established Premier League side, but looks very good in the Championship. As this is the richest league (I'm including all the divisions) in the world, the quality of the 'nearly good enoughs' is often better that the majority of the top division clubs in the rest of Europe. For this reason, I suspect that his agent will offer him to all the Premier League clubs again, claiming all the while that he is going to end up at one, then he will sign for another club that has just been relegated. To be fair, you can't knock it if he is earning best part of a million pounds a year. He might even make more if he signs on a free.
Irrespective as to if my Dad is right or not, I would not play ZZ again this season. He cannot get us out of trouble now, and all we would be doing is giving him a platform to showcase his wares to secure a better contract next season, and the time we needed him he wasn't there. I am not angry that he was injured, but the fact that his involvement in the Chinese national team (including the Olympics that are for under 23s- he was 27 at the time) had such an effect on the two seasons that we were paying him a very large salary, makes me feel that we owe him nothing. His Agent can earn his huge commission convincing another team to pay his client a small fortune without the benefit of Charlton making him 100% match fit, and we can blood some of the players that will be here next season, or that we can actually sell for a fee in the summer.
Closing this discussion of outstanding players, if we had one this season it would be Nicky Bailey. I believe he could be a star for us next season. Sadly, I believe that he will leave in the summer for, like ZZ, a recently relegated club with genuine aspirations of promotion to the Premier League, where he will be able to earn himself that life changing contract. Rather like the ones that Greg Halford and Tom Soares signed - two more players that fill that category of being not good enough for the Premier League whilst earning Premier league wages. I also expect to see the back of the last of that type of player from our pay role in the summer.
Anyway, Reading tonight. I expect to see us lose. Probably a bit of a thumping, and like New York Addick I believe that Parkinson needs to jettison all the loan and out of contract (in the summer) players. Anyone that plays tonight that is clearly not going to be with us next season is an insult to the players that will (or may) still be here, the fans, and frankly the employers that have sunk millions of pounds of their own money into the club only to see a succession of managers destroy the value of that investment.
Come on Parkinson, save your self, pick some Charlton players that care. Drop the millionaires that belong to other clubs now or clearly will do in a few months time.
Up the Addicks!