I think it’s fair to say that unless I’m very cheesed off during/after the Wolves game I won’t be casting my vote for player of the season for a certain ‘teenage trailblazer’ (according to the Preston programme). Farewell then, Scott Sinclair, your Charlton career will forever read a succession of 0s save for three substitute appearances. I saw you play in a Charlton shirt. Once. You were dreadful. Or to put it another way good riddance, clear off and do the same job for Palace for the rest of the season.
In the interests of fairness I suppose it’s possible that the decision to move on was not Sinclair’s. Maybe we made some sort of pledge to Chelsea to actually play him (maybe they gave their word that he wasn’t rubbish) and it was them throwing toys out of the pram. Whatever. The wisdom of signing both him and Lee Cook on loan, with Thomas, Sam and Ambrose already available in wide midfield, was always questionable. At least it’s over.
In this age of media training for illiterates, and with the latest captain of the England team clearly someone who struggles with words, it is worth looking back at the highlight of Sinclair’s Charlton stay: his interview in the programme. Among the gems were: “I’m really happy to be here” (obviously not), “obviously we’ve won one and drawn once since I’ve been here” (clearly an observant young man capable not just of looking at results but also interpreting the scores), and “as long as we are not losing games and keep fighting and playing well, then I think we will get up”. OK, that one’s just plain garbage. Will we soon be picking out similar platitudes from Leroy Lita’s interview in the WBA programme? He has after all just extended his loan to the end of the season.
I just find it a little sad that even a player out on loan feels obliged to trot out the usual inane comments and meaningless verbage. Are they so scared of going off script? Of course most footballers don’t have the time or the command of the language to write their own books. But surely they can manage the odd interview that says something. Whistling in the wind I know.
While we’re on the contents of the programme, I think Pardew deserves credit for his honesty when writing about his muddling with the team and the effect that has had. Before the season started I penned something along the lines of ‘shock horror, Pardew discovered not to be god’, at a time when fans seemed to be ready to hail him as the new messiah. The point was to suggest that he will make decisions that come to be seen as mistakes and/or we disagree with (if there is a difference). In the end I scrapped it as it seemed unnecessarily negative. What is most important in any occupation or situation is the ability to continue to learn – especially from mistakes - and improve as the chances are similar situations will recur. Oh, that we knew when we were young what we know now. How many times would I have turned that promising situation into a reality? OK, I’m drifting into dreamland now. I didn’t happen and probably wouldn’t now.
(On the subject of learning from mistakes/taking advice, I remember discussing with my father many moons ago whether I needed to clean my flat as my then girlfriend was staying for the weekend. The sound advice was: “clean it like you’ve never done before, until it hurts to see the reflection, until the scrubbing brush is worn thin. If you do that you stand a chance of her thinking you just need looking after. If you don’t ...”. Trouble is I just don’t remember him advising me instead to get wasted the night before she arrives on the (false) assumption that I won’t oversleep on a public holiday and have her arrive to view the flat in its normal state. He must have done. How else would that have happened last weekend?)
Also, for all our carping one of the events that has gone almost unremarked is the fresh investment in the club by the directors, including new plc chairman Derek Chappell. I guess that’s because we have little to say on the subject. All we ask of the directors of our club is that they pour vast amounts of money into the coffers, without complaint and embracing the criticism from the rest of us that goes with the job, and select the right guy to spend it – and to be ready to replace him (and the money) if it doesn’t work out. Leaving aside the money, that’s the approach the club had for much of my time, with managers from Frank Hill regularly dispensed with. Surely we all hope that last season was an aberration in that respect and that we are back on the rightful path?
So, Wolves on Saturday. Can’t wait, especially as I have the winnings from the WBA game to pick up (why is it that the Ladbrokes booth is open before the game to take our money but not after to pay some of it back?). We all know we have to win, so what combinations up front?
Let’s consider all possible combinations of Lita, Varney, Iwelumo, Gray, Ambrose and Zheng. To my mind, to get the best out of a link-up player like Gray we would need to go back to the more mobile team of the early new year, with Varney to be the willing runner alongside him but also with Youga and Moutaouakil coming back to provide the extra pace and attacking threat. Otherwise in my opinion he should be left out. You can’t link up play if all around you are static. And he hasn’t given any indication yet that he is a poacher in the box. If Lita is the first name on the teamsheet, how do we get the best out of him? It doesn’t look like he’s effective playing as a lone striker. And I’m not convinced that he and Varney can play well together. They have given no indication of an understanding from what I have seen, nor do they complement each other. I would choose Iwelumo to provide the muscle and knock-downs for Lita to (hopefully) feed off.
I’m assuming we will play with two up front against Wolves, so the idea of Zheng or Ambrose in the hole is probably a non-starter. One friend continues to advocate Ambrose as the second striker as his strike rate puts others to shame. And on the grounds that Lita is going to start I can’t see Pardew embracing these options. So for me it’s Iwelumo and Lita to start (with Gray or Varney on the bench, which isn’t great if we need a goalscorer to come on), with the emphasis on getting in quality crosses. That places the onus on Thomas, Cook or Ambrose to do the business, rather than Varney starting out wide. Can we please just remember that if we do play Iwelumo it doesn’t mean we have to lump aimless high balls in his direction.