Wednesday, 28 July 2010

All Change

I was going to wait until the eve of the new season before I changed the look of this blog. I appreciate that there is something to be said for continuity, but when I started this blog I had little idea how long it would run for and, therefore, just picked one of the standard templates. This is another template, but I've personalised it a little bit. It may well change again, but for now this is the new look.

The reason for making the change now is that there has been a dramatic change in the ownership at Charlton, and that is significantly more reason to bring up the subject than my preference for the colour of the links on my blog.

The change I'm obviously referring to is that of Richard Murray taking control of the club. There are more than enough summaries of what this might mean elsewhere, and I'm not in the habit of repeating things others have written better than I can, but I will just endorse the decision of the current Directors that have reduced their potential net value and, of course, Richard Murry's latest financial backing of the club. I seriously doubt that he expects to make any kind of return of this latest move.

In fact, I would guess (and this is purely speculation), that he has been willing to make further cash injections of one form or another but has been unwilling to do so when others own shares and are not willing or able to match these injections. As I say this could be nothing but my own imagination, but if I part owned a company (especially one that I had an emotional attachment to) I would be reluctant to put money in when, technically, the money was owed by someone else as soon as I passed it over.

I don't think this is going to mean a change to a less frugal approach. Murray has admitted, much to his credit, on many occasions that massive mistakes have been made with some player acquisitions, and he will probably welcome a much more conservative approach. The less you spend, the less you can waste if it all goes wrong.

Despite the allegations that Pardew may have wasted more money (especially on the difference between what we paid for players and what we 'released' them for), Dowie's signings were also a failure on the whole. We might have realised much of what Dowie spent, but the players failed to provide any value for money on the field, and I think Dowie's signings were probably more responsible for our relegation from the Premier League than Pardew's half a season in charge.

Anyway that is all water under the bridge. Had we been in the Championship this season I might have found myself dreaming about a Curbishley return and another proper challenge for the Premier League. However at this moment in time I am more than happy with Parkinson to steer us out of the third division. I am quietly confident that we might just manage that this season but if not, I think Parkinson is as likely to be able to build a side capable of that in the next three of four years as anyone else that we could attract right now.

In fact, there have been some suggestions that we might be about to sign a player or two for a transfer fee. It is clear that the two strikers we have had on trial have failed to convince Parkinson, and to be fair to them, and him, the chances of signing a striker capable of scoring 15 plus goals in a season on a free, on reasonable wages are pretty slim. The only type of player that is ever available on that basis is one, like Leon McKenzie, who has a history of injury problems. We have had our fair share of players like that in recent years, so I would, personally, prefer to steer clear of them. Sam Sodje is one such example. I'm sure than on his day he can be a really useful asset, but he has a problem with his knee that would worry me with big, important games.

The summer has been much more encouraging that I could ever have hoped for. I seriously doubted we would get £1m for Nicky Bailey, I thought we would be stuck with Mou2 and McLeod's wages for another year, and I would never have imagined we could have sold a third division full back for £450k - especially just before he ruled himself out for three months with a shoulder injury - and we all know three months ends up being more than six. On that subject I can't help feeling that many of the players that are going to Southampton right now are just chasing the money. We have only just offloaded the last of those type of player that he signed for us. I wouldn't be surprised to see Southampton outside the top four approaching Christmas with Pardew drawing up lists of new recruits he needs in January. Just like Man City last season and us two seasons before, you can't buy success. anyway that is a conversation for another day.

Also on the plus side we have kept Christian Dailly, signed McCormack, Doherty, Jackson and Reid, and we have (up to now) kept hold of Racon and Semedo. We, clearly, need more strength in depth and a striker or three, but we have a week and a half before the big kick off, and if all else fails we can start the season with a 4-5-1 with Akpo upfront on his own. That formation won us the first six games of the season last year, and the transfer window is open for another five weeks.

We have also not, yet, signed any loan players. This is where I am hopeful we will be able to bring in a very good young striker for a season that can score close to 20 goals while his club don't need him for a year or two.

The defeat at Barnet was not what we were hoping for, but on the whole I think things are much better than I feared they would be with just a few days of July left.

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 16 July 2010

The excitement builds

This summer's World Cup was, for me, a real disappointment. In 2006 I flew out to Germany to see us play Ecuador, and it was one of the best weekends I have had. Sure it cost me a lot of money, the ticket alone was €600, but it was well worth it.

Not only due to the distance, but with the recession I was never going this time around, but you will have some idea how much I like these summer tournaments. The build up to the USA game was great. The build up to the Algeria game was cautious, but I was sure we'd go through, we just needed the USA to slip up a little for us to win the group.

After Algeria (and to a smaller degree USA) I just couldn't find any way to restore the initial belief that we could go all the way this year. The eventual exit was neither a surprise nor a disappointment. It was, by then, totally expected. I'm not going to explain what I think went wrong, it's been done enough elsewhere, but it was the end of the summer football excitement for me. I didn't watch another game from start to finish.

Why am I telling you all this?

Well it's just background to a level of building excitement that I never thought I would have after what was, in effect, a season of failure in the third division.

It is really exciting signing players, and apart from the summer that Lennie Lawrence brought in seven new players and won promotion the following May, I don't remember any significant signings in a summer before the Premier years. Pardew went on a spending spree in 2007, and as exciting as it felt at the time, it all went horribly wrong.

Last summer we failed to off load any of the high value players, and as such merely released a few and held on to most of what we had. The board were applauded for this, quite rightly, but I suspect it had more to do with the lack of offers for our players. Either way it prevented Parkinson from moulding a first eleven, never mind a squad, and left us rather unbalanced.

This summer is different, I seem to have adjusted to the type of player we can now afford easier than others seem to have done. I was really excited when we signed Doherty. Maybe I've spent enough years watching us outside of the Premier, or maybe I'm just less ambitious, but I think he is a great signing.

My main reason for the excitement is that I think we are building a very good squad. Sure we've lost a few players, and some will be irreplaceable, but on the whole I'm confident that we will be in a good shape come 1st September.

Here's my logic - and I will be wrong but it's just a guide.

Out have gone Shelvey, Mooney, Reid, Forster, Sodje, Randolph, Richardson, Bailey, Sam and Burton. You may well be able to add Kelly Youga to that list, but if not you would have to consider the loans that replaced him late in the season.

As for replacements:
Shelvey - N/A - he hardly played after the first ten games, but we couldn't replace him for obvious reasons.

Mooney - We still need strikers, but he was hardly prolific.

Reid - I liked him, but he was in contention for the left midfield slot taken by Bailey. We also seem to be close to signing him.

Forster - I think strikers will be coming in, but this was, in my view an inspired signing.

Sodje (S) - Docherty. I think we have replaced an injury prone player with a much better prospect.

Randolph - a new keeper will be required as back up to Elliot. A disappointment to lose a youth product, and he looked good in the run in, but he was Elliot's understudy.

Richardson - Solly will probably play and we will need cover. I have been very impressed with Solly. I know he is not as good, or experienced, as Richardson, but I think his time might have come had they not both been injured at the same time last season.

Bailey - McCormack. I know this is going to make us weaker, but I personally think Bailey was a little over rated as a player due to his goals. No disrespect is intended to him, but I think the loss will be less significant that others do.

Sam - Wagstaff. Despite what potential Lloyd Sam had it so rarely showed itself that without a confidence knock I think it is time for Wagstaff to come of age (I know I've been saying that for a few years now)

Burton - Until we know which strikers are coming in it'll be difficult to judge, but I think he could be a real loss. As well as his goals (I know he scored a few pens) he held the ball up well and brought the midfield into play when we played 4-5-1. I'd go as far as to say that without him, and Shelvey, that particular formation will not work.

Youga/left back - if Youga doesn't come back then I'm more than happy with Jackson at left back. I also think Jackson will be able to fill the role left by Bailey's absence on the left, cutting inside.

So overall we have lost Richardson and Sam on the right, and are going to be relying on the youth players that should have come of age now, but other than that I think we have adequate replacements all over the pitch. It is difficult to gage just what we will offer this season until the strikers are brought in, but from what I've seen we are as strong as we were at this stage last summer in defence and midfield.

It would be a bit of a disappointment if Racon left, and a disaster if Semedo did (I'm genuinely concerned about this) but I'd have taken what we will have if you'd offered it to me two months ago.

I've not mentioned Dailly because he's signed again, something I'm clearly pleased about. I would like us to sign Fortune too, but I suspect he is only training with us as we're local and he knows us. I think he will sign for a Championship side in the end, but we can hope.

I know strikers can be expensive, and are the hardest of all to sign (good ones) but Parkinson's track record of signings is good enough for me to have faith in him to bring in what we need.

So here I am three weeks before the start of the season and I'm as excited about the upcoming season as I can remember.

Up the Addicks!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Squad building

Well we've heard Parkinson claim that he hasn't been able to build his own squad during the last twenty months, but he won't be able to say that for much longer.

On the basis that we have less than eleven players contracted to the club now, and that three of those were signed by Parkinson we will certainly have his team/squad next season. I, for one, think this is a good thing. Not because I think he has used it as an excuse, as I don't, but it will add that little bit of pressure that he can't, even in the back of his own mind, blame one of Pardew's signings.

Also, while we're on the subject, I actually think that on he whole Parkinson has been better at signing players that Pardew was. Ironic as Pardew kept telling us that he was very good at signing players. There was a suggestion that Brian Clough's success was, in part, to his relationship with Peter Taylor. I wouldn't mind betting that Pardew has some help with his scouting that he claimed all the credit for, but failed to appreciate or recognise when it all started going wrong.

Anyway, we will be seeing exactly what sort of player Parkinson wants to bring in in the next few weeks, and I don't mind twilling you that I'm excited about it all. Sure I'd love to be watching the World Cup wondering if we were going to sign any players competing, like we have in the past, but a new player is a new player irrespective as to how high their profile is.

Clearly he doesn't have the money to literally choose his players and then go and get them, but with so many clubs in trouble right now there will be more free transfers than usual, and despite the fact that we are not going to be offering the highest salaries, we do have some good facilities and, at the end of day, the players, even at this level, are wealthy and would rather have good working conditions, and that includes their place of work.

Much to my surprise it would seen as though we have found a club (manager) that is willing to shell out in excess of £1m for Nicky Bailey. I won't be uncharitable to the chap, and he has given his all for the club so I wish him well, but for the record, despite not expecting to see any of it given to Parkinson, I will be jumping for joy when the paperwork is signed and we have cashed the money.

I honestly don't think that Bailey's absence will cause us to be significantly less successful next season. I'm more worried about the absence of Lloyd Sam, Deon Burton, Sam Sodje (who I think is probably not worth another contract with his injury problems,) Kyle Reid, Nicky Forster and Kelly Youga, for whom the news has gone very, very quiet.

I'm also very concerned about Semedo and Dailly, but as the former is contracted to us for another year and the latter talked like he would like to stay I'm a little more confident that they will be with next season. Fingers crossed and all that.

Basically I think that with a spine of Dailly, Semedo and a goal scorer (I know we don't have one yet) we should be a match for most of the dross that lives in this division. Sure, we failed last season, but we had a couple of poor runs and we finished two points away from second place. In fact for about ten minutes we were in second place on the last day of the season, so we hardly fell short.

I think we should be able to attract decent players in their thirties that don't want to move to a club that does it's training in a public park - especially if they are already financially independent, a bit like Christian Dailly.

Of course, it is possible that we will end up with a load of old rubbish and youth players and in a relegation fight, and even lose the battle, but I'm, at this stage, more confident than that. I predicted that we would finish second last season, behind Norwich, and had we won just one more game that's what would have happened. Even hanging on the the two goal leads we had against ten men Millwall at The Valley in December would have done it for us. Ironic really.

I was very sad to see Steve Gritt leave the club, he was the last member of the staff (players or coaches) that was there when I started going in 1981. He has become a legend. He played for us at the highest level and he was part of the management team when we moved back to The Valley, and he even played in that game. I wish him all the best in what ever he does.

Steve Waggott, not so much.

So, with the World Cup drawing to it's conclusion all eyes now turn to the release of the new Charlton home kit (well the shirt really) and on the basis that we might even have it for two seasons I might just buy one, and the squad rebuilding that Parkinson promises us had already started behind the scenes.

I am sure that we will hold off offering contracts until as late as possible, to save the wages, but once the Bailey deal is confirmed I think we will see a steady trickle of players signing. I can't wait.

Up the Addicks!