So what about the forwards? I’ve got to get part three out of the way before the Lyon weekend (at last, France in its full glory: full of striking public sector workers). Let’s avoid the pretend suspense. It’s not exactly rocket science is it? We’ve lost Todorov for the season and need another forward, especially as Varney has yet to really catch fire and McLeod hasn’t yet impressed (apart from his 10-minute cameo against Norwich). Along with others I think and hope Dickson will return and play a role, for now at least as an impact player from the bench. But let’s not kid ourselves, as things stand what money is available in January needs to go first on another forward.
I’m happy with us playing five in midfield as it allows us to play with two genuine wingers and with Reid pulling the strings inside. But it is a system to some extent forced on us by the form of Varney and McLeod, just as Eriksson found himself having to play one up front at the World Cup when left with two forwards. If Pardew starts with Iwelumo and Varney then McLeod is the only change available at the moment, assuming Sam is not pressed into service again as a central striker. Varney on the bench means the option of a second outright forward coming on, him replacing Iwelumo, or him coming on to play out wide, as he has done to good effect. McLeod can still be on the bench to add pace late on if needed. Nobody is in any way writing them off and they both have time on their hands – but as a club we do not.
People are thinking in terms of wrapping Andy Reid in cotton wool between games. But really it’s Big Chris who needs the protection, if we could find a cotton wool ball big enough. His recent flurry of goals have eased fears that he would prove to be a sub-10 a season and if we lose him for any length of time we’re really stretched. Marcus Bent is on loan for the season at Wigan. So in an ideal world we would bring in two new forwards: a back-up as the target man and an outright goalscorer. That may of course be asking too much; the priority has to be the latter, maybe a loan signing.
Just who might be available and a realistic option? We’re not looking for an unproven youngster; again, Dickson fits that bill (he really does look to me like the sort of player who could already score goals at any level, albeit with other areas of his game sub-standard - just look at Wayne Rooney when he’s off form or tries to think about it, he looks dreadful). And it’s not realistic to look to players currently with other clubs with promotion ambitions. Leaving aside overseas players, I would look for someone out of favour at a Premiership club, possibly someone who may need the games coming back after injury. Again, we can’t think about who could do a job in The Premiership; its all about getting back there.
Unless god puts his Charlton shirt back on and Spurs let us have Darren Bent back, two players come to mind (which is not to say either might be a viable option): Bobby Zamora from West Ham or Darius Vassell from Man City. (Of course, Charlton’s scouting network is a little more extensive than mine and we may well be lining up alternatives we wouldn’t think of, such as the rumoured South Korean striker.)
The former has been out with injury and I have no idea when he might be coming back. Of course he’s not going to come to us, even on loan, if he’s in or around the West Ham first team, so much depends on whether they are strengthening in January. But obviously he knows Pardew, and Curbs and West Ham owe us a favour or two (if they let us have Zamora I promise I’ll stop saying their being in The Premiership is a disgrace). Us getting Zamora would cause more personal pain in the form of ridicule from another friend, a Brighton supporter, in light of the stick I’ve given him over Zamora not being able to cut it in the top flight (who can forget West Ham fans singing: ‘When you’re sat in row Z and the ball hits your head, that’s Zamora’?). But such considerations haven’t cut any ice with Charlton over the years.
The talk is that Eriksson is being handed a fortune at Man City and this has to mean some players going spare – at little or no cost. Vassell hasn’t been setting the world on fire, but at Championship level he must be a good bet. Whether he’s ready to drop down who knows? Perhaps we can do a package deal with City. Samaras and Vassell. My humiliation vis-à-vis relations with my Man City-supporting friend would be complete (Weaver, Mills, Thatcher, McCarthy) but I’m ready to make the sacrifice.