We have known about the players out of contract leaving for a few weeks now.
In fact, we have known for several months. No one at the club made much of a secret, for example, that Nicky Weaver was not going to be around next season. Darren Ambrose was also, somewhat obviously, not going to be playing for us in the Third Division.
Despite protestations to the contrary I do not believe that the club are ever going to be able to put together a contract offer that will keep ZZ at The Valley. I think the only thing that will delay the announcement of his leaving is the way his Agent will refuse to do a deal until he is forced to do so. Despite what has been said about work permits and the like, it was obvious that the Chinese man's Agent wanted his client to sign for just about anyone in the Premier League rather than us, two years ago. I believe it was as a last resort that he agreed to play for us in the Championship for a season before promotion gave him a season in the Premier League before he left on a free to earn even more money.
The fact that that promotion failed to come, and the 'issues' with his move to WBA, who presumably wanted to offer him less than the national debt of a third world country and force him to sign a long term contract, meant that ZZ had to play for us in the Championship for a second season. The Olympics probably didn't help his cause too much either. The decision to make him play in that as an 'over age' player probably condemned him to another season in the second tier of English football. I cannot see any way that he would play a division below that. Not to mention that we need to cut about £10m from our wage bill.
However, ignoring my repetitive moaning, we have, in fact, increased our squad with a new signing. Following on from the press speculation it was hardly a surprise, but then it wouldn't have been a real shock had he not signed either. The club has always been very reluctant to discuss transfers until they have been concluded, and this was no different. On the face of it he looks like a good signing. He was clearly part of a team that made a significant contribution to a play off campaign. Sadly, so was Hudson until we signed him.
I think that we will be a big draw in this division. With money the way it is we should be looking to sign players on free transfers that will come to us as we are thought to have a better than average chance of promotion. Ideally their contract will have some sort of bonus and/or pay rise if we go up which takes some of the pressure of financing this season.
We also need to remember that as a Third Division club we need to be thinking about third division players. In the same way that some of our Premier League 'Stars' failed to make any impression on The Championship, despite their huge wages, we should prepare ourselves for the possibility that some of our current players may well not be suited to life in the bottom half of the Football League. This is particularly galling as they were also not suited to life in the bottom half of The Championship.
I have accepted that Parkinson is going to be in charge. I recognise that we are going to need to change much of the playing staff, and probably the playing style. I, begrudgingly, accept that Parkinson is probably the type of manager that can mould the squad into one that can win promotion from this division, all be it that I have doubts that he can do it in one season.
On that basis I welcome the signing of Miguel Angel Llera. I also like the thought that we are still signing 'International' players. I accept, however, that the word international is geographical rather than football status. Having said that the Spanish National side is a bit tasty right now, so it's no shame that our new Centre Half is not in their first 11.
It has also been a problem area for us recently, and despite the fact that Hudson is probably on his way out, this is the type of player that we desperately need. On the subject of Hudson and his proposed sale to Cardiff for £700k I have already made my feelings known on Johnny73's blog:
"Frankly for £700k I'd rip their hand off.
I do rate Hudson, but as he was signed on a free he was given huge wages. I use the word huge in relation to what players earn in The Championship. We were a recent Premier League club and as there was no transfer fee he could go anywhere and demand just about what ever he wanted
In the Third Division his wages could be a major issue, and with £700k I believe we could buy another player that would turn out to be almost as useful and would cost a lot less.
I am also somewhat swayed by the fact that he was the captain and made 42 league starts last season, and we finished bottom. If he is on £10k a week (and I suspect it's more than that) if he stays another two years and leaves on another free it will cost us £1.7m.
I am not convinced that we will win promotion next season and I doubt that he would sign another contract next summer – even if we could afford to offer him one. Thus we sell him now, or risk getting a lot less for him next summer after he’s pocketed another year’s wages that we don’t have.
Of course, there is quite possibly no truth in the rumours and he will stay, in which case I’d like to publicly support our Captain and confirm that I have every faith in his side’s chances of winning promotion."
I have little to add to that, but I am perhaps a little further along the road of accepting our new position in the football world than others are. I expect, and probably agree that, all of our half decent players are sold. Not only do we need the money, but the players don't want to play in the Third Division, and they have a short career. I don't always agree that their motivation is football driven, I expect that it is ultimately financially driven, but they do have a short career, and it is, after all, only a job for them. With the exception of Shelvey, none of the players on our books are ever likely to get close to a side that is going to win something worth while, so why shouldn't they be driven by money?
"I just want to play in the Premier League and test myself against the best in the world". I'm sure you do, but the £2m you will earn after Tax over a four year period means that it is hardly a 'calling'.
Anyway, on the basis that, assuming we get realistic offers, Bailey, Racon, Shelvey, Gray, Sam and Hudson are going to leave (most if not all of them anyway) we should be in for an exciting summer with lots of new faces being brought in. Granted they will not be players we have heard of but then I'd never heard of Jim Melrose when we signed him, nor had I heard of Mark Aislewood, Mark Kinsella or Simon Webster. See? It's looking better already isn't it?
With Shelvey being unique on the basis that he is probably the only player in that group likely to be worth a lot more in the future than now, we should be looking to thank those players for their efforts, wish them well then start to get excited about their replacements.
I would love for us to keep Shelvey, but I believe that he is the only player that is worth anything like serious money, and as most of the others (if not all) will sulk if they are not given a move we will be a little snookered if we attempt to keep them.
So, with my spirits uplifted, I am looking forward to the changes to come, and I'm even getting a little excited about the start of the new season, hopefully we can win a few games. However, I am expecting to know the words off by heart of that lovely little song by next May. you know the one "Premier League and you messed it up"!
Up the Addicks!