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!

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