The cynic in me always assumes that there is bad news around the corner and that we are being fooled by coincidence or design. This ensures that I am rarely disappointed and often very pleased.
Since the end of what can only be called a terrible season, and a frankly disastrous second half, it is difficult to point to positives.
Johnnie Jackson comes out of the season with much credit - he was missing for most of the shocking run and performed well and scored some vital goals - and he started the season in defence.
Bradley Wright-Phillips looked like the 20 goal a season striker that we have been so desperate for since Darren Bent left, and despite not looking as good towards the end of the season I think we can be assured that if he can stay fit he will be a real asset for us next season.
Paul Benson showed, in flashes, that he might well be able to cope with this division. His discipline may be a little bit of a problem, two red cards in one season is a worry.
Racon and Semedo had acceptable seasons, well Semedo did, all be it that if we want to be winning this division there is some argument as to the need for a defensive midfielder. Racon looked better on the left and I am concerned that this coincided with his contract coming to an end. There are some players that only seem to bust a gut when they are looking for a new deal, and at times Racon reminded me of that. Over all I think his contribution has been less than we could have expected from him. I mention these two players together as I suspect that both of them will be able to fine higher salaries elsewhere.
This leaves the rest. I haven't been all that impressed with any of the rest to be honest. Chris Solly has been ok, all be it that I think I (like many others) cut him more slack as he came through our youth side, but he suffers in my estimation due to the length of time that he is unavailable due to injury. A similar issue exists with Rob Elliot and Joe Anyinsah. Kelly Youga hasn't played all year, and Christian Dailly has been sent off three times earning himself twelve games suspended, and also had a lengthy spell out with a broken face.
I'm not looking to attribute blame for injuries, but it does affect a players ability to impress when it matters.
I'm not going to go to much trouble to discuss the loan players as they are probably not going to be back playing for us, and I'm really looking to the future rather than the past. I will just mention Lee Martin, however, as I think we has underrated, and was missed when he left.
There are a number of players that were so disappointing that they deserve a special mention. I'm not normally keen on singling out individuals, but as I'm here discussing the squad I'd probably include Kyle Reid, Alan McCormack, Simon Francis and Gary Doherty in that list. Reid has looked like he believes he is too good for us and at times and his comments on Twitter haven't helped him.I believe he lacks a real end product, he is skillful, but he often seems to run into dead ends or end up shooting from distance. This is a good way to score great goals, but also loses possession too often. Doherty is a good pro, and had he not come with such a great reputation he might not have been on this list, but I just expected so much more from him in terms of commanding the back four. The two Southend players are just too limited in my view. Francis can look really good going forward, sometimes, but his lapses of concentration at the back make him a weakness that we should be looking to eradicate. McCormack did himself no favours bragging about his expensive night out when he, and the team, performed so badly. I have some sympathy with him, and I agree with those that say that if you want the players to share their personal lives with us fans then we need to accept that very rich young men are going to enjoy, and take for granted, things the average fan cannot. I find that a bad game can affect me much more than a bad day at the office, so why should he be any different. However, that said, I just don't think he is good enough for Charlton. Despite the fact that we have fallen from grace so dramatically in the last five years, I cannot accept that we can ever be bad enough that we need to fill our squad with players with so little to offer. I don't doubt their effort (maybe Reid's attitude) but those players have just not been good enough this season.
So on that basis I think we have a decent midfielder (left or centre) and a couple of decent strikers, this is assuming that Semedo and Racon leave (which I believe will happen), and we have a number of players that are ok at padding out the rest of the side when they have a good day.
This leaves Chris Powell the task of finding a new right back, a new left back (or two), two new centre halves (maybe one really good, fast one will do) a better winger than Wagstaff, at least one more winger, two or three central midfielders and another striker (or two). I'm adding a new goalkeeper to that list as Ross Worner has been released already.
Thus we need - I've attributed names of signings where appropriate
Goalkeeper - Sullivan
Central Midfielder - Hollands
Central Midfielder ?
The signing of Danny Hollands from Bournemouth is encouraging, unless, of course, he is the only replacement for Semedo and Racon. If we can attract another quality (creative, please) central midfielder then we may well be ok.
Sullivan looked good enough to be considered a better replacement that Worner, and if the rumours of us offering £300k for the Bournemouth left back are to be believed it does bode well.
The signings made last summer, some of which I've already talked about, were made with little or no money to spend. I believe that the current financial climate, coupled with the division we are in, means that free agents can be good enough to be successful for us. We just need to be looking to attract the right kind of players, and this will, ultimately, be down to how much money we have to play with.
Following on from the disclosure from Chris Powell that we will not have a much bigger budget for 2011/12 than we had for 2010/11 we need to remember that we will not be hamstrung by having three players earning c. 25% of our total budget. I have a lot of time for Semedo, but I doubt that either Racon or Youga could have matched their salaries elsewhere twelve months ago, so there contracts coming to an end may well be better for us than having them on the payroll - especially for Youga who hasn't played for nearly two years.
With just under four weeks until I need to make a decision about renewing my season ticket or risking losing my seat I'm still erring on the side of paying on a match by match basis as I'm not convinced that on the whole there is going to be enough to make me want to give up my Saturdays. This is a combination of the general malaise that I feel following five seasons of free fall, the commitment of time now that I have more pressures, and family obligations and the fact that I'm not sure that I will enjoy watching us play next season enough to want to go to 20 plus home games. Also by going to fewer home games I will have more time and money to go to away games, and I have always wanted to see new grounds. It could be argued that we were not much better at home than away last season, so you are not necessarily likely to enjoy the games any more at home either. This is especially true if you factor in that you are generally happier with a draw away than you are at home.
There is still plenty of time for the new signings to inspire me, but as it stands I may well be starting my first season without a season ticket for 22 years. What is most frightening about that is that the thought of it doesn't feel wrong. If you'd asked me five years ago what are the chances of me deciding not to renew I would have just laughed at you.
Up the Addicks!